We asked some parents whose children have just finalized their college choice to share some nuggets of advice – things they wish they had known a year ago, as their kids were narrowing down their college lists and beginning the application process.
Some of these parents’ children worked with us, but some did not. We did not edit their advice.
“My nephew has just completed his college hunt, which seems to have been a haphazard, ill-planned venture. I’ve asked my sister to call you so that my niece’s journey has more direction and structure!”
- Sandi, Pennsylvania
“This process is much harder and stressful on students today than it was back in the 80’s. Even average schools are getting tens of thousands of applications for roughly the same number of spots year after year. In our case, the school our child eventually chose had over 45,000 applications for admission this year compared to around 4,000 in the mid-80’s. Keep reminding your child it will all work out, and make sure he or she has realistic schools in the pool of potential locations. If so, it will all work out in the end.”
- Neil, Florida
“The most important nugget for us was making sure that we kept speaking with our daughter about her college list throughout the final year. Even thought she was developing the list with her Magellan counselor, the best role that we had as parents was to set aside time every few months to have open discussions about why schools were added and removed from the list – it really allowed us to best understand our daughter’s passions academically and also to have real discussions about decision points such as cost, geography, reputation, size, and so on. Figuring out where we as parents could best participate and where we should steer clear for our daughter to work with her counselor was an important balancing act that ultimately led to a successful outcome.”
- Jonathan, California
“People said the UC engineering schools were impacted and hard to get into, but my son and many of his friends had excellent grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, so we all assumed the scary statistics wouldn’t apply to them. When kids with incredible records started getting rejections, we were all gobsmacked. We now wish we had done more research on out-of-state schools and looked for more options outside the UC system. The truth is that people told us all of these things . . . we just wish we had believed them! It just isn’t the same universe as when we were applying to college!”
- Elizabeth, California
“Understand the schools you are applying to and what they value and what they emphasize. If your child fits within one of their niches, test scores and GPA don’t necessarily mean everything. The essay, in my opinion, can mean a lot to a marginal applicant.”
- Jennifer, Florida
“Remember this is about your child finding the right fit for her/him. Help your child figure this out by visiting different types of schools (big, small, urban, rural, etc.) rather than specific name schools. Only start to pick specific schools after they get a sense of what type of school they like.”
- Ruth, California
“What I wish I had known about the college application process when our kids first started high school was to not compare our children to other people’s students. Another thing was to consult an expert from the beginning. Typically when parents of teenagers speak about the college application process, all you hear is how hard it is to get into a school. Any school. While it’s true that college admissions has become much more competitive at many universities over the last generation, this is not true in all cases. There are many colleges that don’t require a perfect GPA or a top SAT score for admission. And many of these universities are well known institutions that provide a great education to their students.
Something else I discovered is that finding the right fit for your student is both a critical and underrated process. Like many parents, I had been taught that the goal is to get into the most prestigious college that the kid can be admitted to. Again, I found out that this is not always the best option. It is far better to research colleges that will provide the best holistic experience for your child. Finding that right “fit” for your student can be tricky, but talking to other parents about what works for their kid isn’t a good predictor of what will make yours happy. So much has been made lately about admissions to prestigious universities, what it takes and how people have gamed the system. What I wish I understood earlier on was that the ranking of a university is only one consideration (and not the most important). There are much more relevant factors in choosing a college and working with an expert to help identify what’s right for your student is the smartest way to go.”
- Matt, California