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Whether your kids barricade you from their rooms or still sit down with you for heart-to-hearts, they want your input when it comes time to start exploring college admission requirements and navigating the college admission process. Getting into and heading off to college is an all-new gig! They’ll need your support and assistance carefully doled out in the perfect recipe of love, understanding, and patience — mixed with just a dash of interference and control.

Balance is key when helping with college admission requirements

Filling out forms, writing essays, taking tests, and meeting deadlines can be pretty overwhelming for someone who is simultaneously dealing with midterms, acne, dating crises, graduation, and teen angst. A really good role for you might be that of secretary — keeping track of dates, organizing files and papers, and providing the gentle reminder about appointments and deadlines.

What you don’t want to be is the smothering parent who makes your child’s admission to college your new full-time job and takes care of all the college admissions requirements yourself. For example, the suburban mom who puts everything together, has it professionally typed and printed, hires a writer to compose the essays, has a secretary fill out all the applications, and then overnights everything to the college she personally selects for her child. This only undermines the independence your child needs to survive college and it won’t do anyone any favors when the admission committee figures out that your child’s test scores aren’t consistent with the professionally written essay.

Nor do you want to completely check out from the college admissions process. While independence is a wonderful attribute to encourage, packing your child off alone onto buses and trains to visit colleges may leave them feeling isolated. Go along! As their parent, your input and involvement is a message of caring and support. Let them initiate the questions and attend their interviews, but be available to process their experience with them and help to answer any questions or resolve their doubts.

Don’t limit options in the college admission process

Obviously, you may need to have some say in making the decision about where to apply, particularly if you’re the one who has to foot the bill. But don’t assume that you have to limit their choices to schools that only have a certain price tag. And whatever you do, don’t insist on a certain school because you like the football team or you think it’s better for them.

On the other hand, don’t let your children short-change themselves by picking whatever seems easiest, rather than what may really be a better fit for their wants and needs. Encourage them to look at college admissions requirements carefully, so they can find the schools that are the best fit for them.

As far as money issues go (and you undoubtedly will pay close attention to that aspect), when it comes to applying, you may find that by the time the financial aid offers roll in there are more options available to your child than you had thought possible.

Allow your child to dream and apply to the schools of their choice, as well as to a list of safety schools that you can help them create. When all is said and done, both you and your child may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Let your child lead the process

As a parent, it is critically important that you don’t become overly involved in the college admissions process. After all, you’re not the one who is going to college. Your child should always feel that they have the starring role in this important decision. They’ll soon be in charge of their own lives and you won’t (and shouldn’t) be there to make decisions for them and to constantly remind them about their responsibilities. This is the time to teach them to hold their own reins morally, financially, and even clerically.

Find the best balance you can between being overbearing and nagging, or being apathetic and distant. Provide college admissions assistance, but don’t take over the whole thing.