This is a very busy time for seniors as they are either rushing to finish up applications for Early Admissions in November, or they are making progress on apps that are due a bit later. Either way, they are feeling the stress of deadlines hanging over them, with no let up in school work, jobs, or extracurricular activity.
Juniors, many of whom have now taken the PSAT, are also picking up on this undercurrent of college stress. This year’s SAT is completely new; the ACT has a new and more involved writing section; and there’s constant pressure to be rocking it in their classes and involved in outside activities. These students are also feeling some pressure.
Here’s how you can help:
Have an initial college meeting with parent(s) to discuss general ideas and expectations around the upcoming college process. Include the following:
- When will you visit some colleges? Start with a variety of big, small, city and more rural. Consider a couple of casual visits this fall to see what is out there; then begin in earnest this winter/spring.
- Are there parental limits on distance from home?
- Finances. Do you need to find schools where your student will be awarded merit aid (scholarship money you don’t have to pay back)? This will happen at some schools when your child is in the top 25% of applicants. Other schools don’t give merit money at all. Will your student be taking out loans? Discuss details of the family budget for college before you start touring colleges.
- Are you only considering the most selective colleges to which your child may be admitted or are you looking for the best fit – academically, socially and financially? (Hint- the latter usually works out best!)
- Which test(s) do you plan to take and what is your plan for test prep? Most juniors do test prep over the winter and plan to take the SAT or ACT in the late winter/early spring. I recommend taking a practice test of each test (PSAT counts) and seeing if one comes out considerably better than the other. If you plan to work with an outside group or tutor, it’s not too early to start shopping around, as they can get booked up well in advance. There are also books that students can buy and study on their own, if they are truly motivated.If your student receives test accommodations in school (extra time), apply for those for the ACT/SAT if you have not done so already.
Going forward, plan to meet periodically (at least once a month) to discuss college planning, school progress, summer plans for jobs/internships, etc.
And try to leave the rest of your conversations for other topics!!
Begin by sitting down with your child to ask how they are doing. Many kids are really feeling stressed and they could use a hug and some understanding. Reassure them that they are going to get it all done and that life will settle down soon. And that things will work out fine even if they do not get accepted at all of their colleges.
Ask if there are ways you can help. (And that does not mean writing their essay!)
This may be a time to limit additional outside responsibilities – consider cutting down on extra work hours for a bit; don’t take that babysitting job; avoid the sleepover where you stay up all night; don’t visit relatives on their one free weekend day; etc.
And finally, for some additional perspective, here is a letter written to a parent by “a teen” who is in the midst of applying to college.