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Practical Advice for Parents on College Admission Requirements

By Peterson's Staff updated on Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Keep track of e-mails about college admission requirements

Advice from Cathy, an admission dean and the wife of another dean, "If I have learned one thing this year watching Mary go through the college admission process it's that parents miss out on a lot of information when they don't see the e-mail messages between students and college representatives, namely, coaches, admission people, or student representatives. I have asked Mary to print all e-mail messages she receives so Dave and I can read them and so she can keep them in the folder she has set up for each school. You can learn a lot about the professionalism, sophistication, and education of the representative who is interacting with your child."

Intelligence is not determined by the college admission process

Carolyn, a college administrator and mother of two, counsels, "I told my children when they applied to colleges that "smart" is not what they are but what they will become. Too many children think that an aptitude test or a teacher's assessment or even a college admission offer determines their level of intelligence or predicts future achievement. We're all works in progress and will never run out of things to learn."

Expect emotional turmoil
Whether it's preparing college admissions requirements, worrying about admission decisions, or seeing children off, there can be emotional strain during the process.

Cora-Jean, a single mother of three, reflects, "What was most surprising to me was the emotional turmoil I experienced around letting go and seeing my daughter go off, essentially on her own. I was immensely proud and shared her enthusiasm about this rite of passage, but I wasn't prepared for the sadness. I didn't understand that it was going to be a passage for me, too."

Jackie M., a mother of two and director of admission, muses, "Over the years, I have observed a lot of examples of how I don't want to behave as a parent. So many parents seem to be stuck on the same 10 schools that are the 'right' ones. In fact, there are many great schools; the college admissions process goes smoother when parents focus less on what college their children are getting into and more on what their children will get out of college. The pressure that some parents put on their children is very unhealthy. I wish that some parents would step away a bit and let their children follow their own passions and interests."

Don't get stressed over college admission requirements

"I am trying not to take anything for granted and trying not to blow the importance of a college choice out of proportion," admits Kay, the mother of two college-bound children and a seasoned college counselor. "My friend's son unexpectedly needed brain surgery during the college search. The family shifted its focus from his SATs to wondering whether he would graduate from high school. Another friend is trying to decide whether her son should go to college or go to rehab. Believe it or not, rehab is a lot more expensive than the colleges they're considering."

Deal with serious issues beforehand
All the college admissions assistance you can find may not be enough to help with more serious issues.

"Unfortunately, before a realistic and successful college search and success at college can occur, your child might have to deal with other big issues. Taking untreated depression or alcohol abuse to college is lighting the fuse on the bomb," advises a high school counselor.

Don't embarrass your kids
Navigating the college admissions process as a father rather than a dean necessitated a shift in gears for Jerry. "I have always told the parents and students I've met in my professional life that there is no such thing as a silly or stupid question. When we pulled into the parking lot of the first college my own daughter was visiting, she begged, 'Dad, please don't ask any embarrassing questions!' I asked her to provide me with a list of those, but I did not receive any specifics. I was however, very careful in my inquiries, especially on the student tour!"

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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