4 ways parents can help as their student applies to college

CSU staff and a future student celebrate admission

If you have a student starting the college application process, you may be just as overwhelmed as they are. There are a lot of boxes to check off, from narrowing down college choices to deciphering the financial aid process to scholarships to housing. Beyond those, there is a whole other side to handle, including helping your student prepare emotionally for a big transition, as well as helping them navigate big decisions that can affect their entire lives. Whether you’re just diving in or already testing the waters, we’ve got some tips to help keep you afloat.

#1. Keep track of important dates.

This might go without saying, but keeping track of application timelines and dates is incredibly important. CSU’s deadlines can be flexible, depending on the task you’re working on, but a good rule of thumb is the earlier the better. Our early application date will alleviate pressure down the road for you and your student when it comes to making the final college choice, getting access to housing applications and orientation registration, and much more. Taking a look at our calendars and deadlines is a great place to start.

#2. Help them navigate and apply for scholarships.

Along with financial aid, scholarships can be the most-complex things to navigate when your student begins the application process. Where do you find scholarships? How do you ensure your student’s application is strong? Do you have time and energy to apply for multiple scholarships knowing there might be competition for them? CSU has made a piece of that process easier by offering the CSUSA, a one-and-done scholarship application that will enter your student for almost all CSU scholarships. While it’s not the only place you can (and should) apply for scholarships, it’s a good place to begin familiarizing yourself with the requirements of scholarship applications. Take a look at our frequently asked scholarship questions, and five scholarships you may not have considered.

#3. Help them make their own academic decisions.

As you help your student check off boxes, tackle the essay, and keep track of other requirements, you may realize some big decisions still have to be made. One big consideration your student may be wrestling with is selecting a major. Here’s one area where you might want to help provide resources, but also encourage your student to do some inner exploration. Choosing a major can be an intimidating task, and there are a lot of voices out that can add pressure to choose what might yield a lucrative career (rather than finding the academic path that holds their interest and allows them to flourish in college). Regardless of what you may want for your student, try to help them take a deeper look at what subject areas truly interest them. You may also want to remind them that if they are unsure, coming to CSU without choosing a major is a wonderful way to explore further before making a commitment.

#4. Acknowledge their fear (and yours).

Helping keep track of deadlines, requirements, and all the moving pieces of the college application are certainly some of the most-significant ways to help your student in this process, but there are subtle ways to support them beyond the logistics, too. It might be easy to overlook how every step of this process is another step toward one of the biggest life changes they’ve faced. Whether your student is staying local or moving away for school, this is a transition to a whole different environment, a larger student population, and one where they’ll take on a lot more adult responsibilities. Simply acknowledging that this is a big leap, intimidating, and, at times, overwhelming (for them and you) can help take the air out of fear’s sails. Then you can move onto all the excitement around the good stuff, like exploring campus as a student, making new friends, joining clubs, and testing the waters with the newfound freedom of a college student.

Help get them oriented

Learn more about the application timeline, how we measure success, and get more resources to help your student as they apply to CSU.


Prairie Smallwood

Prairie Smallwood is a writer and content creator for the Office of Admissions at Colorado State University. She is passionate about education and exploration, and knows that going to college can be both an adventure and an overwhelming experience. She aims to create content that helps students through that journey — the wonderful, the scary, and everything in between.