Applying to college isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s exciting. It’s nerve-wracking. And, I’m not gonna to lie, we left nothing to chance.
We were clearly not in charge, nor did we want to be, but we were team players in this big game. There are some parents who let their kids run with the ball and, rightfully so, pat themselves on the back that their kids did the entire process themselves. I am jealous, because they probably had a life and went out on school nights and maybe even drank wine. (Of course, I jest, as I would not change one moment of the thrills and spills of this ride.)
It’s a big deal…
This is too big a deal to take a laissez-faire attitude and let a 17 or 18-year-old call all the shots. Yes, their opinion matters most, after all, they are the ones going to college, but it is important for a parent to be there to bounce ideas off of and make sure i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. This isn’t one of those teachable moments where we just let them fail and learn from it, or rely completely on the counselor. The stakes are too high. Besides, there is plenty of time for that. It’s called life. And, well, grad school. (My son applied to law school all on his own and did quite well. Yes, we’re kvelling.)
Parents and students would be smart to learn all they can in the college process. (After going through this process twice my husband could open up a consulting business!) There are books or many online resources which are free. There is no reason not to be informed. If your school offers college counseling or you are fortunate to be able to obtain your own, make the most of your time with them. Sit down with your child and have them create a list of questions. Most high school college counselors are good, however, they have many students to look after and may not be as focused on your child as you are.
You have options…
Many parents and students don’t even know how many options they have when applying. There’s Early Decision 1, Early Decision 2 (at some schools), Early Action, Single-Choice Early Action, and Regular. Seriously, it sounds like a Starbucks menu. Overworked counselors may not remember to tell you everything and may push you toward schools their school has ties with or away from the heavy applicant pools, so be informed to make sure your list of “reaches, 50/50’s, and likely’s” has the right schools for your child.
We loved the college tour. Clearly, some of the best moments of the entire college process, except for the acceptances! Seriously hilarious family bonding time. But try to keep your opinions to yourself and let your face reveal nothing, because a parental thumbs up or down could send them in the opposite direction. Have them write down their thoughts and feelings about each school. Later when they’re deciding whether to push the Early Decision button or as the acceptances roll in, those first thoughts will be helpful when everything seems a blur. Try to see a variety of schools (sizes, rural, city, Greek life, etc.) Ask questions, educate yourself, keep an open mind. Your child may have dreams of of being on the east coast and then fall in love with the south. It happened with one of mine.
Practice makes perfect, well, close enough…
“We” also began test prep the summer before junior year. And I say “We”, because it’s a commitment. Not just financially, but the kids need your support and guidance because who wound’t rather be hanging at the beach or watching TV, than studying. Gentle reminders, of putting in the hours are needed, before they go out. When our kids sat down for their tests they knew regardless of how they did they had done absolutely everything they could to prepare for that SAT. That they ended up doing well was just a bonus.
As parents, we also kept under the radar during senior year. I don’t want to hear about Susie’s test scores and letters of recommendations from a senator or Lady Gaga, and I’m sure neither do you. Occasionally, there may be some bragging, maybe even some grade and test score inflating, or a few people making arm chair judgments about where their kid is “for sure getting in” (rarely happens) and how your kids stats rate. Do yourself a favor: Keep your sanity and stay away from grade level gatherings.
Fly birdy, fly!
Most of all, enjoy this process. You will get closer to your child than you ever imagined, even if some of it involves hair pulling. Remember this new adventure into adulthood is a rare and exciting gift. And keep your eye on the prize…your child.
(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks on behalf of Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience. #JourneytoCollege)