White family of six standing in front of stone building taking a selfie

When Should Parents Step in During the Admission Process?

Parents naturally want to help their students through the college admission process, but there are times to step in and times to step back. Here's when to help!

Navigating the college process can be complicated. Your teen might need help as they do their best to apply to colleges and learn what funding options are available to them. However, you also don’t want to go overboard and take over the process, preventing your student from learning valuable life skills. So how can parents find the right balance? According to a survey from Kaplan Test Prep, about 75% of college admission offices believe parents should be “somewhat involved” in the process. If you’re hoping to provide guidance to your student, here are some ways to help out without taking over. 

When to help your child

There are certainly some things you can do to help your student where they’ll need it most. Here are three important times to step in.

1. When it’s time to fill out the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required for those who want to apply for federal grants and student loans. On top of that, many states, colleges, and universities use the FAFSA when determining which type of additional aid you might be eligible for. You might need to let your student know how important this form is, and it’s something you’ll likely need to help them fill out since parent tax information is required. However, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool can make getting this information fairly simple, allowing you to import your tax data directly into the FAFSA online.

Related: The Best FAFSA Advice and Resources

2. When it’s time to find scholarships or grants

You can also offer to help your student find scholarships and grants. While there are grants available to pay off student loans, it’s easier to find scholarships in the first place, reducing the need for loans to begin with. While you shouldn’t fill out applications or write essays for your student, you can point them toward scholarship resources that offer databases of awards and other opportunities and ask people in your network if they’ve heard of local scholarships. Additionally, you can work with your child to create a schedule and show them how to organize a calendar and to-do list so they don’t miss deadlines. 

3. When it’s time to apply for loans

As the parent, you should also provide guidance as your student applies for loans. They don’t always need a cosigner, but you might be needed if your student uses alternatives to federal loans. Help them understand the difference between federal and private loans and the protections that come with federal loans. Additionally, if your credit score doesn’t qualify you to cosign on private loans for your student, you might eligible for a parent PLUS loan to help. However, you should carefully consider your situation and only turn to private loans or parent PLUS loans after scholarship, grant, and federal loan options have been exhausted.

Related: Types of Student Loans Explained: Federal vs. Private

When to take a step back

With all that being said, there are equally crucial times when parents need to step back and let the student take the reins of their own process. Here are the two most important times to leave them in control.

1. When it’s time to pick a college or major

Even though you should provide guidance and talk through different options with your student, the choice of where and what to study is ultimately theirs. Don’t dictate which schools or majors they should consider. However, you can use various resources to help your student make an informed choice. Be clear about how much you can afford to put toward a college education, and help your student make a comparison about costs and loans needed to cover those costs. For majors, you can use resources like the College Scorecard from the US Department of Education to help your teen understand that some fields pay more than others. Don’t force your student into a school or major they’re not committed to. Instead, help them understand their options so they can make their own choice.

2. When you’re concerned about their academic performance

You don’t want to become a helicopter parent who demands to see your student’s grades constantly or call the school when you become aware of performance issues. Federal law provides privacy protections for student education records, and schools don’t have to provide education records without consent from the student. While there are situations in which schools can provide records without your student’s consent, they are limited. Rather than immediately supervising their performance, work on teaching them appropriate skills for time management and focus so they can accomplish the work required of them in college. 

Related: 9 College Admission Tips for Students With Bad Grades

The college search and admission process is a time for your student to learn valuable skills about navigating life and making smart choices. They’ll spend the rest of their lives filling out paperwork, handling various processes, and making big decisions. You can help them now by offering guidance and teaching them how to handle these issues rather than taking over and making them miss out on a learning opportunity.

For more advice on navigating the college admission process with your student, check out our Parents section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
college admission college applications college search fafsa parents

About Callie McGill

Callie McGill is a Content Marketer for ValuePenguin.com.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Maria  Fernanda

Maria Fernanda

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress is always telling you with time to spare when to apply for certain scholarships, what they require, and if you’re eligible or not. They also provide helpful tips for both incoming college students and current college students, such as what to absolutely have in your dorm.

Keaun Brown

Keaun Brown

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2020

As I transition to furthering my education, I can say with certainty that it simply wouldn’t be possible without the help of generous organizations such as CollegeXpress. Those who initially founded CX had no idea their platform would give a plethora of information to a first-generation homeless kid native to the ghettos of over half a dozen states. Everyone at CX and Carnegie Dartlet gave me a chance at a future when the statistics said I had none. And for that, I thank them.

Amelia

Amelia

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress helped open me up to many colleges that fit my interests. I’m only a sophomore in high school, so I like having a lot to look at, and CX does a great job of picking colleges that meet my wants. It's a great website that I'll continue to use until it comes time for me to apply for colleges. I also like that it notifies me through email with options to look at. Thanks CX!

Samantha Fils-Aime

Samantha Fils-Aime

High School Class of 2019

I love that CollegeXpress has helped me find some scholarships to apply for but also helped me succeed in school with lots of tips. I also really like how they consistently email me about webinars that teach me a lot of things from the comfort of my home!

Maliha

Maliha

High School Class of 2019

My college search began at CollegeXpress. Due to this helpful tool, I was able to gather a lot of information to guide my college planning decisions. Through CollegeXpress, I was also able to apply to several scholarships to help pay for my tuition. I would definitely recommend this website to anyone who wants to explore colleges and get more information from admission experts, counselors, and real students.

College Matches