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5 Ways for Parents to Avoid College Application Stress

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5 Ways for Parents to Avoid College Application Stress

Stress is a killer and when the college prep season arrives, it only intensifies.

Do you know what to expect and how to deal with it? Just as with any family situation, anticipating problems that can or might arise should help you respond properly.

Imagine these scenarios:

  • Your teen announces he’s going to die if he doesn’t get into his first-choice college.

  • You hear other parents talking about their students headed to the Ivies.

  • Your teen says she can’t possibly go to State U. because her boyfriend isn’t going there.

  • After multiple tries on the SAT, your teen announces that she’s never going to get into any college.

  • It’s been months since your teen started his essay and all he’s written is, “My life-changing moment is . . .”

  • On a college visit, your teen says, “I’m just not feeling it.”

  • Your son is sitting in the middle of his bedroom floor surrounded by college catalogs with a lost-puppy-dog look.

  • Your daughter has a tentative lists of colleges that are completely out of your price range and she starts crying when you point that out.

Every component of the application process breeds stress: standardized tests, GPAs, essays, and even the recommendation letters. As a parent, it’s important for you to watch your child’s stress levels, but also your own.

Here are five ways for you to keep calm during this tough process:

1. Prepare in advance

Everyone knows the saying, “Without a plan, you plan to fail.” My saying when it comes to admissions stress is: “Preparation prevents panic”. I used to tell my kids that I worked best under pressure but that didn’t mean I wasn’t stressed. As with any task, preparation removes the stress and allows you to avoid the panic that causes it.

2. Get help when you need it

Before senior year, do your research. If you find there are some questions that you need answered, get help from the school, other parents, a private college counselor, online, or at college fairs and parent information nights. A good bit of it is available free or at minimal cost. Ask for help - don’t flounder around when help is available.

3. Stay organized

Organization is key when tackling the college application. Look at the college sites and the Common App site for a list of application components. Gather all the necessary documents before starting and keep them in one place (either on the computer or in a folder) where you and your student have access. Use calendars, to-do lists, emails and sites like Pinterest to keep all the documents organized.

4. Set aside time each day for college prep

One parent I know set aside one hour a day for the student to work on the application components: the essay, studying for the SAT, gathering recommendation letters, and compiling the necessary personal information. If you break these tasks up into segments the application isn’t so overwhelming. Even 15 minutes a day can help.

5. Don’t wait until the last minute to create the college list

The application itself is not as stressful as choosing where to apply. Take time to do the research and when it comes time to apply, your student will know what each college requires to complete the application. Throwing a college into the mix at the last minute is a recipe for mistakes and errors. The choices need to be locked in by the fall of senior year or earlier if your student decides to apply early decision or early action.

All in all, the earlier you complete the applications, the less stressful the process will be. Senior year is already a crazy time for students and their families. Reducing stress around the college application is just one way to keep peace in the household.

[Want more info? Here's how to keep your parents from freaking out about college.]

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