By Amy, IvyWise Master College Admissions Counselor
When it comes to maintaining positive relationships between parents and students during the college admissions process, there is no foolproof way to manage the stresses that can arise as a result of this intensive process. However, there are tools that parents can utilize to avoid and mitigate any conflict, and this crash course in College Admissions Relationship Management 101 can help!
*While this course is fictitious, the “course material” included below will hopefully guide parents through this sometimes challenging journey!
College Admissions Relationship Management (CARM) is rapidly becoming an important new initiative for parents trying to improve the relationship between themselves and their college bound teenagers. CARM can be described as a comprehensive set of techniques and processes for managing parents’ relationships with their students as they explore colleges, scholarships, standardized testing, and essay writing. In today’s college admissions process, the old functional tools like snail mail, paper applications, and organizing and completing an application in a day are history. Technologies such as portals, message boards, Snapchat stories, online campus tours, and estimated cost calculators are there for parents and students to better navigate their college search. Parents have good intentions and want to maintain healthy relations with their high school students as they search for their independence into adulthood. This ‘course’ serves to provide direction within the family dynamic by encouraging parents to trust their children with their college process. CARM 101 will help you understand your role by providing guidance and tools to help you address a variety of issues that you will likely face with your college-bound student.
How to Get Organized
Organization is key to a smooth college application process. While students should take charge, it’s important for parents to also get organized in order to provide support when needed. Parents will learn how to:
- Research on your own just what is expected for the application process by reading articles about planning for the process ahead of time and searching for checklists.
- Make your own list of what is most important to you, like finances, college tuition, and scholarships, to address with your student before he or she finalizes the college list. After all, you are most likely the one sponsoring their education and should have a say in the financial planning.
- This journey can be time sensitive, so parents will learn how to create charts together with their students, which can be helpful to keep them on task. Additionally, parents will learn how to help create calendars including standardized testing dates with attainable testing goals, planned college campus visits, and application deadlines.
- Utilize resources like the IvyWise Knowledgebase, which is a good place to start as it has many informative articles and videos offering great advice, as well as the IvyWise Blog. Additionally, the Common Application website has helpful tools and most high school’s guidance offices have resources to help you get organized.
You and your teen have two different perspectives that can often make communicating difficult. Parents will learn how to:
- Ask curious questions – not demanding or loaded ones – when checking in on students’ progress. Do you have ideas of how to narrow down what you may be interested in majoring in? Why don’t we talk about a good way you can manage your time tonight since you have an important test tomorrow?
- Keep your emotions in check because your delivery when communicating is a factor. Think of the process as a business transaction with a client.
- Prepare for your student to make choices that you may not agree with. For example, your student may choose an essay topic that is not ideal. Instead of getting confrontational, think of it as a problem to solve together in a calm way.
- Maintain involvement but keep a safe distance. If your student senses you are pushing too hard, he or she may react negatively or shutdown. If this happens, you should consider hiring a private college counselor, speaking with your student’s school-based college counselor for support, or taking a different approach to motivate your student. If your student is more of a self-starter, you can help him or her manage timelines and offer support as needed.
Setting Realistic Expectations
Although you know your student’s unique qualities, it doesn’t guarantee your student will be admitted to the college of his or her choice. Setting realistic expectations for both you and your student is critical. When it comes to setting expectations, parents enrolled in this course will learn how to:
- Understand how certain application elements factor into the admissions process. While admissions can be a subjective process, the objective aspect of the review process, or the assessment of the “hard factors,” is most telling for a chance of acceptance. If your student’s GPA falls below the middle 50% of the average range of a school’s class profile and his or her standardized test scores fall in the bottom 25th percentile, then you shouldn’t anticipate that your student will be admitted.
- Find information on a school’s incoming class profile to help your student create a balanced list of target, likely, and reach colleges. Initially, students should cast their nets wide and consider a variety of schools. Independent and school-based counselors can help with the list-building process, eliminating conflict that often arises between parents and students about where to apply and admissions chances. Most high school guidance offices collect data on how students from that high school have fared in the past when applying to particular colleges to help frame appropriate goals.
- Find a balance with your comments about expectations. You want to be encouraging, but telling your student often that a particular college should admit him or her can make the sting of a rejection or waitlist decision that much more difficult for everyone. Be especially low key about any high hopes for admissions when it comes to reach schools on students’ college lists.
Did you know that confidence is derived primarily through experiences? As the parent, you need to be consciously aware of when you take too much control or get overly involved. Parents will learn how to help students self-advocate during this process by:
- Learning the benefits of letting your student be the leader in his or her process. Direct your student with the charts, calendars, checklists, and share helpful information – yet encourage him or her to take responsibility. Taking principle responsibility instills confidence and encourages students to take ownership of the process and invest in it.
- Understanding that your student should be speaking with or emailing guidance counselors and/or teachers for his or her recommendations. If a student wants a teacher to specifically address an independent study project in a recommendation, then the student should be the one reaching out to instructors with the request in person or by email.
- Learning how to trust your student with responsibilities that may seem at times beyond his or her capabilities, giving students the freedom to succeed and make mistakes in the process.
Seeing the Big Picture
The admissions process can often be boiled down to acceptances and rejections, making parents and students lose sight of the big picture. A college degree offers independence, financial stability, subject-specific knowledge, life skills, personal relationships, and an education to build a life journey and career upon. In order to help students see the “big picture” during this process, parents will learn:
- The importance of not engaging and focusing on the end game for your student when the discussion with other parents turns to your student’s college list, or it is discovered that another student with lower grades and test scores got into a university to which your student was denied admission.
- Tools for preparing on how to react to admissions decisions in a way that makes your student feel special and excited about why his or her final college choice is the best fit. Your reaction to your student’s college acceptances will be important. In this world of social media, we tend to share too much, which can make the pain of rejection or seeing another person’s acceptance difficult to handle. Ideally, everyone would gain admission to their top-choice colleges and there would be no anxiety associated with this process, but that is not reality.
Upon successful completion of this course parents will have the tools and knowledge to be able to:
- Explain to your student your expectations and what he or she should expect with this process.
- Draw on your past experiences to guide your student in the process and think more creatively about your approach to your student’s admissions process.
- Understand and utilize the various resources available to you and your student for support throughout this process, including school-based and independent counselors, online resources, and more.
- Understand that the result of this process is not a reflection of your parenting.
- Effectively communicate and provide emotional support.
- Celebrate the special relationship you have with your student in working together through this life-changing adventure.
Parents who successfully complete CARM 101 are eligible for enrollment into the upper-level College Freshman Move-In Etiquette 201 course.*
*Also fictitious, but congratulate yourself and your student! You made it through the college admissions process to the next step: supporting your college-bound freshman!
Still stressed? Don’t let college admissions anxiety ruin the excitement of the process for you or your student. At IvyWise, we work with families to help alleviate the stress commonly associated with the college admissions process, providing support for both students and parents while empowering students to take control of the process. For more information about how we can help your family with the college admissions process this fall, contact us today.