How to Help Your Kid Through the College Application Process

For the last 18 or-so years, you have done it all. You were there for their first steps, their training wheels, even their car wheels, and now, you want to see them all the way through before they fly the nest. What is the best way for you to manage this next step in the process?  

DON’T GET INVOLVED. Hire someone.

Be Supportive from a Safe Distance

You’ve probably noticed by now, but you are dealing with a teenager. If you say “up,” they are going to go down. So, the best thing for parents to do is to get a third party, mediator, or guidance counselor, even if it’s not us.

We know, you want to be supportive. You’ve worked harder than your kid(s) will ever know to make sure they had the best education possible. You’re almost there. Ensure their success by supporting them from a healthy distance. At this point in the process, we find that parents tend to try and live vicariously through their kids. Don’t push your kid to get into an Ivy League school just because you didn’t get in. Take a moment and reflect. Those “gentle suggestions” you’ve been giving that they explore their talent in dance may be occurring like a forceful push from your psyche who wishes you had auditioned for the professional ballet company in your youth.

Check Your Own Abilities  

Yes, we are talking to YOU, the parent who has the BEST relationship with their son or daughter, the parent who thinks their kid tells them everything. Even YOU don’t always know what’s right in terms of the college application process, because, how would you?  We know you mean well, but even if you think you’re helping, you might not be. We find that when parents get involved, teens feel cornered.

So, you’re a professional journalist. The college supplement is not an op-ed. Just because you’re an exceptional writer doesn’t mean you know how to teach your kid what makes for a great personal nonfiction narrative. Even if you do, you should still refrain from getting involved because you will likely get too into the exercise and then your kid won’t be able to trust him or herself to do it alone.

Get Involved….with Something Else

Ever heard the phrase “resistance breeds persistence?” The more nervous, overbearing energy they sense from you, the more they will stay away.

One of our writers has a classic overprotective father. He wasn’t exactly a PTA dad, but he did once climb a Ferris wheel when he thought his kid was going too high. When our writer was applying to college, she expected her dad would be all over it. She was already anxious about her applications and spent a lot of her time junior year studying for the SATs and APs at her best friend’s house, just in anticipation that her dad would be asking about it all. Incidentally, she was the youngest sibling. The recession had just hit and her dad was pretty tired. Suddenly, the little things didn’t matter as much. He decided to sell the house her senior year, move into his dream home, and make that his project on top of work. He trusted his daughter and naturally, she made every deadline without him ever asking once.  She did, however, come to him for a lot of advice along the way.

Right now, they need to know you’re there for them and that you believe in them unconditionally. Create some space for them to come to you. Be that relaxed, grounded, zen person they want to come see if they’re feeling overwhelmed. Channel your energy into something else. In the time you would have spent grounding, lecturing, helping with homework, and calling the police when they’re five minutes past curfew, start thinking about the well-deserved staycation you’re going take with your newfound empty-nest freedom. 

Crack the Whip If Needed

That said, if they start missing deadlines, you should impose sanctions. Take the phone away. 

Need a third party who can be in loco parentis during the application process? That’s what we do. Reach out to us here