Every year on the College Hopes and Worries Survey, we include an optional question at the end that asks respondents what advice they have for next year's applicants and parents of applicants. Here, in their own words, are suggestions and tips from parents to parents. Enjoy!

On the College Application Process

  • Complete the application with your child and walk through the importance of answering the questions as truly as possible. — Geana P.

  • Don’t assume everyone will do their job. Be on top of deadlines and make sure they are being met. The school counselor has hundreds and hundreds of students they are responsible for, do not assume they are 100% focused on your student. — Grace C.

  • Give yourselves plenty of time to research colleges and complete applications. Apply early if possible.  — Jill B.

  • Help guide your child but let them do the work for research and the application. — Renee V.

  • Get essays written during the summer. Apply to stretch schools...you never know! Keep a folder to include each college, the college code, the student ID#, passwords, etc. — Beverly Z.

  • I would recommend using all the possible resources available to educate yourselves on the process. — Jill H.

  • It's not a fair process, it will never make sense as to why some kids get in to certain colleges and others don't. Take nothing personally, the admissions officers don't know you or your child. It will all work out, the right school for your child will find its way.  — Kassie G.

  • Keep asking questions. I ask everybody I can. I ask kids that are in college now. I ask parents that have college kids. It’s so hard to understand the process- so just keep asking questions. — Shirley R.

  • Start researching colleges in the summer before the junior year of high school. It simply takes a lot of time to gather the information, develop a system for organizing the information, and deciding which colleges to actually go visit. — Edith W.

  • Start the application process as early as possible. There are many essays to write and they take a lot more time than the students realize. — Susan H.

  • Treat the process like another class—prepare, study, research, put the time and effort in.  — Grainne B.

On Stress

  • Don’t let the stresses overwhelm you to the point that you cannot enjoy this part of life’s journey with your child. — Jacqueline M.

  • Relax, do not stress out yourself and your child. You will make the right decision on the college if you have best interests of your child in mind. — Srinivas P.

  • Take a deep breath, take a step back and relax. Our children are not defined by the college they attend! — Maria M.

  • Stay calm as it’s a very stressful time for these kids. — Gita

  • Be open minded and patient with your child, if you are feeling overwhelmed then they are feeling doubly overwhelmed. It’s an exciting but stressful process to choose an unknown path while having so many options and choices. — Denise K.

  • As stressful as the process can be, it will be worth in the full scheme of things. — Tonya M.

On Standardized Admission Tests

  • Don't wait to start having your child prepare for tests such as the SAT and ACT and utilize reputable companies who assist with test preparations. — Kimberly G.

  • Get the best tutoring you can afford in the case of SAT and ACT tests. It will be worth it in the end. These test scores are crucial for getting into the college of the student's choice. — Jerina D.

  • Test early, and don't worry about retaking the ACT/SAT over (and over) again to try and improve the score. Some kids are not good test takers. — Jennifer B.

  • Keep your grades up , and take the ACT/SAT. Know what scores you need for scholarships, and decide if you need to retake an exam. — Karla W.

  • Be sure your child takes the PSAT by 10th grade (may be able to sign them up in 9th) to identify areas that need focus and plan to take SAT/ACT early and more than once to increase scores for better chance to get into college of choice. — Catherine H.

  • Test scores count far more than colleges say they do. — Virginia K.

  • Take ACT/SAT in junior year, then take a prep course and retake both. My child improved 7 points on the ACT after test prep course. — Krystal W.

On College Visits

  • Visit colleges close to home and near family vacation sites, if possible in 9th grade. And do virtual tours of far away schools of interest. — Pamela E.

  • Visit schools which then gives comparisons between them. Seeing different schools, even if you don't intend to attend, can help in the process of narrowing down type of school and size and what feels right, then look for course of study and specifically what is offered in detail in each place. — Elizabeth R.

  • I recommend visiting the colleges that your child is interested in. While it is true each university will provide an overview of their school, programs, and financial aid, meeting with representatives in person allow you to ask specific questions that are geared towards your child's wants and needs. And though applying to college can be a universal experience for graduating seniors, the goals of college varies for each student. — Elizabeth N.

  • I think it is critical to start the search early and to visit each college in person. Our most wanted colleges/universities never made our final cut after we visited. The schools my son had no interest in made his top 4 choices! The visit is imperative and the more visits you can make, the better. — Cindy F.

  • Make certain to you visit campus before you apply to a school. My daughter went to visit a college which she believed was her top choice, but after visiting the campus, she decided that that college wasn't the best fit for her. — Susan C.

  • Research colleges online and visit as many campuses as possible. Keep in mind the overall environment of the campus and its surroundings. Having to drive around town versus biking or taking the bus could factor in to your decision. How you get home for vacations could also help make your decisions--fly, drive, or bus. Check to see if the majors you are interested are available at the campus. And, let the student have the last say about where he wants to go. He will be happier that way and more likely to stay instead of transfer. — Andrea O.

