Do you have a child getting ready to begin the college application process? Is his or her level of stress and anxiety starting to stress you out as well? Or, is he or she so laid back about the process that you feel as if you are completing the application process yourself?
There is no doubt that this time in the life of both you and your child is going to be a bit stressful. However, there are ways to keep stress levels to a minimum and to keep your child on the right track to success. Here are just a few suggestions for keeping the application process on track and moving smoothly.
You can make suggestions, but let them choose!
Whether or not you attended college yourself, I am sure you had a good idea of where you want your son or daughter to attend. The same is true of your teen. They have an idea in their head about where they want to apply.
Instead of creating a list for them, work together to allow them to choose where they want to apply. Will the least have some “dream schools”? Of course! Just make sure you make it clear that your child also has to list some practical choices that interest him or her as well.
One great way to make sure your student has a list of schools that are a good fit for them is to go through College Match together.
There are financial benefits to state schools, but keep in mind that there is scholarship money to be had at private institutions as well. You never know what offers you will receive until you send the application in; it’s always worth it to try!
Praise Is Good! Together is Even Better!
For every step of the way, from completing the Common Application, to writing the essays, to deciding which SAT or ACT scores to release to the college, praising your child’s effort and diligence will go a long way.
Nobody likes to be nagged to do things, least of all a 17 year old. But, if you begin the process by stating how great the scores are and how interested colleges will be in your child, then he or she might find the initial motivation needed to begin those applications and essays early.
Many applications are now online and do have parent portions; even if it is only for financial aid. Work together on the applications; be an “active applicant” as well and set aside time to spend just with your teen on this process. Agree to review the essay prompts; take a night or two to go out to dinner to discuss possible topics for essays. If your child sees how proud and interested you are, then their interest level will rise as well!
At the end of the day, you are the parent and this is your child. He or she may be the most intelligent, most responsible and most productive teen in the country, but deadlines never mean the same thing to children as they do to adults.
Encourage your child to be early, rather than on time. If the application is due in November, have it done and in mail by mid October.
The best thing you can do for your child is to know when all the applications are due and set up a calendar showcasing the due dates. The visual reminder will keep both of you on track and on time, without causing a daily “did you finish?” question that can lead to tension and arguments.
Finally, and of course most importantly, the very best thing you can do is be there; as a source of encouragement, wisdom and guidance. Offer a shoulder to cry on or a break from tension if they become discouraged and be ready to drop everything to help when they want assistance during this process. You are the person they can count on to help them succeed!