Thanks to population booms and general income increases, more U.S. teenagers are expected to go to college – and going to college – than ever before. Unfortunately, this coincides with lots of factors making that extremely stressful: The expense has gone up. Your teen has to compete with more international students applying (hey, don’t blame them, they’re not building dozens of new Universities in their home countries either, and they are being accepted because they can pay their full way – without financial assistance). And statistically, the most prestigious universities are accepting fewer and fewer applicants than ever. Your child has a less than a one in 20 chance of being accepted to Stamford – if you can even convince their school counsellor to let them apply.
So how do we avoid the inevitable stress that getting your child in to college can bring? Here are five quick things you can do to alleviate a little of the worry.
Help your child schedule a practice SAT or ACT.
Check with your school, they often have companies come in and administer them. Going through a practice test will show your teen they can survive, and after paying the $20 fee for the practice test, you and your child are given a breakdown of their scores. Sometimes even knowing their strengths and weaknesses will help both parent and teen feel better, or even help them determine what colleges to apply to. A near perfect verbal score and dreadful math percentage should make you re-examine your desire to have a MIT engineering major in the home.
Make a list of the five reasons you want your child to go to college.
Be realistic. Is it because your neighbor is always bragging about her kids who went to Yale and Harvard and you’d like to shut her up? Because that is not the best reason to tinker with your kid’s future. Is it to give them broad life experience? To give them a basic degree so they have more options when applying to jobs? To help them determine what they want to do and who they are? If the answer is yes (gosh, I sure hope it is) then accept that many places – big and small, prestigious or not, can offer your kid that.
Run to your library or local bookstore and get a book on the BASIC college application process.
Note I said basic. Do not get “How to get into an Ivy League School” or “180 College Majors.” I highly recommend College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, step by step. It’s still going to be overwhelming, but they break it down into to-do lists and advice that normal humans can understand.
Have a frank discussion with your child about their strengths and what they want to do.
Take them to the nearest coffee shop, buy them a snack and drink , and stay calm. You might find out something you didn’t know. Maybe your teen has always wanted to study Shakespeare, or your Snapchat fanatic wants to go to a very small college and study childhood education. Be patient, be openminded. The best thing about the teen years is watching this creature you have created and raised become their own person.
I mean this in the nicest possible way, helicopter parents, but it’s not your job to get your kid into college. It’s not even your child’s counsellor’s job (although they should help). It’s your child’s job. If they can’t get themselves (largely) through the process of choosing a school, figuring out roughly what they want to do, and filling out basic paperwork to do it, how the heck do you expect them to pass their first semester of college level courses, all while finding their way to and from the cafeteria and their dorm room? Letting them take the wheel will give them and you the biggest confidence boost since that first day of not wetting their pants in pre-school.