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?

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Recognize that the student owns the process, and then...

Try to help with keeping the process organized. Make a master calendar or ask your guidance counselor for one and keep it posted on the refrigerator so that no major deadlines are missed. Assist with organizing the college visits and then drive there. Try to establish realistic expectations. Keep communications open. Recognize that you might have different goals or expectations and try to discuss these ideas openly.

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.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

Begin working on the applications early and regularly

The Common Application(CA) becomes available on August 1st. In addition, many of the large state applications come online over the summer as well. I urge my clients, even before their college lists are set, to complete their CA over the summer - before their senior year begins. That can be a huge accomplishment and a big stress reducer. Parents can help the process by creating lists and/or excel spreadsheets of whats needs to be done and the dates due. While ED dates are usually due on 11/01 or 11/15- Early Action (EA) due dates can vary. Forms need to be handed in to teachers and/or guidance. Test scores need to be sent and lots and lots of supplementary essays need to be written! It can be a very overwhelming process for anyone, let alone a 17 year old student! They do NEED your support and understanding at this critical moment in their lives.

Patricia Aviezer
President Inside Track To College, Inc.

Know Your Timetables....

It's my experience that high school kids have alot on their plate already as they enter junior year with a schedule filled with AP and IB classes. Then there are the added responsibilities of SAT/ACT review classes and testing, college visiting, college list development, requesting recommendations, developing resumes and increasing their involvement; all add up to a very stressful time. Seniors are then confronted with the application completion and filing process, essay writing, interviewing, additional visiting with overnights, a tougher schedule than junior year and perhaps more testing. Parents can help them manage stress by knowing what the timetable is for the entire college admission and financial aid process. Gentle reminders can then help their college-bound son or daughter stay paced and meet deadlines. I would suggest having a conversation at the end of sophomore year about the upcoming junior and senior years outlining the timetable and coming to an agreement about what part of this process you, as a parent, could handle to relieve their stress. You may need to revisit these details as you move along, but laying the foundation early can help avoid stress during the application process.

Erin Bentley
Founder & CEO Empowered College Consulting, LLC

Monitoring Yourself as Means to Help Your Child Manage College Application Stress

The most important thing you can do as a parent to help your child manage the stress of the college application process is to keep your cool. That's right, parents need to manage their own stress about the process as the best primary method for de-stressing their child. Many parents are equally or more stressed about their kid's collegiate future than their kid. From "How will we pay for it?", to "Will Suzie get accepted anywhere?", to "How am I going to handle my baby being gone?", parents have a myriad of legitimate (and sometimes irrational, e.g. "Will Frankie know how to clean a toilet in his apartment?") concerns. However, there is no way a parent can calm his or her child while exhibiting clear anxiety over the process him- or herself. While parents should never ignore their own personal issues, you should know how to control your visible behaviors--meaning your verbal and nonverbal messages. While some stress may peek its ugly head out at times, your child should not be witnessing you experiencing a daily meltdown over his college application process or anything close to this! Once you figure out how to control yourself, develop a game plan for you, as the parent. Talk to experts, spouses, ex-spouses, grandparents, school counselors, your own psychologist (whomever-is-relevant!) to work on getting answers to your own questions or eradicating personal anxieties. Meanwhile, develop and use clear and calm lines of communication with your prospective college student to share your anxieties in a healthy fashion. Pick wise times. For example, don't start venting your anxieties after your student vents his or hers. This only piles on the stress. Rather, at these times provide them the assurance and support they are needing from you. Also remember that some anxieties might be best kept to yourself, like your worry that Suzie isn't smart enough to be accepted anywhere. Many of your concerns, on the other hand, are very important to talk about with your child. For example, how your child's college education will be financed. Your prospective student needs to have a relative idea of how willing and able you are, as their parent, to provide money to pay for their college experience. While that answer alone should not be the single determinant for your child's college list, the information is important to your student as he or she researches schools and considers making very adult-like decisions about taking own his own personal debt to pay for his education. If you feel there are life skills your kid needs before heading off to college (like washing her own clothes), develop your own timeline across their senior year for teaching new skills. Whether to share your timeline with your child depends on whether you think your child would be appreciative, turned off, or more stressed by your own goals for him or her. Sneak little life lessons into conversations as you see fit. Beyond learning to appropriately manage your own stress about the process, just be there for your child. You know your child better than anyone. Genuinely analyze whether she needs a lot of guidance through the process or whether this is the time to let her start forging her own path. Allowing your child to take the reins does not mean okaying every idea they pass by you. Rather it means letting her drive the car, while your foot rests on the auxiliary brake and your hand hovers over the horn--just a bit anyway. To the extent you are capable, provide whatever you and your child agree he needs and offer to provide what you think your kid needs. This may be help developing a timeline for the application process, hiring a college consultant, or just providing an ear to listen. Finally, keep things in perspective. Yes, pursuing a college education is an important decision in many ways. However, there are many paths to get there. There isn't just one right college for everyone; there's many. With proper research and planning, your student can find the right fit for him or her. That's the ultimate objective. Even if that match isn't made in the normal or desired time frame, it can be obtained if you don't give up. Keep the appropriate perspective and help your child to keep the appropriate perspective too. Picking the right college is not a life or death decision and the process to get to that decision should not be treated that way either. In summary, parents, manage yourself, then offer to your assistance to your prospective student.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

Stress of Applying

The application process is stressful and will be until the acceptances roll in. However, to minimize the stress encourage your student or you take the responsibility to create a spreadsheet with all of the colleges listed across the top and the components along the left margin and make a check off sheet when each colleges requirements are complete. There is nothing that relieves stress more than seeing (actually seeing) your accomplishments. So rather than just mentally carrying all of the strain choose to check it off and let it go. When each one is mailed your child will see that they are making positive progress and that will relieve much of the stress of the process.

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!

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.

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.