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Experts Advise Parents to Let Students Take College-Application Lead

Many high school seniors—or, perhaps, their parents— are eyeing the Thanksgiving holiday as a chance to get work done on college applications. With deadlines just over a month away, there's not much more time to procrastinate.

Still, experts caution parents to remind themselves who is applying for college. Come next fall, it's not the parents who are off to a new campus and have to be ready and resilient.

Let the student lead the process, they urge.

Students need to get in on their own merits (light editing on the essay), make their own college lists (no more pushing a parent's alma mater,) and organize their own college search (it's a great lesson in responsibility).

Too many students today lack the so-called "soft skills" of time management, problem-solving, and conflict management. Going off to college without the ability to cope with setbacks and live independently is a serious problem.

And the phenomena is hurting college completion.

After my recent story, Soft Skills Pushed as Part of College Readiness, last week, readers have chimed in with their own take on the issue. Some blame well-meaning parents who do too much for their kids. Others point to the long adolescence that we allow our kids in this country. Then there's the every-kid-gets-a-trophy culture that goes too far in celebrating just showing up.

Increasingly, educators are embracing the need to focus on equipping students with skills that are both academic and "noncognitive" (a term that in some people's view misses the mark.)

At home, parents can help by encouraging students to take control during this final push in the college-search process. Parents should point them in the direction of helpful online tools they can use to answer questions and keep organized. Resources to check out:

• College Board's BigFuture has free guides to walk students through the application process.

Unigo features thousands of student campus reviews and application resources.

• The U.S. Department of Education has a wealth of information in its College Affordability and Transparency Center and on its newly revamped student financial-aid website.

Letting go a bit now will pay off next fall for both students and their parents when college freshmen come home for Thanksgiving break, having grown up (at least some) and being on track.

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