It’s no surprise the middle name of college-bound teens is “stress”. According to a recent survey, 76 percent of college-bound students say they are stressed. And if your student is honest, college prep is one of her biggest stressors. If you live with one, you’re stressed too; and not just you, but your family as well. Granted, there are plenty of reasons to be stressed. And plenty of reasons why it’s impossible to avoid feeling stress (try as you might). Here are five stressful college prep tasks and how to help your teen alleviate the stress:
Grades mean everything. Your student’s GPA is one of the most important components of the college application (if not THE most important). It’s understandable that your teen will stress over receiving B’s instead of A’s on his papers. She knows that the college she wants to attend looks at grades, classes, and GPA carefully before making an offer of admission.
How can you alleviate the stress? Create a positive study environment and don’t add to the pressure. If you see her struggling, get help. Let her know that all you expect from her is that she do her best, nothing more. The past is the past. All she can do is move forward and face the next year with a good study plan.
The College Visits
Any parent who has been on a college visit with their teen will attest to the emotional roller coaster that often ensues. Your teen may balk at the thought of getting out of the car, cringe at the fact that his parents are there along with him, and freak knowing he has an interview scheduled.
How can you alleviate the stress? This is a huge step for him and emotions are going to play a big part in the visits, even though you might see it as a critical step in the plan. Give him the freedom to express those emotions. You can use the summer to make casual college visits, relieving any pressure he might feel about making a positive impression.
The Standardized Tests
Testing in itself is stressful. But standardized tests are incredibly stressful. It’s a timed test that affects the outcome of offers of admission. Scores are compared with other students and some use them as bragging material. A low score means less options for college; a high score opens more doors.
How can you alleviate the stress? Under no circumstances should you nag your student about studying. Help her study. Encourage her to study. Provide tutoring. If the pressure is off, she will do better on the tests. Too much pressure (especially from parents) with students who are stressed already, will affect their ability to focus and relax on test day.
The College Choices
Making decisions is stressful without the added pressure of the impact of this one decision on your teen’s future. He may act calm, cool and collected, but he feels the pressure to make the right college choice. The schools he chooses will be evaluating him on his merit and overall success academically.
How can you alleviate the stress? Let him make his own choices. Guide but do not put your foot down and tell him he can only attend your alma mater or a college close to home. Your teen needs to make the choice himself because he will be attending the college for the next four years. If he doesn’t like it, he won’t be happy and stay when struggles come.
Money concerns always produce mounds of stress. With the economy in disarray, that stress is compounded when families are trying to pay for college. When deciding on college choices, money should always be a factor.
How can you alleviate the stress? Make time to talk about money with your teen. Summer is a good time to have the conversation. Hoping your student will get a full ride scholarship is not realistic. You need to plan for the worst (little or no aid) and hope for the best (multiple scholarships and merit aid). If your student knows what you can afford to contribute and what is expected of her, the stress will be minimal. Keep her in the dark and there could be added stress and disappointment when she applies to a school that is not financially doable.
If your student is involved in college prep, he will be stressed. You can help by being the voice of reason and not adding to his pressure. Stay calm and remind him that no matter what happens, you will support him and be proud of him.