The Vow for Parents: I will remember that my child’s college experience begins with this process of applying, and will be supportive but will also let them take charge.
College admissions are stressful for everyone involved. The applicant of course but also, teachers, counselors and especially parents. So since its holiday time (and deadline time is approaching) we feel there is an immediate need to talk about the role of parents in college admissions.
1) Don’t take charge:
In many cases, college admissions will be the first time that your child is taking the lead on planning their own future by making mature, responsible decisions that will have an impact on their whole lives. They may be 18 years old, and talking about their future, but we recognize its difficult to think of them older than 18 months sometimes.
Recognize that this process is difficult but is also a learning experience for your child. They learn to plan, to make mistakes and to grow from them, all skills that are essential to their success in college.
Parents accompanied their children at their kindergarten interview but parents should not be attending their college admissions interview. Your child is going to college thousands of miles away, maybe in another country, you can let them go to an interview in the same city alone without accompanying therm. And it’s not just the interview, don’t write emails to admissions officers on their behalf and certainly don’t write essays.
Failing now, when they have a support system of family and mentors, is safer than failing later, so let them stumble, don’t take over the process. A good role may be stepping up as their assistant, helping them track dates on a calendar, organize their papers and reminding them about the big milestones coming up.
2) Talk to them, but also listen:
One of the best ways you can support your child is by communicating! So, set up a time to chat about college but don’t plague them about it every day. Don’t let college take over every conversation because you may overwhelm them and end up sabotaging them in the process.
You can help. In fact, you SHOULD help, you know your child best. You can get excited for them but when you drop them off at the college or at the airport, they will be the one making friends, taking classes, and growing up. Right now, this may be the best chance to listen.
Remember that your child is as stressed, if not more, as you are about college admissions. Choose a day and time every week to check in with them but spend the rest of week listening to what stresses them. Beyond those weekly discussions, you should listen to their concerns. But your own questions and concerns should be saved for your weekly check-in (and around deadlines). Remember, too much advice can be overwhelming.
3) Don’t compare
Every parent knows how amazing and gifted their child is. And as a parent, you want every person to know that. For that reason, we see parents fall prey to the comparing their children to others.
Don’t compare your child to Mrs. Sharma’s son Rahul who went to Harvard and get caught up in an arm’s race. Each college is unique and just because you haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it isn’t good for your child. You brought up your children with different values than Mrs. Sharma, each decision you made is slightly different, so why not let the college also be different instead of copying someone else? Help them find the place where they can make the most of their opportunities.
Which also means, don’t try to push your way into getting your child preferential treatment during the college admissions process. More times than not, this tends to backfire. Admissions committees do not appreciate anyone who tries to take advantage of the system, and they also frown upon parents who come across as “helicopter parents” because that often means the child isn’t ready for college. Instead, let your child, be a child while they are going through this difficult time. Help them relax so that they can focus when they need to. But more than anything, remember, it’s their college decision. Be your supportive self but let them take charge.