“HANGING back and allowing children to make mistakes is one of the greatest challenges of parenting.” This is perhaps one of the best points made in a recent NY Times article, Raising Successful Children, and couldn’t be more poignant than in the fall of your child’s senior year.

There’s a lot more at stake (or so it feels) in today’s world of college admissions. This makes it all the easier for parents to want to step in, sometimes at the expense of allowing a child to learn from the process itself. So how do you avoid overstepping the bounds?  Read our Top 5 Parental Tips on Managing the Application Process for a start:

  1. The college tour isn’t about a parent’s fit as much as it’s about the student’s fit. The student is the one who will spend 4 years there, so it’s best to let them go with their gut reactions.
  2. “We” are not applying to college or taking the SAT/ACT, “my child” is applying to college.
  3. The bumper sticker that eventually goes on your car is in no way indicative of your success or failure as a parent and doesn’t tell much of a story about how your child’s college experience will work out.
  4. Writing a college essay for a student diminishes her self-esteem and could end up biting you later if she is not admitted to several of her colleges — she’ll have someone to blame directly!
  5. Applying to 18 colleges is not a good idea for anyone! Occasionally, students who want combined medical programs apply to more than the average 7-8 schools suggested because admission to those programs is highly unlikely. But more than 10 applications is too many applications — it will detract from your student’s senior year grades, grades that will have an impact on admission.

So you’ve avoided overstepping the bounds. But how do you help your child manage the process?  Our most successful parents and students are those who:

  1. Have visited several colleges (5-6 on average).
  2. Have a college application list made up of 2-3 Challenging Schools, 4 Just Right or Target Schools and 1-2 No Problem Schools.
  3. Set goals and deadlines to finish applications well before the college application deadline.
  4. Have the child do most of the writing and filling out of applications on their own and seek advice when needed but ultimately retain their “voice” in all they submit.
  5. Know that the name of their college does not dictate their future success because “what they put in is what they’ll get out” of where they ultimately matriculate.

Yes, the college admissions process has truly changed 100% since most of us applied to college, What shouldn’t change is allowing our children to figure out what’s best for their future, while providing them the tools and the support they need to voice what they feel and want.

Help your child avoid the most common application mistakes and put him on track for admissions success.


Written by Kara Courtois
Kara Courtois is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Kara holds degrees from University of Notre Dame and University of Portland; she completed her graduate coursework at Teachers College, Columbia University and Steinhardt School of Education. Prior to joining College Coach, Kara was a senior admissions officer at Barnard College. Visit our website to learn more about Kara Courtois.