3 things parents get wrong about college admissions

Students and their families need the right mindset, argues a college admissions coach

The college application process is often a stressful one for students and families. There's the pressure to beat application deadlines, make campus visits, and figure out how to pay for tuition.

But the way students and their parents talk about applications can exacerbate their stress, writes Shirag Shemmassian for Business Insider.

Many parents talk about applications from a tactical viewpoint, writes Shemmassian, a college admissions coach and former admissions interviewer at Cornell University. They want to know which tactics will boost their child's odds of getting into college, like declaring a certain major or applying early decision.

But these conversations often overlook a critical element to any college application: the right mindset, he argues. A student's mindset towards college applications can affect how confident she'll feel or how much effort she'll put in.

Pulling from nearly 15 years as an admissions coach, Shemmassian outlines several lessons he's learned about a healthy college application mindset.

Lesson 1: Anyone has a chance

When Shemmassian would share his goals with his father, his father would respond with, "Why not? The ones who have done it are human, too." As in, students don't need to be superhuman to get into a top college or win a scholarship, he writes.

When students view their college aspirations as within reach, they'll try harder on their applications, argues Shemmassian. Parents can help students feel confident in their chances by framing their goals as attainable, rather than fixating on an institution's admission rate or the qualifications of other applicants, he suggests.

What parents fear most about admissions season

Lesson 2: Trust your student

It's normal for parents to have doubts about their child's chances of getting into certain schools, but voicing those doubts can lead students to put less effort into their applications, warns Shemmassian.

Instead, parents should validate any doubts their children may feel but also voice their support and belief in them, suggests Shemmassian.

Lesson 3: Cast a wide net

Some parents dissuade their children from applying to colleges where they have lower admission odds, writes Shemmassian.

But this attitude can lead students to attend less-selective colleges than they could have. And students who undermatch at their institution may face lower chances of graduating.

Instead, parents should encourage their children to apply to mix of schools where they have high and low chances of being admitted, suggests Shemmassian. If parents discourage their child from applying to any reach schools, the student may be left wondering what could have been, he warns (Shemmassian, Business Insider, 11/8).

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