Blog 🍎 School 5th October 2023

Our Top 3 Tips for Including Parents in University Applications

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Rebecca Hambery Schools Content Writer

When it comes to your student’s future, you probably know that they have specific ambitions, concerns, and preconceptions about the university application process, especially if they’re thinking of applying to a university abroad.

But, as you’ve probably already discovered, the university application journey is one that is shared with parents.

For many parents, the journey towards university is one of mixed emotions. Many parents are undoubtedly hopeful but worried for their child’s future, as they’re making a big life decision.

Some of the concerns parents have about their child applying internationally may include: 

  • The chances of their child getting accepted into a university, especially if they want them to attend a prestigious or high-ranking university. 
  • Their child’s safety when studying in a foreign country. 
  • The affordability of a university or college and the chances of their child being able to apply for financial aid. 
  • Feeling involved in their child’s overall university application progress. 

Counsellors vary in how and when they like to include parents in the university application process. But however you do it, it’s vital to ensure that parents feel included during the university application process and they are getting all of the information they need.

So, in this blog, we’ll explore some tips for ensuring that parents become your allies when managing international university applications. We’ll also look at some strategies and exercises you can do to ensure that parents feel like part of the process.

Understanding parents’ needs & concerns

Let’s start by stating the obvious: no one parent is the same. They all have very different concerns and needs, and these will depend on a number of geographical and cultural factors.

So, let’s have a look at some of the potential obstacles and challenges that counsellors face when working with parents.

Sending their child to university overseas feels out of reach

For some parents, the idea of their son or daughter going abroad for university seems very out of reach. There could be a number of reasons for this, such as some families expecting their children to stay close to home. Others may feel that studying abroad is not financially or logistically viable.

Parents with high expectations

Some parents have a very fixed idea of where their students will be applying to university. 

They may, understandably, have high aspirations for their child and expect them to be accepted to a top-ranked global university, such as the Ivy League in the US or the Russell Group in the UK. 

The challenge with this group of parents can be to move them away from factors such as league tables and university prestige and to champion the importance of students getting accepted to a university that suits them best.

Feeling left out of the loop

Some parents will feel as though they lack oversight of their child’s university application journey. They might feel uninvolved in your school’s guidance programme or concerned about how to best motivate their child to engage with applying to university or college.

The logistics of their child living abroad

We’ve already spoken about the parents who may feel that studying abroad is out of reach. But even parents who want their children to benefit from an international education will have concerns about them moving abroad. Some of the most common worries include: 

  • Will their child be safe in the town, city or country where they’ll be studying? 
  • What financial aid or student finance will they have access to when studying in their host country?
  • What kind of accommodation will be available for them? 
  • Will their child need any kind of student visa to apply to a university in their host country? 

These questions are all very valid. And, in the run-up to application season, school counsellors and advisors will be under a lot of pressure to answer the queries of parents while balancing these with the competing demands of students. 

In the next section, we’ll share some advice in three simple tips on how to guide parents through the international university application process. 

Tip 1: Setting realistic expectations for parents

In order to gain parents’ trust in your guidance strategy, it’s important to be as open and transparent as possible. 

This covers all aspects of your university and careers guidance strategy, but there are a few notable examples of where total transparency will really help you out! 

Admitting that you don’t know everything

Every counsellor or adviser, from a complete newbie to a seasoned pro, will come up against a question or query that they don’t know the answer to. 

In these instances, it’s always best to be honest. If a parent comes to you asking about financial aid in the US or admissions criteria for a specific university in Australia, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell them you’ll get back to them with the right information.

Top tip: If you’re new to a counselling role, it’s especially helpful to be open and transparent about what you don’t know and where you’re still catching up. This is likely to help you build trust with your students’ parents.

Using Analytics to advise parents on a student’s university prospects

This is arguably when being honest is most important. Parents may have unrealistic or inflated opinions about their son or daughter’s university prospects. They may think your student is destined for Oxford or Cambridge, or they may have a very particular idea about their child studying a particular course. 

But does this fit with what you know about this student? Maybe they don’t have the requisite grades to be accepted into their parents’ dream university destination. Or maybe You may feel they haven’t got enough extracurricular activities to make their application really excel. 

It’s also possible that a parent or family member’s lack of knowledge about international universities may mean that there are some destinations they haven’t considered, or a type of university they never knew existed. It’s important to have this conversation with them too! 

