“If we parents try hard, we can get through this and still be on speaking terms with our eager and excited new college freshman. That may prove particularly useful if we need to express ourselves about the boy she brings home for Thanksgiving.” Jay Matthews, author of Harvard Schmarvard.

I recently met with a family to discuss their student’s plans for college. During the entire hour of the conversation, their daughter spoke twice. That’s it.

When I asked a direct question to the student about what goals college was going to help her achieve, her mother jumped in and answered it. I asked if there were colleges she was currently excited about and why, her father gave me the list of colleges she was going to apply to this fall. Worse yet, when I asked her what she liked most about these colleges, she looked at her parents and said, “I can’t remember – mom, what did we like about them?”

Her parents were doing this young lady a great disservice. Here’s why:

She demonstrates no enthusiasm for going to college, she doesn’t appear passionate about anything in particular and she is accustomed to letting her parents do it for her – a trait that will not serve her well once she is out of the house on a college campus where she will have to rely on herself to get things done. Unfortunately, this young lady may not be equipped to handle the independence college (and life) will require of her.

Of course, there’s always the other extreme where the parents leave everything entirely up to the student — and you run the risk of your child choosing a college because of the “atmosphere” (code for “party”) or because of the sports team. They can make critical mistakes that end up costing you a lot more money.

It’s a fine line parents need to walk, no doubt about it. On the one hand, students need to do as much of the college process as possible on their own – it builds character. College is now an important rite of passage, as well. But it’s also understandable that parents SHOULD play a hand in guiding their student, after all, you’re paying for this privilege. But choosing your student’s major, what colleges are “acceptable” and practically doing the applications for your students (I’ve encountered parents who have done this) is not helping.

It’s difficult, but here’s the key: Even though you are paying for college, now is not the time to “correct the college mistakes you made” or “avoid making mistakes altogether”.

This is their college experience, not yours.

Education columnist Jay Matthews said it best: “This is not an investment for monetary return, but a contribution to a young life, someone very dear to us, of whom we can be proud for the rest of our lives.”

Don’t deprive your student of the full college experience – including the hard work and the periodic disappointments. At some point they need to learn to soar on their own – if not now, when?

Your Smart Plan For College Assignment:

Take stock of how you’ve been helping your student: if you’ve been too “hands on” (i.e. doing it for them), you need to change that. If you haven’t been involved enough, you need to change that.

Some suggestions on how you can help your student:

- Encourage your student to pursue his or her passions – colleges want kids with a passion.
- Realize everyone handles stress differently.
- Learn when to check in with your student and when to bite your tongue.
- Offer your advice only when it really counts.
- Keep your perspective and try to alleviate your child’s fears and stress rather than adding to them.
- Relax and enjoy this. This is one of the last big events (hopefully) for you and your child together.
- Help them create the plan, but don’t create it and do it for them!

If you and your student need help creating a plan to get him or her into great colleges while keeping more of your hard-earned money in your pocket, it’s time to take action and invest in some help.

Author's Bio: 

Jeanmarie Keller has helped thousands of students get into colleges they love while making sure their parents save a fortune on the bill. Jeanmarie is the creator of the Smart Plan For College System which teaches her client-families how to get noticed in the admissions office, get in at the colleges right for them and how to get the money they need to help pay the bill.

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