ICCS Tips for Parents-The College Process


For many families an important question that is asked during the college search and application process is “‘Will my child get into a ‘good’ college ?” This question has always puzzled me as I have not been able to define what a ‘good’ college is. Advising students and parents on the college process at four different American/International schools and now my fifth a British International in five different countries has left me with some advice to give about the process.

As a university counselor with over 29 years experience and the father of two recent college graduates, I use the word ‘match’ when discussing the issue of college selection. With over 4,000 universities and colleges in North America and then thousands of other universities around the world the task of searching for that college ‘match’ can be daunting. Start by gathering information, visiting websites, conducting internet searches, requesting information, attending college presentations, and talking with friends and relatives who have gone through the process. As you sort through the mountains of information, take a look at what distinguishes one college or university from the next. Some criteria to consider would be to compare private vs. public, large vs. small, urban vs. rural, and distance from family or relatives as you may still be posted outside of your home country. My oldest child applied to schools in the U.S. from the West Coast to the East Coast and finally settled on a small liberal arts college in our home state. Our next college bound child decided to limit the selection of colleges to our home state, as there is a variety of colleges and universities from which to choose. An unexpected issue was where many of her friends were planning on going thinking she was missing out on something.

Do's And Donts

• Listen, listen, listen to your child
• Make time for college visits as this could be a bonding time between child and parent.
• Have a serious discussion with your child about financing a college education but don’t make costs a priority.
• Keep an open mind about colleges that you may not have heard about.
• Encourage your child to explore various activities and interests.
• Encourage your child take appropriate risks.
• Make sure that the family enjoys the college process.

• Set a particular college as a goal for your child.
• Judge the success or failure of your child or your parenting on the college admission decision.
• Base decisions on national or international college rankings.
• Let dinner time conversation center only on college discussions.
• Use the college process as a game to see how many selective colleges your son/daughter may be admitted to.

• Get to know his/her counselor and meet with them regularly.
• Take the most challenging course of study available that the student can succeed in.
• Build relationships with peers, teachers, counselors, activity sponsors and coaches as they may be writing letters of recommendations for them in the future.
• Work on developing strong study habits, note-taking, and time management skills.
• Discuss post high school plans with parents and counselor.
• Start investigating the qualifications for university entrance as they vary from school to school and program to program.

• The student should begin a list of characteristics and criteria that they are looking for in a college/university.
• Talk with college reps that may come to their school and use the opportunity to ask those questions.
• Attend local evening information sessions about college that are sponsored by Amideast and other advising organizations in Cairo.
• Discuss a testing plan with your counselor and prepare and take the PSAT.
• Take the SAT I or ACT (usually during the second term).
• Start working on a college list and discuss the list with the student’s counselor.
• The summer between the junior and senior year should be a time for college visits.

• Begin the application process and be organized.
• Re-sit the SAT I or ACT if appropriate.
• Narrow the long list of prospective colleges to a manageable list of 6 to 8 colleges at the maximum.
• On your college list there should be two safety schools or schools to which the student will most likely be accepted, two realistic schools or schools or where there is a high probability of acceptance and two reach schools or dream schools that could be a ‘long’ shot for admissions.
• Continue to maintain the best possible academic performance.

#1 Try to be Caring

When your teen leaves for college, you should be his/her biggest cheerleader. College students moving away from home need a confident smile to reassure that they are doing the right thing! Of course, you will miss them, but this is a very jubilant, yet apprehensive, moment in their lives.

# Be a shoulder to cry on

Sometimes college life can be stressful and frustrating, even for the most studious or sociable kids. Whether it is classes or friends, just listen and do not judge. The easiest way to deal with their issues is just to listen and reassure them that everything will work out and/or tell them to talk with their faculty advisor to resolve class-related issues.

# Be interested

Colleges have course selection and degree requirements that need to be addressed during the student's first year. Generally academic advisors give advice on selecting these courses. Parents are advised to express interest in, rather than criticism of, their son's and daughter's choices.

# Talk about Finance

We encourage parents to have a frank discussion about finances with the students. Will the student have a credit card? Should a parent be a co-signer and get copies of the statements? Banks bombard college students with credit-card offers. They start off with low spending limits but raise them rapidly as cards are used. As a result, students can get over their heads in debt and even ruin their credit ratings before they graduate.

# Discuss about Drugs

Suspension from the university occurs if there is a significant amount of drugs involved. Although we make this information known widely and talk it up constantly, many students knowingly violate the policy and are sent packing. We hate to do this. You hate for it to happen. The student is often "surprised" and devastated. This doesn't need to happen. Students simply need to honor our commitment to a drug and alcohol free environment and upholding state and federal law.

# Friendly involvement

College is more than classes and homework. Experience with extracurricular activities is valued by employers. Encourage your child to be active in their field of study; to join clubs and honor societies.

#Encourage them

Encourage them to take over the daily tasks of their lives if they haven't already. Every residence hall has a laundry room! (don't let them tell you we don't!) Every student is expected to keep a reasonably tidy room and share in the suite bathroom cleaning. Some campuses are now offering "student valet services" to do laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping.

# Important

"I would encourage parents to empower their student rather than take over," we would suggest family dinners with open discussions about college, deadlines, to-do lists. Parents do not need to take over but they do need to be involved in the conversation. Help your student be successful, but please do not take over because that will not help them later down the road."


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Jack provides support and advice regarding course selection, standardized testing, college essays, applications, interviews and financial aid. It’s not only about being accepted to college more importantly, it’s about finding the right match.

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