The Dos and Don’ts of Helping Your Child Get into College

Helping Your Child With College Apps | Admissionado

College application season can be stressful—not just for the student, but for the parent too.

As a parent watching your child make some of the biggest decisions of their life, it’s totally understandable that you want to help them to succeed. However, it’s important to let your child take the lead in this process. To help you better understand what we mean, here are some quick Dos and Don’ts to help you navigate the college admissions process.

Decision Making

DO speak to your child early about their college plans. Let’s be real, left to their own devices, most teenagers would put more time into their Instagram than their college applications. It’s important to speak to your child openly and honestly about what their lives will look like after high school. They don’t need to choose a career or even pick a college major. What’s important initially is determining the qualities they are looking for in a college.

Do they want to go to school in a city? Do they want to attend a large or small school? Are they interested in Greek life or joining a robotics club? Think of leading questions that you can ask to help your child start to narrow down their list of potential schools. Nailing down these concrete details will make the process feel more real, and help get your child excited about the process.

DON’T try to force them into making the same choices you would. Although it’s important to use those leading questions to help your student make their choice, it’s just as crucial that the decision on what school they apply to and attend is theirs alone. We all want our children to excel and find an environment that best prepares them for a successful life. What we must remember is that our definition of success may look different than our child’s.

Preparation & Application

DO make sure your child has all the facts. Although you can’t make the decision for them, you can—and should—provide them with all the information they need to make an informed choice. Most high school students don’t understand what’s important in the deluge of statistics out there about each college they apply to. As a parent, you need to fill in those gaps in their knowledge.

This missing information could pertain to the test scores or GPA of accepted students, notable or notorious alumni, any issues that have been reported about the school in the news, or financial constraints that may restrict their choices. When it comes to college admissions season, it’s better to be over-informed. Put your adult research skills to good use and dive deep down that Google hole! You will be less susceptible to college’s marketing and puffery than your child.


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DON’T do your child’s application. It can be excruciating to watch your child struggle completing their applications. And you may be tempted to step in and do some part of it for them. DON’T! The application—especially the personal statement—is meant to be a reflection of your child. Completing it for them is not only a disservice to the school, but also to your child. Your child is about to spend four years on their own without you there to do their work or clean up their messes.

Their journey into independence often begins with their application and at the end of the day, this application is theirs, not yours. That doesn’t mean you can’t help! Act as a sounding board during the brainstorming process, offer to read over any new material they create, give them your opinion, and help them proofread at the end.

DO create and maintain a timeline with your child. Your child will feel incredibly stressed out as they attempt to juggle school, extracurricular activities, and applications. It’s important to keep them on track with their applications. At Admissionado, we suggest creating a timeline with your child. Every schedule will be different, but they should include key tasks (asking their recommenders for letters, touring college campuses, requesting transcripts/test scores), testing dates (ACT, SAT, SAT subject tests), and all application deadlines.


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You may also want to include a proposed date when your child should have a rough draft of their personal statement completed. Be sure that the timeline is easily accessible for both you and your child. Placing a calendar on the fridge or making a shared Google calendar are two great ways to ensure everyone is on the same page!

DON’T contact the school on your child’s behalf. It can be tempting to reach out to schools your child is applying to, especially if you are an alumnus. However, you and your child’s interactions with admissions officers will be tracked. Contacting the admissions office yourself may negatively impact your child’s admissions process. If you’re rude, pushy or even “overly excited” (i.e. calling every other day) the admissions office will place a note in your child’s file.  It’s best to let your child handle any direct communication with schools. Not only does it demonstrate their maturity and accountability to the admissions office, but it’s also a great lesson for them on their journey toward independence!

DO check in with your child. The college admissions process is long, arduous and stressful. Remember to take a moment every day to check in with your child on how they’re feeling. The stress tied to this process can lead to depression, eating disorders, and other mental health problems. It’s your job to help your child develop resiliency for coping with this added stress. Remind them (and yourself!) that success in life is not tied to acceptance at a specific college or university.

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