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The Application Process Through a Parent’s Lens
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Oftentimes, the application process can be almost as stressful for parents as it is for their son or daughter. Granted, we don’t have to write essays or take standardized tests or AP exams, but as we go through the process with our sons and daughters, we develop empathy for them. As parents, we want the best for our children. We want them to go to the best schools, get a great job and be happy. We don’t want them to make the same mistakes we made, and we sometimes forget that learning comes from failures. Having three children of my own go through the process helped me develop a better understanding of their feelings and the stress involved. Read on to learn more about what you can do for your son or daughter to help them through the application process.
Remember to be there for your son or daughter.
Be there for your child. Seems simple, doesn’t it? It is important to remember that this can be an extremely stressful time for them. They may be struggling with the decision as to where to apply. They may feel external and/or internal pressures to apply to certain schools or to try every activity and join every organization possible, but it is important to remember that although we want the best for our children, we also know from experience that we all have limitations.
We may need to remind ourselves that what we ultimately want for our son or daughter is to find a school, a major, or a career, that they are passionate about and that will make them happy. It is important to remember that your son or daughter may be questioning themselves as to whether they are smart enough, if they are capable of succeeding at college or even what they want to be when they grow up. Questions may arise in which they feel self-doubt and wonder if they are “good enough” to be admitted to their first-choice university. We as parents need to assure them that the college they eventually get accepted to and attend does not define who they are.
Have an open line of communication.
We are all busy with our own lives. As parents, we’re busy with our jobs, kid’s activities or the day-to day stresses that accompany life. Our children are busy with school, homework, jobs, activities and now, what seems like the impossible process of applying to schools. It is highly important that you are open to having conversations with them about their future plans, but it is also of utmost importance to not push too much. Pushing them could cause them to shut down completely, and that is clearly not the best situation to be in.
Don’t be afraid to ask your son or daughter where they want to go to school and why they want to go there, and be open to hearing their responses, even if they’re not what you expect. Perhaps they have dreams and aspirations that you are not even aware of, or perhaps they have no desire to go to the school that you are pushing them so hard to attend.
As your child begins the process of applying and deciding where they would like to go to school, remember to be encouraging. Your hopes and dreams for them may not be what they truly desire, and it’s important to allow them to prioritize their own needs and desires above what you may have expected for them.
Visit Campuses if at all possible.
Although it’s not possible for everyone to visit each and every campus your son or daughter wants to apply to, there is definite value in visiting if at all possible. One of my favorite memories of this process is visiting the campuses with each of my children. It was interesting to watch them and their reactions as they walked through the various campuses. I remember my youngest stepping onto the campus of the university she now attends; her face lit up, as she blurted out “this is where I want to go”. Part of me was hoping for her to attend the same school her older sibling did, but then I realized that she needed to be where she felt most comfortable, not where I felt most comfortable.
Remember to be happy for them no matter what the outcome.
When decision day comes around, it is imperative that we continue to support our children no matter what the outcome. They have spent the past four or more years of their lives studying, prepping for standardized tests, taking AP classes and exams and being involved in various activities and community service. Their whole life seems to be reduced to the one moment when they open their decision.
If your child is not accepted to their top choice, they may feel as though their entire life was wasted. They may have become so attached to a school that they feel as though their life has come to an end, but this is simply not true. Each of our children will succeed no matter where they attend school. The school they attend is simply that. The school they attend.
Although it may be difficult, I encourage you to help them embrace the next chapter in their lives; a chapter which is yet to be written; a chapter in which your child is the author.
If you’d like more information about how you can help your son or daughter with the application process, check out our blog and other related articles. We have information available on scholarships, financial aid, summer opportunities and more.