“I’ve got it.”
The three words spoken by college bound students hundreds of times to thousands of parents when asked about the college application process. This exchange is often followed by an eye roll, a sigh, or a very loud silence. You know the kind I mean, it awkwardly bounces off the doors of the car and lands like a brick in your lap. The result. The student is annoyed. You as the parent or care-giver extraordinaire are frustrated. The stress in the car rises exponentially.
As a college application adviser and mom of two college students, I understand the college process and the stresses that can accompany it. As a parent, you want to help. But, your seventeen-year-old isn’t interested in your advice/input/suggestions/discussions/lectures/pearls of wisdom. So now what? Listen, take a deep breath, and read on.
I promise there’s a role for you, but it may look a little different than you think. From test-prep cookies to patch-working the college visits (replete with cool places to eat and stuff to do) and sending out the test scores. You simply need to understand you aren’t the lead in this play. Once you recognize where you fit in the process, you’ll rock the supporting role and your child will not only be grateful that you let her star in this show, but she’ll thank you for it.
Tips for Parents of College-Bound Students
- Identify how you can help. Talk to your child. Learn the areas he or she needs support and offer your help. Suggestions – map out the college visits – the route, the snacks, and book the hotels. Offer to be in charge of sending out the test scores. Bake cookies while your son or daughter is tethered to the computer writing the college essay. (Who doesn’t love fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies?)
- Pick a day. College is everywhere. Meetings with college counselor at school. Testing. Classmates. Applications. Your child may need some space from all the college stuff. Pick a day and time each week to talk college. The other days, talk sports, theatre, politics, books, what’s for dinner. Anything, but college.
- Bring on the fun. Infuse something fun into the process. Going on a college visit, get tickets to a school basketball game. Not a sports fan, go to a school theater/dance/music production or bring along the first season of your favorite television show and watch an episode together after each visit.
- Praise. This process is hard and tiring and stressful. Remind your child how proud you are of all her efforts. Let her know your pride is NOT tied to what school she is admitted to.
- Listen. Your child may need a safe place to vent (don’t we all). They may want to share how unfair the SAT’s are, how stupid all the essay prompts are, how she is never going to have time to do it all. Listen. Empathize. Don’t try to fix it. Don’t remind her that every college bound student is suffering from the same unfairness. Just listen.
- Remember, it’s not the same. Recognize that your child’s experience of applying to college is NOTHING like your experience when you applied. The colleges have changed, their standards for admission have likely risen, and the competition is more intense.
So go on, rock that supporting role! And, when your child gets her YES to college, you’ll be right there to congratulate and celebrate the star of the show!