A College Prep Parent can play a big role in coaching their student to succeed in reaching their college goal. But if you’re only coaching your college-bound kid to walk this path by herself or himself, you’ve missed an important step: helping them build a team.
With a team made up of teachers, counselors, college enrollment reps, and a college’s financial support staff, many people help the college-bound student along the way. A parent is often in the best position to coach their student to find great team members – and make the best use of them.
The priority for teachers is your child’s academics – and there’s no more central aim in college preparation, right? So be sure your student sees their high school teachers not simply as “parts of high school” but also as vital team members on the road to college. A student who takes ownership of their academic progress is the one who communicates with teachers, learns to manage their schedule, knows deadlines, and learns from both jobs well done and from consequences for missed assignments and failing grades.
And here’s an important note for you, their parent: Supporting our kids is important, but no lesson sets them up for success like helping them learn to be their own advocate with their teachers. Because the ultimate goal is preparation for college, parents can do their best coaching from the sidelines, instead of inserting themselves every time an academic issue arises.
I have found that when a student takes responsibility for themselves, the layers of excuses are drastically reduced and effort is expended toward learning. Taking this responsibility is a wonderful habit to see learned early in students’ high school careers. On the other hand, it’s a little sad when a college freshman is trying for the first time to stand on their own in the classroom!
The Guidance Counselors
Guidance counselors can be an enormous part of the college prep team and might play a couple of different roles. Sometimes they call the signals, instructing kids in the steps to take and when to take them on the road to college. And sometimes the counselor stands waiting, ready to assist when plays are called by a student who has taken responsibility for their college prep process.
The most successful teamwork between a counselor and a student seems to occur when the student takes an early interest in the process. As they explore the world of post-high school options, they should ask the counselor their questions and communicate their interests, their likes, and their dislikes as they discover them. This is usually a much more rewarding approach for the student/counselor team than the scenario of a high school senior coming to the counselor for the first time and simply asking, “What’s a good college?”
The College Admission Reps
It might be surprising, but the college-shopping student should see the college admission representatives they meet as part of their college prep team, too. When a high school student understands the role of an admissions rep, then they can see the rep as a team member that is there to help. What is that role?
- Telling students what their college does well
- Identifying the types of students that benefit the most from their school
- Answering the questions of the inquiring student
Let me be quick to say that not all college reps come across the same way to all college shoppers. Some energetic reps really resonate with the more energetic high schoolers, while some of the quieter kids see their approach as a “hard sell.” I have seen kids spend time with a very easygoing college rep who’s a great listener and then say to me that they are so excited about a school that cares about them in that way.
The bottom line is that although college admission reps may have a variety of personalities, the good ones have one thing in common: They all want to help students make the right decision.
A few years ago, I had a student named Sonya who had big dreams about college. When she came to meet the reps at our college fair, Sonya carefully went from table to table, listening closely and asking questions. One of the college reps asked if she was really set on the major that she inquired about. Sonya said that yes, she had wanted to pursue that field since she was a little girl. The college admissions rep told her that, although his college did not have that major, he knew of a school that she should check out. Sonya thanked him for his suggestion.
The next day Sonya came to my office, bubbling over with excitement. She was excited not just because a college rep cared and was honest with her about his school, but because after that conversation she got a call from a “better fit” school – because that helpful rep had actually picked up the phone and called his friend at another college to tell them about an impressive girl named Sonya.
A good college admissions rep tries to help a young student reach their goals. That is a great team member to have.
The Financial Services Office
As a student works toward a “short list” of potential schools, it’s very important to realize that each school’s Financial Services folks are pulling for your student to be able to come to their school. They are an important part of the college prep team, because they are given the task of making it possible for a qualified student to attend their institution. They deal with a variety of financial matters, which may include
- room and board,
- scholarships, grants, and loans,
- and work/study programs
…just to name a few areas that involve Financial Services.
As your student becomes interested in a certain college, it is important to note that most Financial Services offices are not able to help specifically until a student has applied and been accepted – because of the amount of time and effort that Financial Services offices devote to each accepted student. But as I remind my students, there’s a big difference between “accepted” and “enrolled.” The Financial Services people jump on a student’s “college prep team” while he or she is still deciding which college to attend. When they go to work on the student’s financial aid package, they’re helping the student make that final decision… with you, their College Prep Parent, coaching all the way.
Parents, as you coach your child toward college, remember to push them toward assembling their team!