7 Ways to Support Your Child During the College Application Process

How to support your child during the college application process

There’s a fine line between being overbearing and being just supportive enough to let your child thrive during the college application process.

Knowing when to let go and when to hold on can be hard. But when it comes to our children, we never really let go, do we?

Many parents find it difficult to maintain a balance between providing the right amount of support during college applications and being too involved.

Because of this, I often see parents and children getting burnt out by the college application process.

In some cases, well-meaning parents might inadvertently hinder their child’s odds of getting into the school of their dreams.

When we can support our children through the college application and admissions process, but still allow them to take control and thrive, that’s when families really win.

With the right plan in place, you can help your child in a way that works for both of you!

That’s why I wrote this article.

Here are seven ways parents can support their children during the college application process.

1. Ask your child how you can help.

Some students prefer their parents to be more involved in the college application process.

Some students prefer their parents to be more involved in the college application process.

The best way to figure out how to help your child starts with asking them how, and how much help they want in the first place!

Ask them about specific tasks you can help with and what the best way to make them feel supported would be.

But remember, this process is as new for your child as it is for you. It will be a “learn as you go” type scenario, and your role may change over time.

2. Remember this is their first significant step toward independence.

Your child may have a job, a driver’s license, and other important responsibilities, but the college application process is a major step in your child’s independence.

For many students, this is their first big step in that direction!

This is a great time for your child to gain confidence in their ability to do important things.

You can be there for them as a cheerleader and a shoulder to lean on, but it isn’t your job to be involved in all of the details when your child applies to colleges.

3. Get help and offer resources.

You can be your child’s support system without having to manage every step of the college application process!

To avoid getting over-involved and to increase your child’s chances, consider hiring professional help.

When you leave some of this work to a professional, you can take comfort knowing your child has the help they need, and you can be there to help them in other ways.

Whether it’s tutoring, coaching with essays, or any other part of the college application process, there is help available, and offering this help to your child is a fantastic way to support them.

4. Remember your child isn’t you.

When your child is applying to colleges, you might experience a sort of deja vu from your own college experience. Perhaps you wish you had done things differently, or wish you could do it all again.

Either way, remember that your child’s college application is different than yours.

Projecting your own opinions and experiences onto your child isn’t necessarily the best way to support them.

Let them have their own college experience!

5. Don’t hinder the creative process.

Parents can inadvertently hinder their child’s creative process when they’re working on college application essays.

Perhaps you’re dead set on your child choosing one topic for a college essay when they feel really strongly about another.

it is ultimately their choice!

You can offer your opinion, but leave it at that and don’t force your own ideas onto your child.

Allow your child to explore their creative side. Unique essays and applications help your child stand out.

6. Motivate, don’t dictate.

When you motivate your child during the college process rather than dictating their every move, it helps them establish their independence and feel empowered in their choices.

One way to do this is by encouraging them to make college campus visits and maybe even going with them.

Since you know their preferences and tendencies so well, you can help your teen compare and contrast college options. Walking a campus, touring with a student guide, and speaking with faculty can offer assurance in ways a brochure or website never can.

This is also a way to bond and build great memories with your child!

Don’t miss these other tips for making college campus visits with your child.

7. Just listen.

A parent’s ideal role during the college application and admissions process is best described as the supporter. And one of the best ways to support your child is by just listening.

As tempting as it may be to offer advice and always try to fix things, sometimes your child just needs someone to listen to their fears, disappointments, and successes!

Lending a listening ear can strengthen your bond and provide a critical source of support for your child during this time.

Putting it all together.

Every child, parent, and family is different, and the best way to support a child during the college admissions process can vary.

But when you focus on these key things, you will help make the college application process easier on both you and your child:

  • Speaking with your child about how you can help.
  • Remembering this is their first step toward major independence.
  • Offering professional help and resources.
  • Not hindering their creative process.
  • Motivating, not dictating.
  • Just listening!

If you are a busy parent who wants to help your college-bound child reach their full potential, don’t miss my “Get In and Get Money” Workshop!

Need a little more guidance?

For one-on-one support and other resources to help you or your child get into (or pay) for college, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about helping your child with the college admissions and application process, you’ll want to check out these articles too:

What To Do When Your Teen Hates Reading
4 Tips to Help Your Teen Study Better
Will This Activity Help My Teen Get into College?


