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Twenty Tips for Parents

Helping your Child Navigate the College Selection Process
College planning is a journey. Like most journeys it can be enjoyable and rewarding. But as we all know with a few wrong turns nerves can get frazzled, temperatures can rise, and egos can become brittle. To be successful, you have to put many pieces together—college expenditures must match the reality of your budget, college expectations must match your child’s eagerness to go to college, and prospective colleges must match the real needs and desires of your child.

It is important to find the right approach for you and your child. After all, when your son or daughter goes off to college you want to not only feel you made the right choice, you also want the experience to strengthen your relationship. Below are twenty tips and a few links that might help…

1. Complete the College Grazing Discovery Surveys.
Go through the results with your child and discuss what they say about your college dreams. Reflect on personal style, interests, strengths, and qualities.

Below are some questions to begin parent/child discussions:

a. What surprised you about the results?

b. What are some key strengths that surfaced?

c. What college profile emerged?

d. What are your goals and how can we as a family help you achieve them?

e. What are some things that we can do to strengthen your application credentials?

f. How do you see the future: career? College selection? College major?

2. Strengthen important life skills that your child will need in college.

a. Money management—particularly credit cards

b. Time management

c. Learning how to say no

d. Taking responsibility for one’s actions and behavior

e. Key health, hygiene, and nutritional concerns:

f. Drugs and safety

g. Problem solving skills

h. Emotional management: anger, fear, anxiety, depression, etc.: Mental health

i. Getting along with different kinds of people—especially roommates

j. Respecting limits

k. Staying connected to your family

l. Alcohol use and abuse

College drinking

Teen drinking


3. Leadership skills.
Encourage your child to take charge of the college search process (with your support of course). This means organizing, managing time, sustaining interest, getting things done, and ultimately taking responsibility for results.

4. Testing.
View the PSAT as an indicator to identify weak spots that need to be bolstered. Also, encourage your child to prepare for the ACT and/or SAT.

College Admission Tests Overview

Tips to improve test taking


5. Discuss different career possibilities
—the objective is not to settle on a career choice but to help your son or daughter to begin thinking about the future and how college might fit in.

6. Shape the high school experience to prepare for college

a. Take appropriate coursework

b. Keep an eye on the grade point average and class rank

c. Engage in extracurricular activities

d. Select teachers who will write positive recommendations

e. Consider community service

f. Visit colleges early to get a flavor of college life

g. Talk to a school counselor

h. Gather college information

i. Establish an organization system to keep everything accessible

j. Keep a calendar of due dates

k. Use high school to discover interests and areas of strength

l. Discover the power and joy of learning

7. Educate yourself about college loans, scholarships, and
financial aid packages.

Begin with the financial links provided on College Grazing.

Financial Literacy
Scholarship Scams

8. Finances.
Decide what you can realistically afford. You may want to consult a financial planner and a tax consultant about some of your options.

IRS Tax Benefits for Education
Funding your Education--Overview
Education tax

9. Build a college planning master schedule.
Don’t get ahead of your child—stay on pace but don’t try to do too much at one time. Make a calendar of deadlines. Begin the college search process early. Check out the planning guides provided by College Grazing.

10. Acknowledge limits and restraints.
Discuss money openly and explain what you can afford. Share expectations honestly. Remember that a high school student may not really understand what it means to be in debt for tens of thousands of dollars.

11. Expect bumps along the way.
Keep in mind that the college search can be an emotional rollercoaster. Also remember that students must feel like they are making their own college decision. Be certain that your help is perceived as support rather than interference or bullying.

12. Tolerance.
Give your child some room. Your child has unique needs and desires based on his or her own tastes, interests, and expectations. You aren’t going to college, your child is.

13. Use the college search process as a vehicle to support your child’s sense of independence and responsibility.

14. Arrange early college visits.
Although college-sponsored tours are helpful, be certain that you view the college with your own eyes. Stay focused on the question, “Is this a place where my child can live, learn, and thrive?” If possible, visit different types of colleges before you start the selection process.


Campus Safety: Don’t forget to check out safety procedures on campus. You want your child to be safe. A good place to start is at  You may also want to look at the Department of Education’s Campus Security Reports.

The Campus Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool Website is brought to you by the Office of Postsecondary Education of the U. S. Department of Education. This analysis cutting tool was designed to provide rapid customized reports for public inquiries relating to campus crime data. The data are drawn from the OPE Campus Security Statistics Website database to which crime statistics are submitted annually, via a Web-based data collection, by all postsecondary institutions that receive Title IV funding (i.e., those that participate in federal student aid programs) as required by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

15. Seek input and other opinions.
Talk to friends, relatives, educators, and counselors to get a variety
of college search ideas and opinions. Keep an open mind and stay
focused on the child.

16. Be a good listener. This is so important that it needs to be repeated—be a good listener.

17. Help your child handle rejection.
If he or she is not accepted at a particular college, stress the notion that college is highly competitive and many qualified students are turned down. Remember that it is the application that is rejected, not the child.

18. Be proactive.
It is important that parents are knowledgeable. Take some time to research the process, explore options, and understand the steps needed for a successful and timely college decision.
Applying for admission Overview


19. Use the college search process as a way to connect with your son or daughter.
It is a great vehicle to open family discussions, problem solve together, and build a sense of trust. The goal is to create a climate where the child understands that it is his or her decision but you are all in it together. College planning is a partnership.


20. Acknowledge college planning milestones along the way. The college journey should feel exciting—it is something to be celebrated, so celebrate