Large group of students standing in line at college campus

With college admissions season in full swing, it can be a challenge for your teen to stay organized. After all, high school seniors still have homework, studying, and senior year activities to deal with on top of their college-related to-do list. The last thing you want to do is cause additional stress by hovering over them, or worse – take over the entire process.


Here are some strategies to help your teen stay on track with their college applications, while instilling a sense of personal responsibility.

Create a college calendar

Have one dedicated place to record important dates and deadlines with either a physical calendar or an online calendar app or tool. Write down everything from application deadlines and exam dates to college open houses and campus visit dates on your calendar. Hang it up where it is clearly visible in your home, like a central wall in your kitchen. If you prefer the virtual calendar method, set text or e-mail reminder alerts to keep both you and your college-bound student on the same page.

Hold a weekly check-in meeting

It doesn’t have to be formal, but set aside some time each week to discuss what’s coming up. While it’s important that teens get used to taking responsibility for their deadlines, the occasional nudge from you helps. Whether they want to admit it or not, your support is needed during this time, so don’t leave their college fates entirely in their hands.

Keep your teen accountable

Make it clear that you’re there for support, but that it’s their name on the college applications. While there might be a part of you that wishes you could just write the college essay for them, taking a step back can be more empowering for your teen. It sends the message that you have confidence and trust in your child. Hopefully that will be enough encouragement to power them through application season. However, if you find that your student is slacking, you may have to put your parental foot down by setting internal deadlines and taking away a privilege until the work is finished.

Find time for college information sessions

Family life can get hectic–especially if you have multiple children–but don’t let college information sessions, open houses, or local college fairs take a back seat to other obligations. Attending these events with your child will help educate you both so that you can work through college decision making, application paperwork and other tasks as a team.

Become friends with your child’s mentor

It’s just a fact of life that sometimes students will be more receptive to advice when it comes from another adult mentor instead of Mom or Dad. If there is a teacher, guidance counselor, or coach who is particularly influential in your teen’s life, it’s okay to enlist that person’s help to ensure your child stays focused on college-related tasks.

Look to others for advice

Speaking with someone who has “been there, done that” can be helpful. Whether it’s a relative or a close friend who recently went through the process with their child, ask them to share some strategies or recommend resources for managing the college-bound process.

By approaching college application season with patience and positivity, not only will you help your teen stay organized, but you’ll also get through this family rite of passage with an even closer bond than you had before.

 

Dawn Papandrea, Discover Financial Services

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