What is my role as a parent in the college planning process?

Parents usually have a lot of questions about the college planning process. They want to help their child navigate it successfully, but don’t know where or when to start. Some in the industry say it’s never too early to start researching schools, but one local expert takes a different approach.

In the latest episode of Talking College with Admissions and Scheduling Expert John Dragonehost John Dragone shares his thoughts on the best time to start planning for college, how parents should approach the subject with their child, and the most helpful ways for parents to get involved in college. process.

Related: College Planning: How to Choose the Right Major and Career

When is the right time to start planning your college education?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to determining the best time to start planning for college. It all depends on each student.

“You have students who may be ready to start the process at a certain time or at a certain grade level, and you have others who are not quite ready yet. Adolescence is a very unpredictable stage of development. Students develop intellectually, in terms of maturity and motivation at different times, Dragone said.

Asking your child how they feel about college is a good place to start. Sometimes the parents are more enthusiastic than the student about starting this process. Understanding the stress your child may be under is important to the overall success of the process, as well as taking the time to assess your own feelings about your child going to college.

Dragone does not accept students as clients of John Dragone College Career Services until January of their freshman year. At that time, first semester grades are available and students will likely have taken the PSAT last fall. The junior year of the second semester is when students are generally more engaged with the process and in that “academic mindset”.

Related: The College Application Process: Understanding the ACT and SAT

How do you talk about college to your child?

Parents can play a central and positive role in the college planning process by supporting, understanding and encouraging their child. It may be tempting to encourage your child to choose a school close to home, but ultimately the student must make their own decision.

The student may not express their feelings verbally, so being open to non-verbal questions may be crucial. This is probably the biggest and most difficult decision your child has had to make so far in their school career. It’s easy for parents to interpret their child’s difficulty getting started as laziness or apathy, but it’s essential to avoid guesswork.

“It’s probably more likely, you know, if they’re stuck or having trouble getting started, that they probably just don’t know where to start,” Dragone explained. “The student and the parents are like two ships passing through the night. They never sit down and have a real frank conversation. That’s really the first thing I want you to do. I call it the “meeting of hopes and dreams”. It is a starting point for the student and the parent in terms of this whole university process.

Ultimately, giving your child a little nudge to get started can help, but don’t overdo it. Going to college every day or venting a lot of frustration with your child can do more harm than good.

Related: When Attending Your Dream College Means Massive Student Loan Debt

What role should parents play in college planning?

Dragone advised not to get carried away with the “prestige factor” when looking for schools. The prestige of a certain school does not dictate future success and happiness.

“What’s this [students] accomplish and what they bring to the table, rather than where they went to college, that matters most,” Dragone said. “Ask your son or daughter, ‘What would you like me to do to help you here? What role would you like me to play? Dragone advised. “While it is important for a parent to play a role in helping their son or daughter choose a college, it is extremely important for parents to know this: although you should help your son or daughter in the process of choosing a college, you shouldn’t take control of the process.”

Here are some potentially helpful roles parents can play:

  • Offer to do research if the student suggests an interest in certain colleges
  • Ask the student, “What do you want me to focus on in my research? »
  • Create a spreadsheet for potential schools with information such as cost of attendance, distance from home, standardized test scores (ACT/SAT) and GPAs of admitted students, application deadlines, campus visit dates, etc.
  • Bring them to college visits!
  • Help students prioritize application submission dates based on due dates
  • Complete SAT/ACT registration forms
  • Complete financial aid forms

Related: TALKING COLLEGE: The right way to choose a college (podcast)

You can listen to or watch the full podcast episode “Excessive Student Debt Can Ruin Lives” here.

New episodes of Talking College with admissions and college planning expert John Dragone airs every Thursday at 4 p.m. Check this page for the latest episode.

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Louisa R. Loomis