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As a loving parent, I am sure that you want to help your child find a school where they can flourish. However, despite your best intentions, your efforts might not be well-received by your teenager. So, from the perspective of a 19-year-old, here are 5 things that your child might appreciate for you to avoid doing as they search for colleges:

1. Don’t overstep

College is about finding independence, and the college application process is really one of the first steps toward that. Your child may want your help a lot throughout the process, or they may choose to take more initiative and leave you on the sideline (I know it can be hard to accept). So, it can only benefit you to understand what and how much help they actually want if you want to avoid unnecessary brawling. Your child really just wants to be heard and respected.

2. Don’t discourage them

This can be a very scary and stressful time in your child’s life, and even minor negativity can send them into a downward spiral. Though it is important to be realistic, it can cause more harm than good to discourage your child from applying to “reach” or expensive schools, etc. Instead, try to find alternative or compromising solutions. For example, encourage your child to apply to a more affordable or a safety school in addition, or encourage them to retake tests if they believe they can achieve higher scores.

3. Anecdotal advice might not be the most helpful.

In discussions with my parents, it is pretty clear that times have changed since they went to college. What might have been true for them and their experiences might not be relevant anymore, and they certainly admit it. Even over the last decade, schools have changed drastically, whether by becoming more or less competitive or by changing directions/values. As much as you want to help by sharing your personal experiences, other sources such as college websites, current students, or more recent graduates (think your child’s friends’ older siblings) may be able to give more relevant advice.

4. Your child might like things that you do not

By the time your child is looking for colleges, they have likely developed independent opinions on what they want for college. They may dream of going to a school in a city, going to a small liberal arts college, or going to a school all the way across the country.  While this might not be where you would choose to go, that’s okay. It’s their life now, not yours (sorry), and they will be the ones living with their decisions.

5. Don’t let yourself get too stressed.

I know I am saying this as if being stressed during this time is a choice, which it certainly does not feel like, but it is important that you don’t allow the process to consume you. It’s certainly a lot to watch your little girl or boy look at different colleges and start to fledge from the nest, I promise it will work out in one way or another.  

Despite the anxiety and worry you might be experiencing while your child undergoes their college search, this should really be viewed as an exciting time for both you and your child. Your son or daughter will get to explore their many potential futures and see the incredible things that await them away from home – and you get to be a part of this journey. So, sit back and enjoy as your child finds where they can flourish and become the incredible person that you raised them to be. 


If you want to learn more of what you can do to help, check out 5 Ways to Help Your Child When Applying for Colleges – I promise there are at least a few things you can do to support your child without getting an eye roll!