I asked students and parents to share their advice for students and parents about to begin the college admissions process. Who better to provide guidance than those who have just completed the journey?

Here is some of the advice that they offered….

Advice from Students, for Students

  • This may sound cliche, but stick to your own values and what you want. It’s hard not to get caught up in what your friends want and what they think is the right decision, but that’s not always the best choice for you. Remember, you’re the one who’s going to be attending that college!
  • Be honest with your parents in your thoughts about college, even if it’s awkward. I was nervous to tell my parents what I really wanted, because I thought they’d think it was dumb, but once I did tell them they were super supportive, and it made everything easier.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Seriously, don’t do it. Senior year is really busy and college apps are a ton of work. It feels so much better to get things done ahead of time than to be stressed out up to the last minute.
  • Go to the college fairs and visit the colleges and don’t be afraid to talk to the reps and the current students! Talking to real people is the best way to learn!
  • I would definitely do an overnight stay at a college if you can.
  • Be open to all colleges, even the ones you’ve never heard of. I wasn’t interested in unfamiliar names at first, but once I looked more closely I discovered some great colleges, one of which I’m going to be attending – yay!!
  • As you decide where to apply, pay attention to how many supplements you’ll need to write for each college – these hit me by surprise.
  • Don’t ignore the emails from the colleges because a lot of them send important stuff to you through email. But you’ll also get a lot of marketing email from the colleges, so you have to learn to tell what’s important.
  • It can feel really overwhelming to be in your last year of high school, deciding where you’ll be for the next 4 years. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. Reach out to your friends, parents, teachers – anyone – for support and you will get through it!

Advice from Students, for Parents

  • I really appreciated that my parents didn’t visibly favor one college over another; they guided me in certain directions (Have you considered _____ college? Or ______ university?), but they never said that one college was better than another– they let me decide that for myself.
  • Be open with your student about everything, including what colleges you can afford.
  • Try to be really nice if you critique your kid’s essay – it may not be perfect, but they’ve probably worked really hard on it.
  • Parents please don’t nag your kids too much! If you have raised us to be responsible, then we will get it done. Nagging only makes it more stressful.
  • Try to remember what it was like for you when you were my age. I know your son/daughter is on the verge of becoming an adult, but in high school they’re still a teenager, for just a little while longer.

Advice from Parents, for Parents

  • Start early! Visit campuses just for fun or add on an extra vacation day if you are in the vicinity of a college. It helps just to get a feeling of the school. If you live close enough, go for performances, lectures or other events when the school is at it’s most authentic.
  • Talk to everybody you see! Some of the best low-downs on schools didn’t come from the tour guides or anyone in the admissions office – it came from people in the school store, library, walking around, etc. And whether or not they talk to you is telling, too 🙂
  • If you need/want special services (learning disabilities, travel abroad, etc.) drop in on those offices, too. Are they busy? Nice? Willing to talk to you? Are there students there? Are they engaged and happy?
  • Feeling overwhelmed? You should, it’s a HUGE, complicated, expensive, gut-wrenching decision. Spend the money and go with a college counselor and save more than you will ever pay in time, effort and gray hair!
  • Sorry to say this, but it may be best to leave your child’s friends at home when you visit. It’s distracting and too easy for them to get caught up in what others think/notice/say instead of how it feels to your own child.
  • If you need significant financial aid, get off the coasts and apply to schools in the middle of the country. They love kids from California, and may be most generous in their offers. Given enough lead time, they will even fly your child in for a visit.
  • Go to the college fairs, and start in sophomore year. They can be busy and crazy, but going a year before it’s your kids turn gives you both a bit of breathing room. Do the homework before going – research the schools that will be at the fair and make a list of the reps to see AND a list of questions to be answered.
  • Be realistic in your options, but have your child apply to at least one really AWESOME school – that just may be the one your child ends up going to!
  • Send in those applications for scholarships – dreams do come true!

Advice from Parents, for Students

  • Us parents love you students like crazy and are just trying to do the best we can for you. Please pardon our faults!
  • Pay attention when you go on college visits. It’s the best view of a college you’ll ever get.
  • Listen to your heart. Everyone will have an opinion for you, but you’re the only one attending the school for 4 years.
  • Be honest with your parents about what you truly want and don’t want. Even if it’s different than what you think we want. In the end, we want you to be happy.
  • Believe it or not, we nag you because we love you.