Most early decision and early action deadlines have passed, and as we enter the homestretch of the college application process, anxiety will build. Stressed out students can lead to stressed out parents – and that can make for a tense household.
It’s only natural for students to experience some stress and anxiety when applying to college. After all, they are balancing extracurricular activities, classes, homework, and a slew of college application essays. It’s a tough process, but with a little help, they’ll make it out in once piece, and hopefully with an acceptance to their top-choice college in hand.
It’s easy for parents to want to jump in and take control of the process in an effort to help ease students’ stress. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that this is a big step toward independence for students, and sometimes parents need to take a step back – while still offering support. Striking that balance can be difficult, but it is possible.
Here’s how to stay strong and supportive during the college admissions process – without driving yourself or your student insane:
Let Your Student Be the Guide
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is stating that “we” are applying to college. While you may experience some of the ups and downs as a family, it’s really only the student’s journey. Let them take the lead on researching, visiting, and applying to colleges.
It’s very likely that they’ll need a push from time to time in order to keep up the momentum and meet important milestones, but you don’t want to do all the work for them. The college admissions process is an important lesson in independence and personal responsibility – don’t let them off easy.
The college admission process has changed a lot since parents applied. Everything is online, requirements are different, and the process is much more selective. Navigating the college admissions process as a parent is all about staying informed. Not only will it help you answer some difficult questions, it will also put your mind at ease if you have a handle on what to expect.
Read books, blogs, and higher education publications in order stay on top of the latest admissions news. Follow schools and admissions offices on social media for updates, and be sure to read up on the school’s website. There you will find everything you need to know about the application process for that particular college, including required materials, test scores, and deadlines.
Be the Voice of Reason
We all want our students to fulfill their dreams, but if that means applying only to reach colleges where they have a slim chance of admission, you might want to step in and help set more realistic goals.
Students can become fixated on a certain college, but if it’s obvious they don’t meet the admission standards, make sure they’re applying to other appropriate target and likely schools. You never want to discourage your student from applying to their “dream” college, however, it’s important to be the voice of reason and make sure they have other options. There are few things worse than having no acceptances in hand come spring.
Sometimes students just need to vent. With all of the stress and pressure they’re likely facing, they’ll need someone to lean on. Provide your student with a safe environment to air their concerns, grievances, and frustrations. It may be hard, but resist the urge to interject your opinion every time they come to you with a problem. Many times it’s best for them to work it out on their own, and you don’t want them to feel like you’re trying to take over the process.
In the end, if your student stays on track and applies to a balanced list of schools, he or she will get into a college that is a great-fit for his or her goals. It’s tempting to carry a lot of the weight of this process for them, but remember that students need to take control in order to meet their admissions goals. By knowing how to be involved without overstepping your bounds, you and your student will come out of this process successfully, with acceptances – and sanity – intact.
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