Senior Year

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A mother and daughter working on a college application.My firstborn is graduating from high school this spring and is off to college. He has decided where he will spend the next four years; luckily for him, he had no less than nine schools to choose from. 

Our attitude from the get-go was to find the right fit for our son and not worry about the bumper sticker on the car. The process’ reputation is known to be overwhelming. Don’t misunderstand; it is not simple or easy, but there are some strategies you may want to implement to help alleviate a world war with your child.

1. Think of yourself less as the child’s application process manager and more as the quality control inspector.

This will be the first time your teen will take the lead in making mature, responsible decisions that will have a lasting impact on their future. This doesn’t mean that you have to hold your tongue entirely. If you have a child who tends to procrastinate, one who doesn’t like to toot their own horn, or one who frequently overlooks the big picture, you should, by all means, help to guide your kid.

2. One of the most important ways you can support your teen through the process is by establishing clear, consistent communication.

This doesn’t mean that you bring up college at the dinner table every night or use every car ride as a chance to check-in (guilty of both). Better to establish a standing check-in time for discussing college applications and college admissions.

3. Speak openly with your son or daughter about the financial realities of their college search.

Don’t go into this process with a Ponzi scheme business plan and assume that tuition money will fall out of the sky. Let’s face it; most teenagers don’t have much financial sense. Students need mom and dad’s help and guidance in this area. If loans are part of the picture, parents should have a lengthy and number-driven conversation about how debt impacts young adulthood.

4. Actively encourage your student to take ownership of the admissions process.

Here’s a brutally honest fact: Admissions officers wince when they see emails from parents asking about “our” application status. Next year, your child will be doing their own laundry, procuring their own meals, and hopefully learning to navigate the world successfully as a young adult. Let them start now.

There are many resources that you and your family can turn to for help: school counselors, free websites, webinars, and even paid college consultants. In the end, your love and support throughout this process are what will help your child succeed.


Stephanie RStephanie and her family live in Irvington. Born and raised on Long Island, Stephanie moved to Westchester in 2007. She is the Executive Director of the Sleepy Hollow Tarrytown Chamber of Commerce. She has a degree in Business Management from Tulane University. Stephanie is passionate about fitness and health. She is married and has two teenage sons. Her Australian Labradoodle, Bryson, is now her favorite child!

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