If your child is a senior in High School, you’re surely no stranger to admission anxiety. The worry starts during junior year, when college fairs and SAT scores set the groundwork for your child’s collegiate ambitions. Early action applicants will send in their applications during the fall season of senior year. Everyone else usually submits what’s needed by the New Year. Around March and April, responses start flooding in from universities, sending the senior class into a flurry of nerves and worry.
What’s so strange is that once you take a step outside of the conventional track, you see that the whole situation isn’t quite as life-or-death as it seemed in the middle of admissions anxiety. However, for our students, it really can seem like their entire fate is contained in those envelopes. What can you do to help your child weather this period? Here are some tips:
- Embrace early admission: While the process of college applications and admissions is stressful enough in and of itself, the peer pressure that comes along with it exacerbates the problem. It’s easy for teens to pick up on the stress of their peers, and feel increasing pressure as the days go by. After all, it’s hard enough to wait for a response, but it’s much harder when all your friends have their path planned, and you’re stuck on a waitlist, or waiting for a delayed response. Early admission requires a certain level of proactive goal-setting, but it can be well worth it when your child is able to relax just when everyone else begins to stress.
- Prepare for interviews: Some college applications will come with stressful interviews, campus tours, and mixers. Help your child prepare for interviews by practicing together. Set your time early and maximize the connections that you’re able to make face-to-face.
- Work closely with your school counselors: School counselors know this process better than anyone. They can help you and your child keep track of deadlines, keep applications organized, and plan smart for the future. Understanding what your child has to offer and what the requirements are of different universities is an important part of this process. In order to plan accordingly, it’s best to meet with a counselor early on; during junior year, rather than senior year.
- Apply for more than one school: As each school has its own requirements for application, along with an application fee, it might seem best to just apply for one place. However, even if your child feels 100% certain exactly where they want to go, you don’t know what kind of additional perks will be available (such as financial aid) that will make you choose a different school when all is said and done. It’s also important to not put all your eggs in one basket. Having diversified investments will minimize stress for both you and your child.
- Check out alternatives: As mentioned above, it’s so easy to get caught up in application anxiety. Most High School students sincerely believe that if they don’t get into the school of their choice during their senior year, their future has been completely derailed. In reality, there are so many opportunities for them to achieve their goals. For some students, it’s best to go to a junior college for a couple years, where they can improve grades, have a better chance of getting in, and save a significant amount of money while still getting a degree from the university of their choice. They might also want to spend some time working first in order to really decide what they want to study, rather than jumping straight into school and wasting their time treading water. Other students find that the path works better when they enter into the school of their choice through a summer program or an alternate track. Let your child know that this single application is not the be-all and end-all of their future. College rarely turns out like we think it will, and there’s plenty of room to change your plans.