Nov. 1, 2018
The college admissions process is often fraught with stress and anxiety, sometimes driven by the fact that admission offices say they haven't received all of your application materials, or confusion over deadlines and other issues. Often, this requires a check-in with the admissions office to ask questions, inquire about whether documents have arrived or resolve technical glitches. But in these situations, who should reach out to schools — the parent or the applicant?
Many parents want to help their college-bound children and take some stress off them. However, it is you — the student — that needs to take the lead in the process of your college applications, including if you have questions before you submit your application as well as after you apply.
"The process should be driven by the student," explains Laurie Kopp Weingarten, cofounder of One-Stop College Counseling in Marlboro, N.J. "Once in college, the student won't have their parents on campus to check that they are doing their homework, studying effectively or going to sleep at a decent hour. This is a great time to start becoming responsible and more independent."
Kate Coffman, vice president of admissions and financial aid at Franklin College in Franklin, Ind., agrees that students need to be the ones who contact the colleges where they are applying when they have questions about their applications.
"I would encourage the student, not the parent, to call to check if all documents have been received," says Coffman. "Some colleges have application portals that will show the application status including missing documents, but students should always check their emails first, as oftentimes an auto-generated email is sent if the college is missing materials."
An exception of when parent(s) should call the college rather than the student is when the questions involve financial aid issues.
"Often, parents are not comfortable having students handle this issue — teens may not be aware of the family's financial situation, and they have little experience negotiating," notes Weingarten.
Some parents may struggle with the idea of letting their students handle these "check-ins" with admissions offices, but since many college-bound students will soon be moving out of the house, it's a good time to begin trusting them to make these connections on their own, advises family counselor Anna Corrigan.
"It's hard to cut the apron strings, but the only way to prepare a student for the independence required of college life is to start before they leave the house," she says. "If they make mistakes when handling things on their own, that's actually okay. We learn from our mistakes and move on."
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