Cultivate Theme

Getting to College - Your Parental Role

There is no doubt that the transition from high school to college is a journey for both you and your teen. The magnitude of the move from 24/7 parent to empty-nester is not to be taken lightly, but your focus must be on helping your child in their journey. For many parents this requires a step back to allow your teen to explore their own needs and desires and take ownership of the process. But being involved without controlling the process can be a challenge.

Please help find original source for this image!What TYPE of helicopter parent are you?

One of the more interesting ways of describing levels of parental involvement in the college process, comes from an online college tool, Once you have created a (free) profile on the site, you can find a parent worksheet that outlines different types of “helicopter parents”.  I know this term usually carries a heavy, negative connotation, but their premise that parents are essential to the college process, but can easily be out of line rings true. Being too involved (The Apache), or too controlling (The Police Chopper), are just as dangerous as completely stepping out of the process unless there is an emergency  (The Air Ambulance).

Taking Action

Helping your student take ownership of this process and doing what you can to make the experience as positive and low stress as possible, should be two of your major goals. A large part of your job requires you to take a more passive, supporting role.  Consider these verbs …

DO: Support, encourage, scout, remind, guide, learn, listen, laugh

DON’T: Nag, control, force, direct, demand, enforce, ignore

Realities & Stress

There is no doubt that the process can feel overwhelming to both students and parents. Rigor of coursework, grades, test scores, extra-curricular activities, interviews, and essays are all aspects of the process that can’t be ignored. Finding balance through the process is possible.

  • Knowledge is power. Learning what you can about types of colleges, general timelines, colleges, testing, and terms will not only help you have more realistic expectations but help you in guiding your student.
  • Talk with your teen. Communication can be a challenge, but work to engage them in casual conversations about types of colleges that might be good fit, their wants and needs, and realistic expectations of what you can afford.
  • Start early, stay organized.
  • Relax. 70% of colleges accept over 70% of applicants. There is a place for your student out there.

In my upcoming monthly posts, I will encourage you to step back and look at the big picture. By providing solid facts sprinkled with a heavy dose of opinion on how to successfully navigate the process, I hope to empower you– and most importantly your child – to confidently and successfully navigate the passage to college while keeping stress levels in check. The process of preparing, selecting, applying, choosing and heading off to college is an important journey, but there’s no reason you can’t all enjoy the ride.

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