A great way to keep parents up-to-date on your students while also managing their expectations is to provide them with data.

With BridgeU, you can use the Analytics feature to report back to parents about their child’s chances of acceptance. You can do this by creating and presenting reports made specifically for your school based on the total number of applications submitted by your students and their overall offer rate.

Keeping parents informed about a student’s progress 

As we mentioned earlier, some parents will feel that they don’t have a lot of visibility about their son or daughter’s overall progress with their university application. 

After all, students aren’t always the most proactive bunch when it comes to talking about their homework! Plus, keeping parents updated on every stage of the journey, from initial university research to final shortlisting, makes a huge difference. 

A great way to do this is to make sure students and parents are in the same room as much as possible; inviting parents to your meetings with a student is a great way to ensure parents feel in the loop.

Which brings us to Tip 2.

Read the British International School Case Study to find out how Simon Finnigan uses BridgeU’s Analytics feature to engage parents and provide tailored guidance.

Tip 2: Hold parent evenings regularly

These can take any shape or form; you could organise parent’s evenings or themed coffee mornings. However, regular meetings with groups of parents can help you gauge what their biggest concerns are and provide them with a forum to get their voices heard. 

Whatever format you decide to use, workshops or drop-in sessions can cover a range of useful topics. Some examples of topics that BridgeU counsellors have covered include:

How to get students involved in relevant work experience or internships

Internships and work experience placements can be invaluable for students. They can help students broaden their skillset and gain a better understanding of their career goals. 

Parents can be a useful ally in ensuring students actively search for these opportunities, especially during the summer months. 

Using BridgeU to create destination workshops 

The different university systems place very different demands on students, and parents will want to know the key deadlines, milestones, and challenges that students will be facing. 

A good way to engage both parents and students and provide them with the information they need is to invite them to workshops. 

The BridgeU platform provides various lesson plans and features that help facilitate counsellors in providing these workshops. Plus, there’s a lot of flexibility in how specific or general your workshop can be, depending on the needs of your students and their parents. 

These can be dedicated to popular destinations and help parents gain a better understanding of which country or region is best for their child. Or, depending on where students are in their journey, you could give a tutorial for an upcoming milestone in their applications.

Interested in creating your own workshops with BridgeU? Read our Chengelo School Case Study to see how Brian Mbulo creates bespoke workshops using BridgeU’s lesson plans.

Meetings with your school alumni

Can you put parents in touch with previous alumni of your school, whether it’s former students or even the parents of former students? 

Some parents and their children may really benefit from anecdotes and advice about studying abroad from people who have experienced it. 

Tip 3: Invite parents to meetings with your students

If you’re holding university research application sessions with your students, why not get parents involved too? 

Inviting parents to one-on-one meetings can ensure that everyone is on the same page. There are a couple of key milestones where it can be useful to involve parents. 

University research

It can be helpful to include parents in early conversations with students about studying abroad. It’s important that both students and parents have a good understanding of what studying abroad actually means and what the application process will involve. 

Keeping students engaged during the holidays

Students can easily become disengaged from the university application process during the summer holidays. 

Whether it’s planning and honing their Common App essay or doing an internship to boost their CV, parents can be a huge help in ensuring that students don’t fall victim to ‘summer melt’.

Involving parents in their child’s university shortlist with BridgeU

Students need to build a viable shortlist of international destinations, and it’s important to include parents in these conversations. Some talking points that may arise include: 

  • Having an honest conversation about a student’s chance of acceptance to their shortlisted university. 
  • Discussing application progress with students and parents. 
  • Outlining final deadlines and milestones for both students and parents as university application season gets underway. 

Parents who feel engaged and involved in their student’s progress will be much more likely to support you as you master an extremely complex process! 

A great way to help get this conversation started is to have your students use BridgeU’s Profile Builder to create a Strategy Report. These reports spotlight the student’s subject interest, shortlisted universities, applications and university offers and can be pulled up during meetings with parents to ensure you’re on the same page.

What have your experiences been with involving parents in the university guidance process? Do you follow these steps, or do you take a different approach? Leave a comment below if you’d like to get involved in the discussion. 

And if you’re interested in learning more about managing international applications, download your free ebook, ‘How to Master & Manage International Applications’.

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