You are not alone! Most moms and dads who have been paying attention to the news are anxious about college admissions and the cost of college. Story after story, in the New York Times, talks about student disappointment upon being denied admission. In addition, the cost of a college education has been rising faster than the cost of health care over the last few decades.

What can you do? I recommend as a first step that you write out all the issues that you are worried about so that you don’t just keep reviewing them over and over in your mind like a DVD that keeps re-loading. With this list, you can begin addressing the issues that you have. Keep in mind that the worries on your list won’t necessarily match those of your son or daughter.

The second stage is to begin learning about the college admission process, ideally when your child is a sophomore in high school. By the time your child is in their junior year, you have already passed several decision points without realizing it. Starting the process early will make it more manageable. Engage your student in this information gathering process. It is important for the student to meet with your guidance counselor at this stage, so that they know they are taking the right courses for college preparation. You can go to school college nights, read college guides, attend college fairs in your community and look at resources on the internet published by reputable organization such as the and This is a good time to begin addressing some of the concerns on your list.

The third stage is to help your son or daughter gain some self knowledge about their interests and strengths. This is important because later on when you are looking for college fit, it is much easier if the student knows what they like in terms of subjects, activities etc. You can encourage your child to volunteer in the community, try different extracurricular activities, and even shadow adults in their work. Your child can talk with teachers, family friends, and others who know them well for help in describing their characteristics.

The fourth stage is gathering good information about the colleges themselves and financial aid. Where do you go for good information? Your high school may be a resource but if you do not have a college counselor at your school, you can get advice from an independent college counselor or you can get information on the internet through sites like and Stories told by friends about the process can actually raise your level of anxiety so it is important to balance those stories with more objective information. When you need specific information about a school or program, there is no substitute for contacting them directly. When your student is a junior, you should be pulling all of this information together, so that you can visit the colleges that best fit your son or daughter in order to determine where to apply.