Parents want their students to succeed in college. This is a simple yet loaded sentence. How each family defines success is as individual as each student. With this in mind, we lay out the college discovery process with three pillars to consider: academic fit, personal fit, and affordability. Ultimately, we come back to these same considerations at decision time and recheck how they relate to the family’s goals and definition of success.

In the SFC college-bound process, we recognize each stakeholder has a role: student, parents, SFC advisors, school counselors and teachers. With students front and center, we often hear from parents wanting to know how they can best support their student throughout this process and into their college years.

In a conversation with Adele Horwitz, senior advisor at SFC and former high school guidance counselor, we discussed the all-important role parents play in their college-bound teenagers’ life. Having been a school counselor, college advisor, and mom, she brings a unique perspective to the conversation. We focused on four ways in which parents can support their students in this process.

Setting Expectations

Many parents feel their high schooler isn’t listening to them. Despite the appearance of boredom with half-attentive glances and eye rolls, they are listening. Parents matter. Your child may never give you the satisfaction of acknowledging your influence, but what you say and do matters.

Every family makes their choice about whether to discuss finances with their student or not, but we believe having some knowledge of what college costs benefits students. Not knowing whether college is affordable for their family is stressful and this concern is often expressed as we build a list of colleges. Rather than a “don’t worry about it” comment from parents, it actually helps students if they have some skin in the game, whether that’s in the form of contributing their own money earned from a summer job, earning good grades as “their job,” or just learning what a college budget looks like. Knowing how they contribute to their future financial success is a life lesson.

Promoting Agency

Agency is defined as being able to make choices and decisions to influence events and have an impact on one’s world. This is crucial for students leaving home as they learn to fend for themselves in their entirely new life. If their personal decision-making power is cultivated while they are still under parental care, they do so with a safety net and can learn by trial and error. This builds confidence. Encourage students to contact colleges on their own. Admissions officers are used to working with high schoolers and it’s a great way to build confidence in their communication skills.

Allow for Small Failures

The real world isn’t one that always has soft landings—being able to pick oneself up, dust off the dirt and step forward is defined in one word: resilience. Resilience is one of the most important skills that future employers look for and is a crucial component to success in college. The high school years are a safe time to make mistakes and recover while the stakes are not as high. A series of small failures and subsequent recoveries can make major failures in the future easier to deal with, and may even prevent them from happening. Most meetings with your SFC team happen with just the advisor and the student. This keeps the student in the driver’s seat. Trust that the advisor will reach out as necessary if plans get off track, and always at major milestones.

Let Them Define Their Success

As parents, we see the world through our own experiences. Your child trusts you because you’ve spent time teaching them your values and many of life’s lessons. Now it’s time to trust them. Letting students set their own sights, create their own goals, and define their own success will help them make good choices and feel happy with their decisions. Successful students are usually the ones who have been encouraged to be independent. Your values and perspectives will always play a role in your child’s outlook and future success. But there is nothing more empowering for a young person than to feel they have gotten there through their own efforts.