How to Get Your Student on Board With the College Application Process

How to Get Your Student on Board With the College Application Process

It’s time to apply for colleges, scholarships, financing and more…why does it seem like you’re the only one who cares? Your senior is facing their future, but getting them to participate is like pulling teeth.

It’s infuriating!

As a parent, you may wonder what to do. Should you just take over? Keep nagging your student? Give up and hand them an application for McDonald’s?

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Realize Where Your Teen Is Coming From

There are three things many parents forget when it comes to their teen’s perspective on college admissions.

  • They think they have all the time in the world
  • They are nervous about college
  • They don’t have the perspective to realize what a big deal this is for their future

This is simply part of the reality of being 17 or 18. Life looks very different from their angle. It will help to realize they’re not just trying to irritate you!

Seniors are also under a lot of pressure socially and academically. They want to impress their friends, they don’t want to leave everyone behind, and they probably have a heavy class load. By pretending college isn’t happening yet, they can avoid pressure and put off the idea of leaving their friends for one more day.

By talking to your teen gently and without judgment, you may be able to get them to explain their specific perspective. Ask them how they feel about college. Ask them what they think the application process is like. Ask them how they think they will afford it.

These questions alone may be enough to jar them out of their complacency!


Break the Process Down Into Bite-Sized Pieces

You find the college application process overwhelming, and you’re an adult! As a student, it seems even larger and more complex. Many students simply shut down.

Take a look at the application and funding process and break it down into small parts. Talk to your teen about one part at a time. Do they know what they want to study? If not, start there.

From there, you can move into creating a list of schools, getting the SAT or ACT nailed down, and more. But remember, each step should be small and hopefully fun. It benefits both you and your student to keep it small!


Have Some Fun!

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood many of us stop having fun and start being “serious” and “professional.” If your teen feels this pressure in the college process, they will resist like crazy!

Too many parents see college as so central and important that they lose all their joy. If your child sees you as upset, stressed, and angry, they won’t want any part of it!

Both you and your student will enjoy the process more if you make it fun. Be silly about it, look for funny facts about colleges, and find reasons to laugh. It will keep things light and you’ll both feel much better about it!


Consider College Alternatives

If you’re having fun and keeping it small but your student still isn’t interested, you may consider alternatives to college. If your student is halfway through senior year and still hasn’t committed to the college process, think about a gap year or simply transitioning straight to work.

A year off can relieve a lot of pressure, give your student time to work and save money, and help them think through what they really want. You may find they’re eager to go to school after they hear about the fun their classmates are having!

On the other hand, college simply isn’t right for every single person – at least when they’re 18. Yes, it’s harder to get a degree when you grow up and have responsibilities. But it’s not impossible, and they may be in a better personal and financial position at that time.


Keep the College Process Manageable and Affordable

If you’re frustrated with your teen and not sure what’s next in the college process, you’re not alone. Why don’t you join our Facebook group, Paying for College 101? You’ll meet professionals and families just like yours, and be able to share tips, tricks, and more.

Take a deep breath. Your student will be OK, one way or another!



















Debbie Schwartz is former financial services executive and founder of Road2College and the Paying For College 101 Facebook group. She's dedicated to providing families with trustworthy information about college admissions and paying for college. With data, tools and access to experts she's helping families become educated consumers of higher ed.