Do you feel like you are on the sidelines while your child struggles through their college admissions journey? There are many ways you can help, even from those sidelines! Here are four key roles you can play.


  1. Cheerleader-In-Chief

Encourage commitment. Colleges value students who stick to an interest over the years, while showing initiative and leadership. Whether it’s contributing to bake sales that support student activities, driving to and from practices, or cheering from the bleachers, you can help by supporting your child’s commitment to an interest or activity.

Be there for the ups and downs.  Applying to college comes with both thrills and disappointments. You can provide support and reassurance when “the chips are down” and can be ready with high-fives when good news rolls in – so can your IEC, teachers, and friends.  That extra slice of pizza or double-dip ice cream cone goes a long way to making your student feel good!


  1. Chief Financial Officer

Know what your family can afford to pay for college. Take a hard look at family finances and figure out what you are willing to pay out of pocket for college and what you expect your student to pay. Keep these amounts in mind as your student considers where to apply, and later where to attend.

Learn how to apply for financial aid. You won’t know what financial aid you might get until you apply. Most students who apply for financial aid will qualify for a student loan. However, students with the greatest financial need may qualify for subsidized student loans with better terms as well as grants and scholarships. Get to know the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile.

Understand net price. Many colleges post heart-stopping “sticker prices,” which are the total costs of college for one academic year. But the actual cost to your family is the “net price,” which is the amount left after grants and scholarships are deducted. Google “Net Price Calculator” and the name of the college to fill out your student’s information and get a closer estimate of what you will probably pay for that college.

Understand college loans. If your family will need loans to help pay for college, you can learn about federal student loans and their interest rates and fees, and help your student see the future impact of any debt they may take on.


  1. Travel Agent

Visit colleges. No brochure or website can really show what college is like. Helping the student visit college campuses or apply for fly-in programs is one of the biggest gifts you can give your child.  Remember to look locally for colleges to visit, as you don’t need to hop on a plane or spend lots of money to visit a college.  Additionally, virtual visits are a great cost and time-saver, and can give an insider view of the college campus!

Support final campus visits after admission. Many students see a college in a whole new light once they have been admitted. Such a visit can make all the difference in a successful college choice, especially when choosing between colleges.


  1. College Parent

Tackle college freshman paperwork. Soon after admissions decisions arrive and the confetti is swept away, forms arrive from the college. These usually include forms needed to enroll the student and make the first housing and tuition payments.

Help furnish the dorm room. Granted, the last thing some students want is mom or dad involved in decorating their dorm room. But you may want to offer practical advice, help with shopping, and plan the move-in.

Help set up your student’s personal finance. Allowances, budgets, bank accounts, and credit card use all need to be discussed and implemented.


Remember, while your student rolls their eyes at your suggestions and comments, they will appreciate the help as they move into their new role as a college freshman!