Planning for College Admission

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on May 4, 2011 in , , | No Comments

Students and parents may feel as if the college admission process is like playing a game.

In a sense, it is, but there are strategies to assist in planning an academic and career future.

As you already may have discovered, there are numerous resources online and at your local library. I found one, College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family, by Andrea Lieman, Ph.D. and Steven Roy Goodman, M.S., J.D., that addresses many important aspects of the college admission process sometimes omitted from other books.

Below are important things to keep in mind whether you’re a parent, guardian or student.

Major Transition

When planning for college, it is imperative that parents (or guardian) and student understand the application process rings in a major transition for the entire family. Graduating from high school, applying to colleges, deciding on a major, career, and much more, puts the student in an overwhelming whirlwind. To label this a “major transition” is an understatement!

Parents too find themselves with the added burden of financing a college education, saying good-bye to their daughter or son, and feeling that loss in an “empty nest”. Even younger siblings are not immune to the tension that can arise when an older brother or sister is planning their future. The authors of College Admissions Together state, “A proactive approach to college admissions will ensure a healthier transition to college for your student as well as for those family members left behind.”

The book sheds a light on the process that should be addressed long before applications are submitted. Featured in the book are college essays and how they should be written, parental input, a student’s personality, external pressures and family tensions. Student and parents must address these important issues before they arise, since the issues can disrupt the admissions process.

Parental/Guardian View

For years, you’ve planned and saved for your child’s higher education in hopes they will pursue a lucrative field. You may have taken the time to discuss with your child their major and what they plan to do after they finish college. Some parents might not have asked their child what they wanted, but rather assumed, or imposed upon them, their own wants for the future. While every good parent wants the best for their children, parents sometimes forget to directly ask children what is important in their mind. I’ve personally spoken to many unhappy people who, as high school students, were pressured by their parents to go into a certain field or take over the family business.

It is understandable having financial concerns with the economy eating at your child’s college savings. If you’ve lost your job, that makes this time even more stressful. But don’t linger in worry and guilt too long, be honest with your child about the current situation. Many students can easily go to the local community college for a fraction of the cost of a four year institution, or delay college altogether until things improve. Experts advise parents not tap into their retirement funds to finance a college education for children.

College, and all that goes with it, is a monumental undertaking for anyone, but even more so for someone just out of high school. Parents may assist their child, in a positive way, by taking the time to do research with them in a collaborative effort. Here are some questions you and your child may want to discuss before starting the college admission process:

  1. Does your child want to start college right out of high school, or do they not want to go to college at all?
  2. What major interests them, have they shown they excel in one particular area?
  3. Are they self-motivated, or did they constantly need external motivation while in high school?
  4. What do they hope to accomplish in college, besides receiving a diploma?
  5. Are they mature enough to go away to college, live on, or off campus?
  6. Has your child had a troubled adolescence filled with drug or alcohol abuse?
  7. How much has been set aside for the child’s full college education, boarding and other expenses?
  8. Does your child have to work part-time while in college?
  9. Have student responsibilities such as: grade point average, moral behavior, safety, personal finances, etc., been thoroughly discussed and agreed upon?
  10. Beginning in high school, have parent and student, together, explored all possibilities for the future, including other avenues besides college?

Student View

Feeling stressed, maybe a bit scared, and even confused, are all normal when thinking about this process. The one thing you can do to help yourself is to stay focused on what you really want. Take time to find out what that looks like. Is it that you want to get a bachelors or masters degree in a certain subject that you’re very interested in, or an associates degree from a community college because there isn’t a special interest yet? Maybe you are leaning towards something other than college, if so, what might that require of you? It’s important to find out what you want and then set about taking action to make it happen.

When you begin your personal search early, as a freshman in high school, it gives you and your parents time to research and discuss the multitude of options available. It takes time and effort on your part to gather information, digest it, make notes, talk to your guidance counselor, your parents and eventually make a decision. Don’t make decisions out of fear, what your friends are doing, familial pressure, or societal values (money, status). Basing your decisions on those elements will eventually bring about resentment and unhappiness. This is your life, deciding what to do with it requires a responsible and mature look at your wants and needs. Applying to expensive colleges just to impress others is the wrong approach. Choosing a major based only on it providing you with a six figure income is sure to disappoint too.

How do you choose? Begin by asking yourself what you love to do and what truly interests you, then work from that point. What are your objectives in life? Do you want to work in an office, in a developing country, build your own business, or take another route? Do take into consideration the economy, it has most likely hit your parents financial situation hard, and may also affect your first choice in a major, with some fields not recovering any time soon. Search the Occupational Outlook Handbook website to see what type of future your chosen field has–you want something that has a positive outlook long term.

Whatever you decide, remember you can change your mind when you begin to discover more about yourself and the field. Statistics show that many grads don’t go into the field they chose while in college. Taking tests such as the Meyers-Briggs can assist you in understanding more about your areas of interest and where you’d excel. Discuss these tests with your guidance counselor and parents. Here are some questions for further personal discovery:

  1. When you were a small child, what was your answer to this question posed by adults: “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
  2. How do you occupy your free time?
  3. What do you daydream about?
  4. What is your favorite subject in school?
  5. Did you enjoy your part-time after school job?
  6. Did you volunteer or intern at a nonprofit and enjoy it?
  7. What do you feel you do best? Could you earn money doing that?
  8. Why do you want to go to college?/ Why don’t you want to go to college?
  9. Do you feel pressure to go to college and get a degree? Why?
  10. Are you afraid to fail? What would happen if you did?

Important Life Decisions

As with any important life decision, there will be times of apprehension, frustration and joy. The bottom line is to gather good resources, talk to knowledgeable people, stay organized, be realistic, keep your cool and be honest with yourself and others involved. Talk to educators, people in your chosen field, students at the college you are considering, and basically cover all bases. Don’t forget, a respectful working relationship between parent and student is essential to keep the level of tension down. Making good decisions is the goal; right for the parent’s piece of mind and finances, right for the student’s deepest wants and future.

Good Luck!