A Parent’s Guide to a Stress-Free College Experience

By: Mikailla Brownfield
Photo of sign that says "College just ahead."

The time has finally come, after years of watching them grow up and become strong independent young adults, it’s finally time for your young adult to take one of the biggest steps of their adolescent lives: going to college. Before that can happen, though, it seems like a million things need to be checked off that imaginary list that’s in your mind. From campus visits to applications, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to what needs to get done. Everything seems to be piling up and with that ever-accumulating list of things to do, the pressure to get it all done perfectly and on time seems to add the cherry on top of the stress-filled sundae. But there are ways for you to help your young adult with their pre-college experience while also keeping that pesky stress at bay.

Keeping it Organized

While exciting, the college experience can also be very taxing on one’s emotions and fill an already cluttered schedule to the brim for both parents and students. A good way to get this cluttered mess under control is to make a calendar of upcoming dates that are important for you and your young adult to remember. Dates can include SAT/ACT test-taking dates, application due dates for financial aid as well as to the school itself, dates to call and schedule campus visits, the visits to the campus themselves, etc. By keeping all of the dates logged and located in a central area, it allows for you and your student to keep track of anything that is up and coming and make sure that they happen. It might be helpful to add in fun dates to help keep the stress from getting too high and also to keep this calendar from becoming something that you dread looking at. You can place in dates that include getting ice cream or going out to see a movie; this will also allow for some bonding time between you and your soon to be college student as well as a relief from all the chaos that is going on.

Test Taking Time

ACT and SATs are another big stress for students when going to college. Seeing your young adult stressing over one of the biggest tests of their educational career thus far can be scary to any parent. During this time it is imperative to be supportive and offer help whenever you can. One of the ways to help yourself and your student reduce stress during this time is to help them study and offer them as much support as you can. It may also help to remind them that, regardless of how they do, it is only a test and it can be retaken. By helping them study, or finding them tutors to utilize, it helps ease your worries about whether or not they’re going to succeed. And reminding them, and yourself, that this test is not the “be all, end all” will aid in taking pressure off of yourself and them.

Applications and Education

After the preparation and tests have all been done, it’s now time to start applications and campus visits. It may seem hard, but this is a good time to let your student take the reins and let them start driving towards their goals. A good way to help during this time would be to set your young adult up with a guidance counselor or career coach, who can, most often, be found at a local college or even at your student’s very own high school. This will allow your student to get expert advice on career paths and different college choices that might fit with their interests. If your student is still having trouble finding an area they’re interested in, or if they want to get a little more information on what career they’ve chosen, helping them find a place to participate in job shadowing may be beneficial. By shadowing or interning, they will get real-life experience on what they may be doing in their future, and it might make it easier to find a good fit for themselves. Once they’ve chosen a career path, it will be easier for them to narrow down schools they would like to apply to. When looking for ways to help your student, it might be useful if you give a second opinion on essays they have to send in for applications but, in general, you must remember that when applying for schools it’s something that they should do on their own.

Campus Visits

Campus visits are another exciting part of the college experience. This is something that is mainly for your young adult to experience what living on their own might be like and to get a feel for the campus they may soon reside at. It might be tempting to tag along with your student during all of these visits and to ask as many questions as you can, but it would be best to take a step back during this time. Allowing your student to have a bit more freedom during school visits will show your trust in them and help them grow their independence. While going on a few visits will help them and yourself become comfortable with the process, it will also be helpful to allow your student and maybe some of their friends to go and tour some campuses by themselves. They are then able to form their own opinions and gain a better feel for the people around campus and what their experience might be like without parents around them guiding the conversation. Now, don’t be worried about being out of the loop completely. This would be a good time for one of those fun dates from the calendar! After your young adult returns home from a college visit you, can get ice cream or take a walk with them to talk about what they liked and didn’t like about the campus. This then allows you both to discuss the ups and downs of each campus and for them to ask your advice if needed. If you do end up going with them to campus visits, it might be a good idea to look at what the college offers for the parents. Some colleges offer separate tours for parents, and this would allow you to both experience the campus and what it has to offer. You may even decide to start visiting schools during your young adult’s junior year of high school and then narrow down the choices when going into their senior year for a repeat visit. This would let you attend the first visit with them and then, after knowing what it’s like, let your student visit again by themselves to confirm or deny their feelings of the school.

Financial Aid Chaos

After the campus visits and applications are done, and your young adult has been accepted into the college of their dreams, or maybe second dreams, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. There is no doubt paying for college will be a concern, but there are ways to lessen the financial impact on your college student. It may seem confusing to find ways to help your student with money, without physically giving it to them, but there are ways for you to assist them with college finances without visiting the bank yourself. One of the best things you can do is to help them fill out their financial aid. Financial aid seems to be the biggest stressor for both students and parents, and whether it’s knowing exactly how to fill the forms out or even when to complete them, this daunting task can be the difference in thousands of dollars in financial assistance, so knowing the ins and outs is necessary.

One of the most important scholarships that you can help your young adult apply for is the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid also known as FAFSA. Most scholarships are easy for your student to apply for by themselves, but when it comes to FAFSA, they not only need their information but some of yours as well. FAFSA is the basis for all Federal Pell Grants, student loans, and many other scholarships which makes it very important to complete. You can go online and do so as soon as October 1st. The main information that your student needs from you is tax information from the previous year as well as annual income and property information. Having that information readily available will assist in easing your student’s stress. And for this particular scholarship, it’s important to start early as it is given out on a first-come-first-serve basis.

By taking the time to fill out this application, you’ll easily know what federal aid funding your student will be receiving and how much you’ll need to pay for other expenses. If your young adult still needs some financial assistance, there are many colleges as well as different businesses that have scholarships they allocate to college students for many different reasons. Helping your student research these and their requirements can help your student as well as yourself feel less stressed about the financial burden that can come with higher education. Remind them to apply for as many scholarships as possible, these can range from just a few dollars to a few thousand, and can all be used towards easing expense costs associated with tuition, room and board, books, food, etc.

The End Result

At the end of it all, when they’re finally in their very own dorm and meeting their interesting new roommate, you can sit back and rest. The stress of finding and getting into school has finally been completed, and they are now ready to start their life of higher education. This new chapter in their life may be jarring and different from what you’ve known for the past 18 years, but just remember how far they have come. You have brought up a wonderful young adult, and they are going out into the world to better themselves and to help influence the lives of others. And don’t worry, they’ll be home for winter break before you know it. In the meantime, you can use skype or facetime to relieve the abnormality of not being able to see them every day, and a care package or two sent their way never hurts either.

Here are a timeline and links for 12th graders to help you keep on track.

See the latest academic calendar for Casper College.


Important milestones towards enrolling at Casper College:

Media contact: Lisa S. Icenogle

If you enjoyed this story, receive more just like it: