• College Counseling
It Depends, A College Counseling Blog Series: Parents and the Process

 

Editor’s Note: 

It Depends is a new series from the Office of College Counseling, that aims to answer some common questions asked by students and families as they navigate the college search and application process, within the context of today’s world, with today’s technology.   

Check back monthly as Co-Director of College Counseling Keegan Ash poses frequently asked questions to ChatGPT and analyzes the responses, going deeper than the generic replies by reminding us, “it depends.” 

 


Welcome to It Depends, a blog series from the College Counseling Office.  

There is one phrase that we say daily in our office: 

“It depends...”   

The process of selecting a college or university has so many different factors that it is nearly impossible to give a direct answer when asked a general question.   

Should I submit my SAT scores?   

Should I apply to this college or that college?   

What do I write my essay about?   

More often than not, the answer is: It depends.  It depends on your individual circumstances.  It depends on your family structure.  It depends on the desires of the student.  It depends on the ever-changing needs and goals of the universities. 

“It depends” is meant to lead to further discussion. It is an opportunity for us as counselors to ask follow-up questions. It is a chance for us to gather more information about each child in this process. We are student-centered. We know every student is unique and therefore every process will be unique.  

This series aims to share some varying perspectives on all-things college related.  We know this is not a one-size-fits-all time in your lives, so how do we get started?   

In each post, I will pose a question to ChatGPT about the college process and then respond and add perspective to the AI-generated response. The goal is to provide the general content anyone could find on internet forums, or websites, or through AI, but to go one step further and add the expertise, experience, and perspective of an experienced counselor. 

AI content will be displayed in normal text, while my comments will be purple and bolded to distinguish between the two perspectives. 

 

Parents and families, this post is for you.   

 

Question: What should parents do to help in the college application process? 

Parents can play a supportive role in helping their children navigate the college application process. Here are some ways parents can assist: 

ChatGPT Point 1: Start early: Encourage your child to start thinking about college early in their high school years. Discuss their interests, goals, and potential career paths. This will help them make informed decisions and be better prepared when the time comes to apply. 

Before we say, “start early,” the first thing to think about is the tone of these conversations.  As parents we want what’s best for our child.  We want them to have amazing options and opportunities.  We want them to have direction and drive.  The challenge in this question is really, how early can I start talking about all the opportunities in college? I talk to my 8-year-old about college.  It is never about a college in particular, but more of a discussion about what she would want in a college. It’s a very similar conversation to the proverbial “what do you want to be when you grow up” question.  I never want my child to feel like I’m fishing for answers.  I want her to be comfortable talking about colleges.  Earlier the better… as long as it’s light-hearted and focused on the opportunities.  For students in high school the conversation becomes slightly more specific.  Focus on location, possibilities for majors (without asking them to decide), and even cost.  We’ll discuss cost again with number 6. 
 

ChatGPT Point 2: Research colleges together: Explore different colleges and universities together. Discuss the various factors that matter to your child, such as academic programs, campus culture, location, size, and financial considerations. Encourage them to create a list of potential schools that align with their interests and goals. 

Drive through a college… any college.  Keep everything positive.  Go to the nearest college and just ask, “What do you like about this one?”  If they’re not interested in doing it, then let it go for now.  It’s not always necessary to even get out of the car.  Just drive through.  This keeps the conversation going and it doesn’t take too much time. 
 

ChatGPT Point 3: Understand admission requirements: Familiarize yourself with the admission requirements of the colleges your child is interested in. Help them stay on track with required courses, standardized tests (SAT, ACT), application deadlines, and any additional materials needed, such as essays or recommendation letters. 

This is vitally important for many families.  Having Scoir helps tremendously in helping to keep our students organized with deadlines - and parents can have their own accounts!  Required courses are also simple to keep track of at a school like Perkiomen.  SATs and ACTs are much less crucial than they were even five years ago. Student-requested recommendation letters are handled by the College Counseling Office.  Keeping the conversation going about the applications is great, so try asking, “What’s next in your application process?  Anything you need help with?” 


ChatGPT Point 4: Provide guidance and support: Offer guidance and support throughout the application process. Help your child create a timeline to stay organized and meet deadlines. Assist them in gathering necessary documents, proofreading essays, and reviewing applications for errors or omissions. 

Honestly… this seems like too much to ask of a parent.  A parent’s job is to be the unconditional support.  Too often in this process, parents are forced into the position of authoritarian drill sergeant.  If your student is at a school like Perkiomen, you can simply ask your child, “What does your counselor want you to be working on?” That’s a much better question because now the student doesn’t feel like they are working for the parent.  Instead, they feel like their parent is in their corner. Proofreading essays is fine but understand that there will be essays that students don’t feel comfortable sharing with a parent and that’s okay, as long as they are going to someone for an objective perspective.  In our College Counseling Office, we have many discussions about the pitfalls to avoid and the perspective to take with the essays. 


