Your Parents’ Role In The College Application Process

College Admissions

For college students moving to school this time of year, parents can be a big help in hauling cartloads of home comforts into dorm rooms. But once the moving is done, some schools are quickly saying goodbye to moms and dads.

Colleges are holding parting ceremonies and scheduling departure times to bluntly tell parents it’s time to leave, The New York Times reports. The push “is part of an increasingly complex process, in the age of Skype and twice-daily texts home, in which colleges are urging ‘Velcro parents’ to back off so students can develop independence,” the Times says.

But students shouldn’t wait until they arrive on campus to start developing independence. They need it in the college application process, too. While parents play a big and important role in helping students choose the right colleges, applicants and their moms and dads should make sure the students are taking the lead. It’s not always easy to find the right balance, but you can start with these do’s and don’ts:


  • Do all your own work on your applications. For recommendations, transcripts, or other application pieces that must be completed and sent by others, make sure you’re the one asking and thanking those people.
  • Do make your own appointments when visiting schools, ask questions on your visits, and write your own letters and e-mails to college representatives. When communicating with admissions officers, coaches, professors, and others who have influence in the admissions process, remember that they’re evaluating you. What will it say to them if you can’t set up your tour or write a thank-you letter?
  • Do listen to what your parents have to say. They might notice something you miss on a college visit, and they’ll probably see some things differently because they have a different perspective. More information and more viewpoints will help you make a better decision.
  • Do talk with your parents about whether they will help you pay for school. If they are able and willing to do so, make sure you understand their limits and any conditions they expect you to meet.
  • Don’t expect your parents to take care of everything. You’re the one going to college. That means you’re responsible for making sure the applications are done, the deadlines are met, and the requirements are satisfied.
  • Do make the decisions that are best for you..


  • Do talk with your student about what he or she is looking for in a college. Ask questions and share your observations.
  • Do remember that it’s the student who has to live with his or her choices.
  • Do talk with your student about what, if anything, you’re able and willing to do to help pay for college. Be clear about what you expect of your student.
  • Do remind your student about what he or she needs to do for college applications.
  • Don’t do the work.
  • Do let go. But remember that your child will probably need you soon.