How to help your student get into their top college


Helping your student with college applications can be an exciting time — and a stressful one. How do you track down the best schools? How can you ensure they have the highest chance of getting into the one that works for them? Here are some tips for making the process easier and supporting your student as they enter this new chapter of their life. 

Stage an interview 

How well does your student know themself and what they want out of their college experience? Staging an interview is a great way to help them figure this out or put into words what they already know. Offer to assist them by asking questions about: 

  • How they see themself.
  • What’s unique about them.
  • What their goals are for their studies and their future.

This will help them with everything from where they want to go to school and what they want to study to how confident they are about college in general. That said, it’s a personal experience, and they may feel more comfortable having this interview with someone else, such as a sibling or a nonparental figure. Be open to whatever will help them the most. PrepScholar even offers a free admissions coach.  

Build a college list

After your student has a more confident understanding in who they are and what they want, they can build their college list. Advise them to choose a mix of ideal or “reach” schools and schools that they’re more likely to get admitted to. This prevents them from putting all their eggs in one basket and maximizes their opportunities. 

Additionally, talk to your student about where they want to live during their educational journey and why. Are they looking for a school close to home? Do they want to move across the country? What are the financial ramifications for each decision? This one conversation can drastically change what the college list looks like, and it’s best to have it early on. 

Stay on top of things

There’s nothing worse than the anxious frenzy of realizing that deadlines are approaching and there’s not enough time to meet them. Help your student find the deadlines for each program they wish to apply to and write them on a calendar or planner. Then, move the deadlines up a week or two and strive for those instead. That way, if you or your student needs more time or encounters unforeseen circumstances, you have built-in flexibility. 

Sit down with your student and make a list of everything they need to apply for each school, as the requirements may be different. Spend a set amount of time on each school’s application, starting with the most important ones and working down the list. If the entire process is seriously bumming out your student, suggest that they come up with a reward system. For example, after submitting each application, they may want to have a special snack on hand to celebrate with before they move on to the next one. 

Take personal statements seriously

Most students attempting to get into top colleges look similar on paper due to high GPAs or the same kinds of AP classes. So how does your student distinguish themself from the rest? With a well-written and individualized personal statement. Help your student by brainstorming ideas and talking about what the prompt means to them. As a parent, you may be able to give them new insights about themself or remind them of experiences they may have forgotten. 

You can offer to read their drafts and make comments, but if they feel uncomfortable, don’t be offended. Instead, advise that they ask a teacher, tutor or another respected mentor to look it over. At least two unbiased people should review your student’s personal statement before they turn it in to ensure that it represents them well and the writing is top-notch.

Finally, try to relax

Remember that your student will be OK no matter what college they attend. Illustrate that mindset to them and take a few deep breaths together as you move through the application process. Then, once you and your student have done what you can, let the chips fall where they may. Prepare to celebrate the victories and sympathize with the losses. In the end, your student will be just fine.