ChatGPT Point 5: Encourage self-reflection and authenticity: Encourage your child to reflect on their experiences, achievements, and personal growth. Help them showcase their unique qualities and passions in their application materials. Emphasize the importance of being authentic and true to themselves in their essays and interviews. 

If the college doesn’t think your child's authentic self is a right fit, then it isn’t the place for your child.  Authenticity is always the best policy.  Encourage your child to present their best, truest self and then choose the college that provides the best environment for them. 
 

ChatGPT Point 6: Assist with financial considerations: Discuss the financial aspect of college with your child. Help them explore scholarship opportunities, financial aid options, and the implications of college costs. Assist in filling out financial aid forms, such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

Parents, have the conversation about what you’re planning on contributing to your child’s education.  Having that conversation earlier in the process (like early in their junior year) is much, much better than waiting until after they get financial aid award letters.  Giving that information to students earlier in the process enables them to look at the options of colleges from a more objective perspective.  If cost is not a factor, sharing that is also helpful. 

FAFSA is so important.  Fill it out.  Even if parents believe they will not qualify for financial aid, fill it out.  Some colleges will only award merit aid to students that have submitted the FAFSA.  It doesn’t hurt. 

 

Yes, you should fill out the FAFSA.




ChatGPT Point 7: Support campus visits and interviews: Accompany your child on college visits if possible. These visits provide an opportunity to explore the campus, meet faculty and students, and get a feel for the environment. Additionally, assist with scheduling and preparing for college interviews, if applicable. 

Okay… blunt talk.  Admissions reps do NOT want to hear from parents.  They want to hear from the students.  You will see it on your visits.  You will see parents that obviously dragged their child to the college for a visit.  The parent is the one asking questions in the information session.  It isn’t a good thing.  Assisting in getting to the colleges and setting up tours is great, but if you need to call the admissions office, have the student make the call. 
 

ChatGPT Point 8: Be a sounding board: Listen to your child's concerns, fears, and aspirations regarding the college application process. Provide emotional support and reassurance throughout the ups and downs. Remind them that their worth is not solely determined by college admissions outcomes. 

YES!  I love this!  "Colleges are not a prize to be won, but a match to be made!”  It seems obvious when someone says to tell your child that you are proud of them, but in this process, it’s worth more than gold.  Knowing that they can vent to you is great.  As parents you also have dedicated college counselors to help in this process. 

One topic that’s tough to navigate is when children start comparing themselves to their classmates.  I was one of them.  My high school roommate was a true genius.  He scored a perfect score on the SAT his first time taking it.  He became a Rhodes Scholar and is now a professor at Oxford.  Even as a teenager, he was on another level.  I found myself comparing my process to his, but I had different priorities.  I wanted to find a school with a Division III football program that was close enough to home so my dad could see all my games.  I wanted a school with a nice dining hall and a strong Economics or Finance program.  The problem was that I was comparing myself to my roommate.  What I needed to hear from my parents is, “That’s great for him, but his process is not your process. You focus on your process.”  It’s important to keep our students focused on the right perspective. 

 

Keegan Ash at University of Maryland football stadium

Mr. Ash at SECU Stadium at the University of Maryland.

 

ChatGPT Point 9: Encourage independence and responsibility: While offering support, encourage your child to take ownership of the college application process. Allow them to make decisions, take initiative, and learn from the experience. This will help foster independence and readiness for college life. 

“This is your process, but I’m here to help.  Tell me what I can do.”  I heard a parent say this to their child in a meeting and I almost fell out of my seat.  It encapsulated everything that the child needed to hear.  It was his process, but he had support.  He was the driver, but he had a team.  That can go a long way! 
 

Remember that every student's journey is unique, and it's important to strike a balance between offering support and allowing your child to take the lead. Stay involved, but also empower them to make decisions and take responsibility for their own college applications. 

It depends!!! Even ChatGPT is acknowledging the nuances.  This process can be very different for so many reasons.  Lines of communication are so important.  Keep the conversations positive, focused on possibilities, and remind the students that they are not being judged in this process. They are being matched. 

. . . 

The college process is filled with nuances, and as the name of this blog series reiterates, a lot of this process comes down to context.  The answers to many questions will be “it depends.”   The College Counseling Office is here to give the best advice possible within that context.  Our student-centered approach is focused on meeting the needs of our students while keeping their goals in mind -- and celebrating them along the way.  

If you have additional questions, schedule a time to speak with your counselor.  You can use the links below to schedule times over the summer!  

Mr. Ash: https://calendly.com/kash-perk

Ms. Davidson-Kellogg: https://calendly.com/perk-davidson-kellogg

 


 

College Counseling at Perkiomen School
 

Read more by the College Counseling Department

 

'It depends' is meant to lead to further discussion. It is an opportunity for us as counselors to ask follow-up questions. It is a chance for us to gather more information about each child in this process. We are student-centered. We know every student is unique and therefore every process will be unique.    - KEEGAN ASH, Co-Director of College Counseling