“Hanging back and allowing children to make mistakes is one of the greatest challenges of parenting.” This is perhaps one of the best points made in a recent New York Times article, Raising Successful Children, and couldn’t be more poignant than during your child’s senior year.
In today’s college admissions, everything is competitive and overwhelming. This makes it easier for parents to want to step in, help, and guide their child through the process. Senior students who aren’t taking control of the process may feel pressured to apply to schools that their parents want, but that they don’t want to attend. They may feel cornered into a college major, and maybe even a future career, may well-meaning, but controlling parents.
But how parents know when they are simply guiding and when they are controlling the process?
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself about your involvements in the college application process:
- Do you (the parent) research the colleges and THEN present that information to the child?
- Do you use the word “we” when talking about writing college essays, taking the SAT or applying to certain schools?
- Do you bring up the college topic of conversation every day with your child? Or so frequently that your child avoids those conversations with you?
- Do you constantly read articles on the internet or check college forums and change your child’s college plans accordingly?
- Do you talk to other parents and adult friends about your child’s college plans to get everyone’s opinions and then use those opinions to steer your child’s actions?
If you answered yes to more than 2 of these questions, you may have a problem. But the first step is admitting the problem and simply reading this article is a step in the right direction.
Read these Top 6 Parental Tips for Managing the Application Process:
- Start referring to your child’s plans for college as “his plans” or “her plans”. Don’t use the word WE unless you are also taking the SAT or applying to that college.
- Don’t ask questions at college tours and visits. The college fit is not about you. It’s about whether or not your child would feel comfortable at that school. Tell your child ahead of time that you won’t be asking questions, so they should. Put that responsibility on your child and see how she rises to it. It might even be a good idea to skip the college tour. Go get some coffee or wait near the library; let your child have this experience.
- Writing a college essay, supplement or personal statement FOR your child diminishes his self-esteem. You are essentially telling your child that his writing, his voice is not good enough and won’t get him accepted. College admissions officials are also pretty adept at recognizing the work of a 17 year old versus a 40 year old and this could worsen your child’s acceptance chances. Minor editing is ok, but do not change the wording in your child’s essays.
- Talking to your friends and fellow parents constantly about the children’s college plans only breeds competition. Some parents are competitive and want to know your child’s SAT scores or where she is applying to school. Be vague. It’s really none of their business and you don’t want to add additional angst to your child when the whole school knows where she applied or how she performed on the SAT.
- Don’t force your child into extracurricular activities simply to list them on college applications. One or two activities that the student really enjoys and takes an active role in are much better than joining several activities and not even attending the meetings. This also breeds contempt among students who know think you value the student resume more than the child himself.
- Applying to 18 or 20 colleges is not a good idea! Occasionally, students who want combined medical programs apply to more than the average 7-10 schools suggested because admission to those programs is highly unlikely. But more than 12 or so applications is too many applications — it will detract from your student’s senior year grades, grades that will have an impact on admission.
Yes, the college process has truly changed 100% since most of us applied to college, What shouldn’t change is allowing our children to figure out what’s best for their future, while providing them the tools and the support they need to voice what they feel and want.
If parents or families want additional help in the college admissions process, college consultants are here to help guide the student through the process, not take over the process for them.