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How Parents Can Support Their Teen with the UC Application

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Parents, you know how badly your kid wants to attend a UC campus next fall, and you want to do everything you can to help them. However, your well-meaning support can backfire. In this article, I’ll share a few tips of what to do and not to do as your teen aims to complete their UC Application.

Some DON’Ts:

  1. DON’T set expectations. I recommend swallowing the application fees and just applying to all nine undergraduate UC campuses. Then, you can see what happens later. Your campus expectations can end in a lot of pain for your teen!

  2. DON’T get involved in the essays. You may never realize the damage you do to a teen’s story by participating in the essay process, but I see students’ parents try to do this all the time.

  3. DON’T push a major. The major is a really important part of the UC Application, but parents’ efforts here often backfire.

Some DOs:

  1. DO discuss the UC campuses. This supports the college planning process. But don’t get too stuck on these conversations, as the application itself doesn’t ask for campus-specific material.

  2. DO help students write a master list of activities and accomplishments with dates. Teens have terrible memories and also tend to overlook activities that don’t feel “big.”

  3. DO learn the UC Personal Insight Question ("PIQ") essay prompts and talk about them. This is different from full-steam essay brainstorming. You’re just making sure they understand the prompts and can start reflecting.

  4. DO support them with time management and accountability. Ideally, with positivity and patience.

  5. DO help them find qualified, appropriate support. Most students could benefit from the guidance of a college counselor outside of their high school at this very important phase of their lives. Make sure this professional is qualified, ethical, and affiliated with organizations like HECA, IECA, and NACAC. Sooner is better, since a counselor is able to give better support the earlier you find them.

Preview the UC essays (PIQs) and learn what UC admission readers are really looking for. Knowing what's coming will save you a lot of stress later! Download our completely free UC Essay Preview Guide here:

Robert Powers (M.A. Johns Hopkins) is the college consultant at College Torch. He is an expert in colleges and the college admissions process. Follow College Torch by joining our Facebook group for Parents of College-Bound Students.

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