How can I help my kid manage the stress of the application process?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How can I help my kid manage the stress of the application process?

Sheila Smith

How can I help my kid manage the stress of the application process?

Sit down as a family and talk about options, expectations, limitations, and so on, before applying to college. Discussing things after the fact creates stress, not to mention feelings of anger and resentment. Take the student who invests a great deal of time and energy into applying to a school in California that she really wants to go to, only to find out later that you, as parents, can’t afford the tuition or have no intention of letting her go that far from home. Discuss issues related to finances and travel restrictions proactively, and be honest with each other while keeping an open mind.

Mark Smith

How can I help my kid manage the stress of the application process?

Maintain a healthy attitude about college. Colleges are like shoes -  when you look in your closet, you generally have several pairs of shoes that you like and that fit you well.  Sure, you might have your favorite pair, but if you left that pair at a friend’s house, you’d still be happy in any of your other shoes. With about 4,000 colleges in the United States, not to mention all of the international options, there are many, many schools that could be good fits for you.  Putting all of your hopes into one school, particularly a reach school, is a very limiting and stressful course of action.

Ronald Smith

How can I help my kid manage the stress of the application process?

Start the application process early and break it down into small, manageable steps.  Creating and sticking to a timeline is a tremendous help in preventing the stress that comes with procrastination. The summer following junior year of high school is often an ideal time to complete applications and write college essays. 

Tammy Smith

How can I help my kid manage the stress of the application process?

There are no guarantees in life, so have a backup plan.  Talk as a family about what the options are if no college acceptance letters arrive in the mail. Students can work, volunteer, take classes at a community college, or take a gap year.  All of these things build both resumes and character and will likely give students a much better chance of getting into college the following year. Talking about and planning for the worst case scenario is imperative for reducing stress, should the worst actually happen.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

How can I help my kid manage the stress of the application process?

Throughout the child's upbringing, the parent has hopefully been there to manage stress, whether the source is school, peers or family matters. The application process is no different. The parent should be involved, yet not overly involved, providing counsel and insight when appropriate. I used to combine college visits with pleasure trips to alleviate stress while on the road. If a parent senses that a student needs a counselor's assistance, they should calmly recommend that the student seek help. (Sometimes a parent may need to initiate a call or meeting.) Most importantly, a parent needs to reassure the student that whatever the outcome of the process, he or she will still be there to provide love and advice. After all, the parent will be there before, during and after the student's tenure as a college student.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

How can I help my kid manage the stress of the application process?

start early in the process, have a to do list, follow up with the check list, and try to work with the school's counselor the best possible way.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Be A Role Model

Kids WILL be stressed out about the application process. That's a given. However, parents can be great role models for their kids if they can show them that the process is manageable with good time management, realistic expectations, and a calm demeanor. If parents get hysterical or overwrought -- then kids will respond in kind. Here's one more piece of advice for parents that might help them remain calm and retain their good judgment: your child's college options are not a parental report card. If your child goes to an fancy ivy league school -- that doesn't mean you are a super parent and if your child goes to community college -- that doesn't mean you are a bad parent.

Cynthia Ferguson
Independent Educational Consultant In2College

Use an educational consultant

Educational consultants are now very popular with high school students. It is like having your own private guidance counselor to do everything with you from figuring out what to major in to managing the stress of the application process and deadlines. College is one of the most expensive things a family will pay for (maybe the MOST!) and using an educational consultant is often more cost effective than getting the college decision wrong.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Application Stress

One of the best solutions may be to hire an independent educational consultant. This professional will be able to map out a plan, create a timeline and serve as an impartial judge. There is no better time for you to find your sense of humor, offer up a smile or hug and demonstrate that unconditional love. Remember, this is a "first" for your child, so it comes with unknowns. The apron strings will soon be cut, so emotions may run high. Offer you assistance, but don't be offended if it isn't wanted. Your student is learning skills that are critical for college success, let him make some mistakes while you are still there to help. It is not "our" application, it needs to belong to your teenager.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Parents: Help Your Child Handle the Stress by Reducing It

Nothing adds to the pressure of the college application process more than parental pressure. There is no up side to establishing expectations for how their process should play out. We had our chance. It is their turn, and the best thing we can do is make sure they understand that we are there for them regardless of what happens. As parents we get no gold stars because our kid gets a “prestige” admit, but we can hurt them deeply if we let them think that it makes a difference. Offer love and support, and respect their ability to handle the process in a way that is right for them.