  • Visit a wide range of Public, private, large, small, urban, suburban, rural, etc. to help him/her narrow down the best fit. — Christine R.

On Parenting

  • Talk to parents who have been through the process, recently. Don't expect or let your child do all the work without your oversight as there are areas that a child will overlook that a parent will not and that might make the difference for admission. — Ellen D.

  • Parents should not put a lot of pressure on their child. — Peter S.

  • Let your child make up their mind and the parents have some say. This is a life change experience for your child and the parents can't force this on the child. — Phyllis F.

  • Parents should try and be as supportive and encouraging as possible and respect the process and initiative your child is taking to complete the college application process. Senior year is a busy, stressful bittersweet year, our children are feeling the impact of the transition and step into leaving home - even if they don’t always show it. — Stacia O.

  • Provide guidance for your child during this process, but do not hold their hand and do the work for them. It is a stressful time for both students and parents. Parents should support their child and make sure they have the tools to make an informed decision. Ultimately, it should be the student’s responsibility to find a school that is the right fit for them. — Jennifer S.

  • Be patient and supportive of your child throughout this process. — LaNette

  • Despite the stress, this is a great time to spend with your teenager, prior to college and leaving home. The opportunity for one-on-one time is priceless. — G.A. R.

On Money Matters

  • Start saving for college as soon as your child is born. It is very expensive and very stressful to find the money to send your child to college without the proper financial assistance. — Nadia C.

  • Don’t rule out any school due to cost. — Tammy L.

  • Financial planning! It is heartbreaking to have to consider costs vs. child dream. — Michelle B.

  • Search for schools that offer bigger scholarship options and also provide merit based aid, not exclusively need based. — Colleen W.

  • Spend more time focused on finding outside scholarships to help pay for the college you want to go to. — Allison P.

  • Some schools have their own financial aid applications, in addition to FAFSA. Check each college's financial aid requirements. — Cynthia S.

  • For those parents whose children will be taking on debt to finance college do not apply to schools out of financial reach where loans will be long term burden. — Susan G.

  • Do not think you need to look only at state school options because of price. Many private liberal arts colleges can be affordable and should be part of any college search. — Richard R.

  • Fill out the FAFSA ASAP to find out what your real financial situation is. — McShell M.

On Choosing Which College to Attend

  • Think about which school is genuinely the best fit for you—academically and socially. I tend to put a lot of stress on a school's reputation, but I've been trying to take a step back and accept the fact that there are many colleges which offer diverse opportunities and should not be discounted simply because they aren't Ivy Leagues. — Margot D.

  • To choose a school that makes you feel most comfortable and a place you want to be for 4 years that fits all your comfort levels and to strive to get a college degree that you want. — Arely M.

  • Trust your gut and don't pick a certain college just because your friends are. — Elizabeth M.

  • When deciding what college to apply to and attend, it is very important that you pick one for it's academic reputation, not its football or fun reputation.” — Dante M.

  • Reach for your best fit and what school is best for you, and even if you don't get your top choice school, you can still have a fantastic college education. Don't stress too hard about admissions and be excited to experience new things and meet people who you'll be friends with for life. — Asher S.

  • Academic reputation should be the least of your concern; the College with the best fit and opportunities for you should be your first choice regardless of reputation. — Sea B.

  • Getting into your first choice college is great, but it’s not everything. There are many colleges that are a good fit! — Amanda H.

Wise, Funny or Both

  • Don't sweat the small stuff. It will all work out in the end. — Lisa F.

  • Don't freak out! — Venus S.

  • Go for the best fit. The rest will take care of itself. — A. P.

  • It appears to make absolutely no sense... it is more like a used car deal with respect to admissions and pricing. The way it is today is very arbitrary. — Melodee H.

  • Just grin and bear it. — Thomas M.

  • Pack lots of patience and be aware of deadlines! — Julie R.

  • Prepare for sticker shock. — Mark S.

  • Relax and breathe! — Sherry L.

  • Sit back and enjoy the ride. — Houria A.

  • Take yoga or meditation to help with the long waiting. — Maria M.

  • This too will pass. — Betsy I.

Praise for The Princeton Review

  • Use The Princeton Review resources, get the applications and financial aid done early. — Anonymous

  • Purchasing Princeton Review books as soon as new edition comes, for AP classes, helped my child through rigorous classes. — Kaori T.

  • Sign up with Princeton Review for SAT / ACT prep. — GE E.

  • Hire Princeton Review for coaching right at the end of sophomore year. — Judith S.

The Princeton Review thanks all the students who shared these comments and tips and the thousands of others we heard from on our survey. Our customers are our best advisors and counselors!


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