College Admissions: 5 Things High School Seniors Want Parents to Know

I’m the parent of a high school junior. And, I’m starting to panic.

I know that our high school ride is flying down the freeway way faster than the speed limit I had envisioned. I’m feeling unprepared, unorganized, and in straight up disbelief that we are just one short exit away from the on-ramp to college.

It’s a great stroke of luck that I am also a teacher, who has been gifted with a few incredible high school seniors who are volunteering hours of their time in my classroom as part of their studies. I have gleaned great insight from the incredible wisdom of these soon-to-be graduates, who are experiencing first hand all of the things that are just around the corner for our son.

So I asked them the burning question that I have not stopped thinking about: What can or should the parent of a soon-to-be high school senior, do to be helpful in a college search?

And they gave me some remarkable answers. Straight from the mouths of seniors, here are some incredible words of wisdom, for parents/guardians like me, who are beginning the journey into senior year alongside their child.

Im a parent and a teacher and here is the advice my high school senior students gave me about college admissions. (Photo credit: Amy Keyes)

5 tips from high school seniors to parents

1. Give your almost-senior space to still be a junior

Even though I have an extremely academically driven kid who I know is planning on going to college, it seems that right now, any conversation about life after high school, sends him into shutdown. It’s overwhelming. And the options seem so broad.

There is a waiting game of things that need to come together in harmony before decisions can be made-ACT scores not yet disclosed, sports recruiting opportunities still unknown, potential scholarships still undiscovered. I’m learning that I need to be patient and just let him live in the moments he has now and all of those things will unfold in time.

Patience is a virtue I value, and so is action. These seniors all talked about the importance of being ready to start the search once your unknowns fall into place. They shared how looking early gives you time to figure out what you like and what you don’t, since so much of a college search is a narrowing down process.

The thing that stuck with me, as a parent, was to remember to balance the overwhelmingness of thinking about it and looking, with the encouragement of setting up an action plan so that the weight of procrastination doesn’t drop like an anvil later on.

3. Your teen should unsubscribe from colleges they know they are not interested in

Somewhere in the past few years, we have been added to multiple college mailing lists and email subscriptions. High schools do a great job of checking in with kids to get them thinking about the beginning stages of life after high school, and if college is part of their path, guidance counselors are on top of their game in helping kids start looking.

The number of flyers and college preview invites we get daily is enough to take down a small forest. Not to mention the emails that flood our in boxes. It can feel like a lot.

One of the simplest tips that I totally would have overlooked, is to encourage our son to unsubscribe to places he knows he is not interested in right away. And to do it myself. This will not only help save trees, but also sanity.

4. Help your senior set up the logistics of their college visits but then let them be the navigator

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our late teens are still kids. They are so wise as they head off into their adult lives. But they are not there yet.

Taking some of the logistics off of our teens’ plates in setting up visits, and walking them through how you did it later on can pay off in dividends later. These seniors talked about how sometimes late junior year, and senior year, can feel like the only focus people give is on college. Yet, they still want to balance life with their college searches.

Looking at schools, analyzing the different elements, and deciding which ones are worth the visit can take a lot of their time and energy. The sage advice I was given is to listen closely and devise a plan to visit the ones that seem most interesting to them. Help them email or call to set up the visit, and then leave the rest to them.

5. Take pictures of everything during college visits

All of the little details make a big difference in the final decisions leading up to choosing a college. From the food, to the dorms, to the classroom climate- it all matters. And, it’s hard to keep it all straight if you’re looking at multiple schools.

One suggestion these young adults gave me was to keep a digital file for each school you look at, with a quick one pager that has the pertinent information. Include pictures of the different areas you saw to help trigger your memory of and remind you of how you felt at that campus. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

While all of these tips might seem like simple common sense, for me they were great reminders of how to navigate the next year. Starting now. I feel like there are lots of hidden gems that our youth have to offer, if we just ask the right questions.

I’m really glad I did.

More Great Reading:

The Stages of Senior Year: Essays, Acceptances, Celebrations

About Amy Keyes

Amy Keyes is the proud mom of two teenagers and a crazy husky-lab named Walter. Married to the best college sweet cheeks a girl could have ever found. Former journalist turned middle school teacher, running and workout enthusiast, and enjoyer of dance parties for one. There's nothing she loves more than watching her kids do what they love and rediscovering herself in the process.

Read more posts by Amy

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.