Why the College of William & Mary is known as a “Public Ivy”

college of william and mary public ivy

William & Mary is the second oldest college in the country with a long history of liberal arts education and a growing research and science program. Undergrads at William & Mary have numerous research opportunities. A student majoring in government described William & Mary with these three words,  “Tradition. Community. Unique.” For those prospective students seeking this type of college environment, William & Mary has a lot to offer. Although the academic climate is rigorous, students say that cooperation among peers is the norm.

Here are a few quick facts about College of William and Mary:william and mary has active social life

Acceptance: 36%

Freshmen from out of state: 31% (keep in mind . . . it’s a public college, not private)

Most popular majors: biology, government, economics

Housing: Guaranteed housing through junior year

4-year Graduation rate: 84%

Academics: The College of William & Mary is dedicated to a philosophy of personalized education as shown through small class size and extensive student-faculty collaboration. “Classes are difficult and the workload is heavy, but lectures are small and generally engaging,” says one junior. Their joint degree program allows students to spend two years in Williamsburg and two in St Andrews in Scotland and end up with degrees from both institutions.  In addition, 70% of students participate in faculty-mentored research and William & Mary boasts some of the highest numbers for alums with PhDs in STEM.

william and mary for premedSocial:  There’s always something to do on campus, but the town itself can be somewhat “hit or miss”. Popular campus events include Homecoming Weekend, with its tailgate and concert. In their senior year, students can apply to live in a downtown dorm where they put on academic programming for the town. With over 400 clubs and organizations, a student would be hard-pressed not to find something to join!

Financial: College of William and Mary offers university grants and need-based financial aid, with 78% of need is fully met.

What do you think about this college? What else would you like to learn about it? Please post your comments below.


How does University of Chicago have more of these?

The University of Chicago is well known for the strength of its intellectual traditions, with a faculty of 89 Nobel Prize winners, over 260 Guggenheim Fellows, 32 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellows, and 24 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Undergraduates at the University of Chicago have unparalleled resources. On the university’s 217-acre, tree-lined campus, there are six libraries with over 11 million print volumes; over 150 research centers and institutes, including the new Institute for Molecular Engineering and the Institute of Politics; world-class theaters, museums, and art centers; and three of the nation’s top professional schools in law, business, and medicine. Their new molecular engineering major is the university’s first-ever undergraduate degree in engineering.

six libraries with millions of volumes at university of chicagoAbout half of the University of Chicago students take advantage of study abroad programs, which include 45 faculty-led study abroad programs in over 20 countries, including centers in Beijing, Hong Kong, Delhi, and Paris.

The Office of Career Advancement helps students translate what they are studying in their classrooms to their future careers. Through the Office of Career Advancement students specifically, have access to over access to more than 1,700 fully-funded Jeff Metcalf internships that are offered exclusively to the University of Chicago students.


Academics at the University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is known for its established Common Core system, which requires students, regardless of major, to take courses in the sciences and math, humanities, social sciences, a writing tutorial, and a sequence of study in a specific civilization. These requirements, coupled with the quarter system they pioneered, make for academically intensive 10-week periods. Senior students are also encouraged to do final-year projects.

Classes are relatively small, with 78 percent enrolling fewer than 20 students, and led by brilliant and distinguished faculty members who’ve won Nobel Prizes, Guggenheims, and other prestigious awards.


Additional quick facts about the University of Chicago

Freshman acceptance rate: 8%

Freshman retention: 99%

Freshmen out of state: 82%

4-year Graduation rate: 89%

Most popular majors: economics, biological sciences, political science


Social scene at the University of Chicago

The University of Chicago social scene is varied in that students have a range of options on campus and can easily explore the city of Chicago.  Students can enjoy on-campus events year-round, including a spring, campus-wide scavenger hunt, and carnival. The university provides students with free, unlimited access to all parts of the city via public transportation, and Arts Pass offers free or discounted student admission to city art, theater, and cultural events. Greek life has only a small presence on campus, with 8 percent fraternity and 12 percent sorority participation.

UChicago’s Maroons compete in Division III, with consistently solid programs in men’s and women’s tennis; women’s basketball, cross-country, and volleyball; and men’s soccer and wrestling. About 70 percent of undergraduates compete in intramural sports ranging from the traditional (soccer and volleyball) to the offbeat (archery, broomball, and inner-tube water polo).


Housing                                                                                                    residential commons at university of chicago

UChicago guarantees on-campus housing for four years, and over half of all undergrads live in the dorms. Each dorm is different—some house fewer than 100 people in traditional, shared double rooms without kitchens, while another has 700 beds organized into colorful suites. Safety-wise, UChicago employs its own police force and stations security guards around the neighborhood.


