The Women's Journal

Taking The Stress Out Of College Planning

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By Dr. Patricia H. Smith 

As parents, we feel that it is our responsibility to influence and guide our children towards college and career fulfillment. A parent recently stated that she continuously worries about which college her son will attend and how the family will pay college expenses. This parent is not alone; many parents worry about their sons/daughters finding a good “college fit” and how to pay for college. In the wake of the recent college admission scandal, parents’ concerns about the equity in college admissions have deepened. There are several steps parents can take to help their children prepare, plan and navigate through the college planning process. Taking the proper steps such as listening and communicating with your children and working from the same plan, may alleviate worry, stress, and anxiety for both parent and student.

Open Discussions 

Although teenagers want to assert individuality and independence, research has found that young people rely on their parents and educators for information and advice about college. As a parent, your participation in the college planning process can help reduce a child’s worry, stress, and anxiety. Set aside time to have open discussions with your child and ask your child, “Why do you want to attend college?”. The answers may vary. For example: 1) To study and become a professional in a career field; 2) To earn lots of money; and/or 3) To make a difference in the world. 

Another question is: “What do you hope to gain by attending college?”. Again, these answers may vary. For example: I want to meet good people and develop life-long friends, and/or I want to increase my confidence and identity. These open discussions may offer good insight and the opportunity to discover what you have in common with your child with regards to planning and attending college. 

Road Map

Most families’ goals for participating in college planning are to: select the best college fit for their children; locate scholarships and other financial resources to pay for college; manage the amount of financial investment and minimize their children’s loan debt. Using a college planning road map can provide step-by-step directions to meet college planning goals. Below are examples of what to do and include in your college planning road map.

Create a college planning “plan” that outlines the child’s and parents’ goals, values, and beliefs. The purpose of the college plan is to create clarity and to highlight agreed college planning goals. 

Organize and prioritize the tons of college materials that colleges/universities will send to your home. 

Identify the members on your college college planning team (teachers, school counselors, independent college planning consultants, and SAT/ACT tutors). This team will help your child receive individual and customized assistance, find the right “college fit,” prepare and perform well on standardized tests (SAT/ACT), search for colleges, write essays, and complete college applications.   

Gather and secure key and accurate information on how to apply for federal financial aid and private scholarships. 

Finally, as parents your involvement in your son’s/daughter’s college planning will help him/her stay focused and select a college that is family friendly, affordable, satisfying and rewarding. For more information call 302-884-6748 or visit


“Dr. Pat was a godsend. She worked side by side with my daughter and was a wonderful mentor to her while applying for scholarships and deciding on a college. Dr. Pat went above and beyond for my daughter, and it felt like I didn’t have to do anything. Dr. Pat gave her the encouragement and the resources to find a full scholarship to pay for her education. It would have been a blessing to receive anything at all, and she’s gotten other additional scholarships, but when we got the news that her entire schooling would be paid for, including tuition, room and board, and even her books and school supplies, I knew it was a blessing we couldn’t have received without Dr. Pat. Dr. Pat is amazing and I will forever be grateful to her for what she’s done for my daughter.” ~Joeli D.