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June Tip: The College Application Process: A Family Affair

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Let's start by stating the obvious: every high school senior needs to take the lead role in his or her college search. It is your search, and you need to take responsibility for your future. But the savvy college applicant uses every resource at his or her disposal. This includes guidance counselors, teachers, coaches, mentors, online resources -- and yes, parents and family members.

It is important to acknowledge the helpful role family can play in the search process.  Those close you often have wisdom to share and can help broaden your perspective.  Healthy family involvement, whether it is from an older sibling who has been through it before, or a parent who can help navigate the financial aid process, can be an invaluable asset to help you become a more knowledgeable and effective applicant.

Of course, striking the right balance between the overbearing "helicopter" parent and the "you're-on-your-own-kid" family member can be tricky. This month, F&M offers you some helpful tips on how you and your family can work together toward a common goal: your college education.

Dip Tip #1: You are in the driver's seat, but parents and family members are reliable navigators.

You should take the lead in online research, meeting with counselors, communicating with the college, and preparing application materials. Your family can support these activities by providing advice, guidance, and even some administrative assistance, such as helping with financial aid applications or by planning some of the details for a college trip.

Dip Tip #2: Think of ways to involve your parents or guardians in your search.

Your family wants to help you. Don't leave them on the sidelines, and do provide information about your progress. Also, pick aspects of the college search that align with your family's interests. For example, if your mom or grandfather is a business owner, task them with figuring out how much each college might cost.

Dip Tip #3: Establish family rules for your college search.

Communication is the key. Parents and students may have different expectations about who will do what. If you don't set the expectations, conflict is inevitable. For example, during a college tour, discuss family "dos" and "don'ts."  Is it OK for Mom to ask questions about student life during the student-led tour? When is the best time for Dad to inquire about his campus safety concerns?

Dip Tip #4:  Discuss affordability and financial aid early in the search.

Each family has a different level of financial resources and comfort level with bearing the costs of a student's education. It is important to establish just how much you and your family are willing and able to contribute to your college education. You should also discuss how you can work together as a family to tackle the financial aid process at each school.

Dip Tip #5: Respect a well-intentioned student or family veto.

What if Dad thinks it is a good idea to submit YouTube videos of your 3rd-grade dance recital to the admission committee? Student veto. What if you and your family are driving by a great college with tours available, but you want to get home because your friend just got that new game for PS3? Parent veto. Respect each other's roles in the process and listen to each other’s opinions. 

Dip Tip #6:  Celebrate the process and make it fun!

College search is an exciting step in your educational journey. Celebrate it, and revel in all of the college options available to you! Your family is also very proud of your accomplishments and hopes to see you find that perfect college fit. Take advantage of this exciting moment in your life. Reconnect with your family by talking about your future together. Plan a family vacation to visit colleges. This is a great reason to bring your family together.

At F&M, we want to help you put together the most informed and comprehensive college search possible. If you have any questions, please contact us. And if you haven't visited campus yet, what are you waiting for? Book your customized F&M experience.