While helping your child search for and apply to college is an exciting time, you are most likely battling both of your feelings of stress and anxiety on the side. Here are several tips to tackle those feelings and help you and your student along the way.
Listen – This process is about your child discovering themselves and their dreams. Although they may not have an exact idea of what they want, you can definitely help them if you only listen. The college search is about finding what fits them, not what fits you. Understand what their strengths are and help them go from there. You may think you know what is best for them, but this is a time for you to listen and learn from your child. Let them direct the search. Ask questions instead of giving answers.
Visit – You may have read my previous post about campus visits, but if you have not, do not underestimate the importance of them. Touring schools gives your student the chance to learn more about what they want from their future college and helps them fine tune their search to schools which are a better match. Go on the tours with them, notice what gets them excited and ask them questions to help them ground their opinions along the way. It is a great time for some family roadtrips!
Do not focus solely on those big names and rankings – If you have Googled schools or discussed them with your friends or peers, chances are the famous (or infamous if you ask most college counselors) U.S. News & World Report rankings have been mentioned. While those lists are undoubtedly filled with great schools, there are thousands more out there worthy of consideration. Those rankings are created using questionable data and leave many important factors out of the picture (read this Washington Post article for more on that). If you only focus on those lists or the big name schools, you are missing out on finding others which may be much better matches for your student. Not only that, you are adding to the anxiety and pressure your student may be feeling to get into one of those schools. You want them to be comfortable with wherever they are accepted, not setting them up for a potential let down.
Teach self advocacy – you can use this time to teach your student to advocate for themselves if they are not already. Once they get to school, you won’t be there to call their professors or take them to their doctor’s appointments. Let them take ownership of this process and teach them to take care of themselves. If they need something for their applications, let them be the one to ask their counselor or teacher. If they want more information from a college or would like to contest a financial aid award or admissions decision, they need to do this for themselves. In fact, it is viewed poorly when a parent contacts a potential college on behalf of their perfectly capable child. Send them off to college knowing they can take care of themselves!
Last but not least, remember that where your child goes is not a reflection of your parenting success. Yes, you can most likely attribute part of their success in high school to your parenting and support. Yes, you probably had an affect on their decision to go to college and where they are going. However, the school and career path they choose is their own and in no way should you think less of yourself as a parent because of their decision. Your child is becoming an adult and their choices are their own to make. Congratulations on making it this far and enjoy your time left with your child at home!