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?

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.

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.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

Procrastination is their worst enemy

The college process does not need to be as stressful as people make it. Independent College Consultants can help relieve a lot of the stress because they answer the questions and help keep the student on track. Starting early is a big one. Not just with the search process, but with the application process. The student should start on the applications in the summer. The biggest part of the stress comes from waiting until the last minute. They look at the application and think it doesn't look too long and won't be too bad, but when they actually start it they realize it takes a lot more thought and effort than they expected.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

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

1. Listen Support your child’s burgeoning decision-making abilities by listening. The college applications process offers ample opportunities to foster discernment. For example, let your junior choose the destination of the family’s first college trip. 2. Limit “cocktail conversation” Avoid talking about your child’s college process with family and friends. Your conversation will inevitably reach your son or daughter and break an important trust. Losing open communication will heighten everyone’s stress. 3. It’s not personal; it’s just that it’s personal Don’t expect your child to share an essay or personal statement with you. Insuring his or her ownership of the process is paramount to limiting stress. If you can’t bear a typo, have your teen entrust another adult to proofread materials. 4. Temper your enthusiasm for “super-reach” schools It’s easy to love Princeton, but with an admission rate consistently below 10 percent, no one is likely to earn admission to Princeton. A solid admission process is built with a balanced list of reach (possible, but not likely), middle (50/50) and foundation (quite likely) schools. Favor foundation, middle and reach schools equitably. 5. Start early, but not too early Encourage your child’s academic motivation and extracurricular involvement beginning in ninth grade. Admission committees will review information from freshman year. However, hold off on specific college search and application conversations until junior year to avoid burnout.

Amberley Wolf
College Consultant Wolf College Consulting

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

Each family is different and each member in a family deals with stress differently. What works for one child might not work for another. Here are some tips that can help parents: -Help organize the process in a way that the student will respond well too. If the student uses lists and calendars to plan for class in high school, they may respond well to lists and calendars that you help create to keep them organized. -Many families find it helpful to work with a college consultant to help the organization of the application process. Many students respond better to a consultant creating a calendar for them than their parent. -Help the child prioritize what is more important. Do they need to be involved with as many extracurricular activities as they were in their junior year or can they be involved with less extracurricular so that they can spend more time on their grades and applications? -Give grace to your children. They may need to have less household responsibilities and they many need to take some breaks to play with friends, watch a movie or exercise. -Make sure they are not wasting time on applications for colleges they would never attend if they were accepted. Applications take a lot of time, so make sure the student is actually interested in attending the college before they take the time to apply. -Make sure you have time with your child that does not involve only conversations about applications. They may start avoiding you if they only hear you asking questions about applications. -As a consultant, I strongly recommend that a family work with a college consultant especially if the application process causes high stress in the family. By working with a consultant, you will have more quality time with your child and you will be relieved of much of the application stress.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

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

Stay organized with appropriate calendars and a binder for all of the paperwork!

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

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

Consider hiring a professional; you're too close to the situation. What would your kid recommend if you were stressing out about your income taxes or a pending separation or divorce?

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

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

First do no harm. Ask them if anything you are doing is adding stress, and if you cannot change what you are doing, you can explain why you are doing it. Having a greater understanding may be helpful for them. Also, do not try to talk about the application process every time you see them. Set up a schedule for checking in on their progress and thinking. Assure them that what you want is for them is to find schools that are good matches for their academic, and social interests and that they are excited about. Reinforce that there is not one school that will make them happy or provide the key to success. And definitely try not to gossip to others about where you son or daughter is applying.

Dr. Bruce Neimeyer
CEO/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

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

Organization is really the best assistance that you can give your child in this process. There are so many pieces that can become a part of the process for an individual family that keeping it organized and all in one place can be a tremendous help. A calendar system can also be very useful. Laying out the complete college search and application process is critical. You want to pay attention and mark the key dates of testing, application and decision deadlines. Once you mark these into your calendar, you can back up from those dates to see home many weeks or months you have before those deadlines occur. Then you can decide what steps will be taken within each month. This will help your student to see the whole process and how each month has several necessary steps that need to be completed in order to keep it from getting overwhelming and a horrible experience. Always remind them that this process should be fun as they are playing a very active role in deciding where they will attend school for the next four years. Creating a search process that turns this into a grind results in poor decisions in the end. So, do yourself and them a favor and concentrate on this organized timeline and help them stick too it! You will all be thankful in the end.

Cheryl Millington

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

School research and application time can be very stressful for both students and parents. I’m a mother as well and here are some tips to help your child manage his/her stress. Make sure that your behavior is not adding to her stress level. Be positive and encouraging. Offer additional resources, like tutoring, only when needed but early enough to make a difference. Listen to your child and only offer advice when asked. Keep the lines of communication open. Watch your tone and body language. Think before you speak. Your gut reaction may be the worse response and it will never be forgotten or forgiven. Give your child the confidence to make the best decision for him/her . Be realistic about your child’s options and help them to be realistic as well. No need to apply to schools that they have zero probability of getting into. Advise your child that this is not necessarily a lifetime decision; they can always transfer to another school after first year if they want to. Make an extra effort to engage in other activities, especially fun outings. Don’t make this period of time all about applying to schools. Double the number of times you say “I love you”. Remember to give unconditional love, especially when things aren’t going as expected. Good luck!