Similar colleges to consider:

Columbia, Harvard, Northwestern, University of Pennsylvania, Yale


Financial aid and Scholarships

The University of Chicago is need-blind, and offers many scholarships to students that demonstrate financial need. 100% of the need is met. Although the tuition and fees are $73,000 a year, the average financial package is $53,000, with 73% receiving need-based scholarships or grants. Additional scholarship awards worth checking out:  National Merit Scholarship, Promise Award, The Odyssey Scholarship, and No Barriers program.


What do you think about the University of Chicago? What about this college is a good fit? Please post your comments below.

Why more students want to go to Tufts

tufts harder to get in

With its small size and dramatic increase in applications, Tufts has become one of the more selective colleges in the country. Tufts attracts students through their three major focuses – global, research, and undergraduate.

Tufts is among the top 10 research universities for the percentage of undergraduate students who study abroad (42 percent!). No wonder given that students at Tufts can choose from 170+ semester and year-abroad programs and a full-immersion program in 9 countries around the world. Additionally, Tufts is among the top universities with graduates entering the Peace Corps.

The Carnegie Foundation ranks Tufts as an institution with “very high research activity,” its highest classification. There are a wealth of opportunities for undergraduate students to join faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers on research across all disciplines. About 67% of classes have fewer than 20 students, and are taught by professors who are praised for being “knowledgeable, engaging, and caring.”


Academics at Tufts

Tufts students have the freedom to take classes across the 3 different schools – School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Course requirements are distributed across disciplines and include a World Civilization course in addition to art, English, foreign language, social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, and math for liberal arts students. Engineers must take six courses in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, with one of those fulfilling a writing requirement.

Tufts offers a popular and unique program that allow students to develop and teach courses (which may, in part, offset the fact that the education majors are only offered at the graduate level). One is the Experimental College (affectionately known as “ExCollege”), which offers more than 100 nontraditional, full-credit courses taught by students, faculty, and outside professionals in the Boston area. The interdisciplinary approach of ExCollege promotes student-faculty collaboration, opportunities to teach, explore and incubate new ideas. A sampling of courses include: American Witches; Baseball Analytics; Self-driving Cars and Podcasting.


Additional quick facts about Tufts

Freshman acceptance rate: 14%

Freshman retention: 96%

Freshmen out of state: 80%

4-year Graduation rate: 87%

Most popular majors: computer science, international relations, biology


Social scene at Tufts

Tufts has a host of social activities on campus organized by student groups and the university. Artistic programs include concerts, free movies, a cappella groups, and plays. The largest campus-wide group, with more than 1,000 students participating each year, is the Leonard Carmichael Society, which oversees community service initiatives for 40 groups, with projects that include support for adult literacy, blood donations, domestic violence victims. Less than 20% of guys or women at Tufts participate in Greek life. The university organizes Halloween on the Hill, a carnival for children in the community, and Spring Fling, an outdoor concert before final exams. Though Tufts is located in the suburb of Medford, the nearby “T” metro system allows students to take an easy trip to Boston for work or play.

Tufts’ Jumbos compete in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, with their softball, men’s lacrosse, and men’s soccer recently capturing national titles.



Freshmen through seniors may choose from 40 residences ranging from traditional dorms and shared apartments to small special interest houses, which give students a chance to live with others who share their cultural or academic interests. Freshmen and sophomores must live on campus in the dorms, while upperclassmen compete in a lottery or move to affordable apartments near campus. (A fun fact that I heard during my campus tour was that the freshman roommate matching survey focuses on music!) Those students who reside in residence halls organize discussion and study groups and may bring in guest speakers for special events.


Similar colleges to consider:

Boston University, Brown, Cornell University, Georgetown, NYU, Northwestern, University of Pennsylvania, Washington University in St. Louis


Financial aid and Scholarships

Tufts offers need-based aid only, i.e. they do not offer merit or academic scholarships. 100% of need is met. Although the tuition and fees are $69,000 a year, the average financial aid package is $43,000, with 41% receiving need-based scholarships or grants.


What do you think about Tufts University? What about this college is a good fit? Please post your comments below.

4 ways high school sophomores can get ready for College

sophomores get ready for college

High school can be challenging at times—I know— I’ve been there, but it is an incredibly important period of time in your teen’s life that will help shape them into the kind of person they inspire to become. High school sophomores, in particular, have an opportunity to define their school year in a way that positions them to get into their top choice colleges and get money.

