Helping teens through the college admissions process is not easy
Patience & persistence is key for parents of high school students applying to college.
Navigating the waters of the parent-teen relationship is difficult enough without adding the pressure of making college lists, discussing test scores, and working through timelines for applications. Yet, this is the scenario parents of every high school student who is applying to college. Adolescents begin pushing their parents away as soon as they hit the teen years; a natural process as they are preparing to become independent adults. It is essential that parents continue be a calm presence and a guiding force in the lives of their children for several reasons. First, teens sometimes push adults away as a way to test their independence, but they still need boundaries as decision-making skills are not fully formed in young adults. Second, many teens are faced daily with the options to make poor choices. The calm and patient presence of trusted adults on a regular basis gives them the confidence to make better decisions.
The parent-teen struggle can become very clear when engaging in the college admissions process. Teens want to declare who they want to be and what school is the best choice for them. However, some may not have the maturity or experiences to fully know all these answers. Some students struggle with finding the words to express their hopes, dreams and desires because they are quiet or not very articulate. Then there there are those students who would rather share these thoughts and ideas with someone other than their parents because they are trying so hard to step away and be independent. If any of these sound like your teen? Don't worry, it is all part of the natural process of growing up.
How do parents and teens reach a truce? Parents should be patient but persistent, and follow the teen’s lead. Ultimately, this is the teen's college choice and the teen deserves the opportunity to make it! Tell your child it is okay to not have all the answers, but to keep moving forward in the process. Parents can help by guiding the student with deadlines and helping to organize college visits. Maybe mom or dad can set up a space for application materials to be readily available, or arrange for meetings with a counselor.
Junior and senior years are busy for students and the frustrations and arguments can occur if student or parent feels they are behind in the process: an application is due, the SAT score is not as high as expected, a B is earned in AP Psychology. Patience and persistence in guiding your teen through the process can eliminate, or at least shorten, some of these dreaded arguments.
If these techniques don't work, consider consulting an outside professional. School guidance counselors, a trusted family member or friend who is well-versed in the current college admissions process, or a college counselor are all good places to turn if you need someone to guide the process or move it along without emotion or relationships hindering progress.