No one can deny that there’s much hard work to be done by any high school student who aspires to attend a good college. It’s also true that high school should be a time of joy in a young person’s life, one without excessive stress. A fair question is: “Can a student satisfy both of these seemingly incompatible demands?” We maintain that the answer is — yes!
There are a number of ways that you, as a parent, can reduce the pressure on your child and on yourself as well. We acknowledge that a competitive endeavor at which only a limited percentage will succeed is bound to cause some stress, so we don’t pretend that it can be eliminated entirely. But it can be managed.
Below are steps that you can take to reduce the burden of the college admissions process on your family.
• Retain a Consultant — The best way to minimize stress is to hire a college admission consulting firm like Louis Educational Consulting or another firm that is, like us, certified by the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC). We’re professionals who tell you what to expect and then help you prepare for it. Nothing reduces stress more than the confidence that you’re receiving the best expert advice and there won’t be any surprises.
• Magazine Rankings Don’t Matter — You shouldn’t rely on a magazine’s rankings to select colleges. Rankings are based on quantitative data and ignore the personal preferences of students that are the most important factors in selecting a college. Don’t obsess on the prestige of a college at the risk of losing sight of what matters — finding “best-fit” schools that satisfy your child’s needs and goals.
• Begin the Process Early — One good way to limit stress is to get an early start on the admissions process. The optimal time to begin preparing is 9th grade or soon afterward. By engaging early, you’ll avoid panic down the stretch when time is short.
• Avoid Extraneous Stress — Your child’s admissions effort is likely to be fraught with worry and tension at certain points no matter what you do, so be wary of overburdening them because you want to be helpful. Let your child take the lead and make the decisions.
• Be Aware of Deadlines — You should resist the temptation to be your child’s college admissions cop, but one thing you should do is keep track of important deadlines. Young people often need a hand in this and shouldn’t resent gentle reminders from you.
• Understand Your Financial Position — Have a conversation about finances with your child early in junior year. Knowledge of what is affordable is essential in building the target set of schools known as a “College List”. Together, you can develop a plan for applying for scholarships and can estimate your tolerance for student debt.
• Build a Robust College List — Your child should apply to as many as 10 colleges. The more confidence you and your child have in the schools chosen, the less pressure everyone will feel when applications are nearly due. Your role is a limited but essential one — decide what is affordable. Your child should determine the remaining criteria for determining which schools will be on their College List.
• Discuss Admissions Regularly — Agree with your child about a day and time each week to discuss progress and plans. Don’t have this discussion every night at dinner.
• Don’t Get Discouraged — Students who apply for competitive scholarships and seek admission to highly selective schools are likely to be rejected by some of them. This may be a bitter pill for the parents of high-achieving children and for the children themselves, so be prepared for disappointment.
• Begin Projects Early — Encourage your child to work on art and music portfolios and science projects early in the summer before senior year. These activities need quite a bit of lead-time and your student can’t cram for them at the last minute.
Although it may seem unlikely at times, you and your child can survive the college admissions apocalypse and still be on speaking terms. The key is understanding what’s ahead and then planning for it.How to Manage the Stress of College Admissions