Preparing for College

More College Knowledge Q&As

Question: I'm a high school junior.  This summer and fall, as I begin my college applications,  how much should my parents become involved in the process?

Answer: The limited involvement some parents have with their children's college applications always surprises me.  I'm also shocked at how some parents want to dominate everything that goes on.


At the very least, your parents will fill out financial aid forms so that your application process can be completed.  Parents can do other valuable tasks for your application that might not be so obvious.

Some colleges allow for a so-called optional recommendation.  This provides parents with an opportunity to tell why their son or daughter is so special.  You may wonder why a college admission officer would want to read an obviously biased letter from a parent.  The reason is the letter's anecdotal information.

Anecdotal information is merely stories about the candidate drawn from real life.  If a parent can write in simple, clear terms, the optional reference is a splendid opportunity to bring little-known information to the attention of the admission staff.  Few items in the application will make an impression like a sincere statement from a mother or father.  Obviously, if the student's grades and other qualifications don't make the cut, a parental good word will not turn the tide by itself.

Parents can also manage applications.  Most high school seniors have a lot going on at any given point in the school year.  If a parent is good at meeting deadlines and can follow up on details, application management can be a worthwhile contribution to the process.  This amounts to becoming familiar with the school's application.

The front of the application package notes all deadlines for the various forms.  Parents can then make certain that the applicant is working on the proper form at the proper time.  This is a very important task and can help avoid embarrassing oversights and late submissions.

One final word.  Include your parents in your application process.  The more you can work together as a team now, the better things will be whenever you head off in the Fall for your first year of college.

Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.