It’s a good time to start thinking about their college choices and taking action steps to prepare for life after high school. Here are three ways your teen can do just that:

  1. Consider Starting College Early

If your teen is ready to study at the college level while working towards a high school diploma, many local colleges offer programs just for your teen: sophomores who want to take one or two college classes a year while in high school.

In this type of program, sophomores can choose from a variety of classes while investigating their choice of major and experiencing the college environment -— and each course that is completed counts toward both high school and college credit.

*You should check with your teen’s guidance counselor to see if your high school offers these types of programs.

  1. Study for the PSAT

Taking the PSAT in 10th grade offers an advantage in that students are able to get acquainted with the format and determine their level of comfort with certain test questions. Not every school offers the PSAT to sophomores, although it’s standard for juniors to take it for National Merit Scholarship potential. If your teen’s high school doesn’t offer it, you may consider requesting it through the college or guidance counseling office.

Results from the PSAT may also predict your teen’s SAT scores. Depending on the projected SAT score, perhaps your teen can then focus on the SAT in their junior year testing plan.

  1. Learn about the college admissions process and research potential careers

Now is a great time for you and your teen to become familiar with general college entrance requirements. Colleges will consider transcripts, test scores, extra-curricular activities, and writing samples. If there is an area of concern, then now is a good time to get a tutor or get involved. Whatever your teen does decide to do, my biggest suggestion is that they do those things that interest them. For example, if they have an interest in music, get involved. If they are not interested in Student Council, then certainly don’t get involved in the Student Council just for the sake of college admissions. It’s not worth it!

To learn more about college and get additional resources, please encourage your teen to contact their guidance counselor as well, to find out what support is available at school.

Also, sophomore year is a good time for your teen to research potential careers and understand how much education and training they will need. Usually, guidance counselors may have career resources or state databases for students to access.

4. Apply to summer programs

There are a number of summer programs that high school sophomores may want to consider. Several programs are for sophomores only or may only accept students after sophomore year. These summer programs can have an academic or pre-professional focus. A number of them have an application process that’s similar to what colleges require, i.e. transcript, recommendations, essays. Applying to a summer program would give your sophomore an opportunity to see how strong their application is vis a vis other students in their class.

Certainly, if they’re admitted to a summer program then the experience could be informative for their plans even beyond high school.

In my roadmap for parents with sophomores, I share what parents must know as they guide their teen through courses, extra-curricular activities, and self-discovery. Be sure to sign up for this roadmap so I can partner with you to achieve the educational vision for your teen.

Union College has interdisciplinary studies, engineering and unique study abroad options

union campus engineering

Union College is known for its interdisciplinary studies and study abroad programs. To emphasize creativity in its engineering programs, Union supports STEAM (with arts). During my visit there, I was most impressed with the high rate of graduation for women in the sciences and engineering. Union has a rather unique program in Siberian Russia which combines Russian studies and environmental studies. Building on a strong sense of community, all faculty, staff, and students are assigned to a “house” which is a space for them with seminar room, programming and community. (Upperclassmen can live in the house.)

Here are a few quick facts about Union College:
Union College

Acceptance: 38%

Freshmen from out of state: 75%

Most popular majors: economics, biology, psychology

Housing: Guaranteed housing freshman year

4-year Graduation rate: 80%

Academics:  “Union has outstanding academics.” says a freshman. Union operates on a trimester system, which means thrice-a-year exams and a late start to summer jobs—but also the opportunity to concentrate on just three courses a term. The common curriculum has modern language requirements and 5 writing across curriculum courses within the 7 distribution areas. Engineering majors must declare by the end of freshman year – bio-, mechanical, electrical, or computer. Union also provides wonderful opportunities for students to study abroad. One program allows students to study for a term in Siberia, Russia, delving into Russian and environmental studies. The professors here at Union are simply wonderful.” says another student. Students can expect to see full professors at the lecterns rather than TAs. 

Social:  “The majority of social life is on campus,” says a student. Campus events also include comedians, concerts, and speakers. What Schenectady lacks can be found in Saratoga Springs, which boasts restaurants, jazz clubs, horse racing, and Skidmore College, or in the nearby Adirondacks and Catskills. Popular road trips include Boston, Montreal, New York, and the ski slopes of nearby Vermont. Union’s athletic teams compete in Division III, aside from men’s and women’s ice hockey, both of which are Division I. 

Financial: Although the tuition and fees are approximately $62,274, Union College offers grants and need-based financial aid, with the average need-based scholarship of $32,000. 100% of need is fully met, although the Union is need-aware. Union does not combine merit and need-based aid.

What do you think about this college? What else would you like to learn about it? Please post your comments below.