College admissions is such a big topic. To make it easier to talk about, my goal is to post short, action-based tips. We already established some thing you should not say to your college-bound teens (for that post, click here), so now, let’s look into what you should say.
- “This is about you.”
Imagine working in one position (being a student) for 12 years and needing to apply for a job to do more of what you have been doing (studying!). It should feel like a slam-dunk, a sure-thing, yet instead, imagine wondering If you are good enough. It doesn’t feel good and that is often how the admissions process feels. My theory is that this anxiety-prone process needs to be flipped up-side-down. This process should not start with looking at the schools’ ranking.
It should start with your teen. It should be a celebration and observation of all of their accomplishments – few or many! It should be a self-confidence booster and an opportunity to remember what they enjoy studying or doing, so they could identify what matters to them. Why start here? First, because your teen needs to know it is about them – their choices and what makes them happy. It’s not about us (the parents). Second, because you and your teen should identify the criteria that make him happy: the size of the school, the location, the type of program, the field of study, etc. and only then, look at schools which meet that criteria. Starting the process anywhere else can be a waste of time, effort or money (or all three).
- “You are not alone.”
Or, more completely “Although this truly is about you, we will figure things out together, so don’t ever feel like you can’t share your fears with me.”
We all need a sense of security, especially in a process that might yield as much rejection as acceptance (if not even more). It’s important to know that the family is supportive regardless of the final results. A high-school valedictorian speech cliche that rings true in this situation is that “it is about the journey, not the destination.” Think about it. Would you rather your teen get in the school of her choice and not feel like you were on her team, or would you rather your teen get int he school of her choice and feel like you were there all along. Enough said.
- “Is there anything about my path that you would like to know?”
The premise behind this question is truly to share your path. Some of us easily talk about our experiences and lessons learned. Some of us, think that we talked about it and in reality don’t. Most of us talk about results and not about hour feelings or anxieties. Truth be told, your teen need to know that you can understand how they feel (especially if afraid or anxious). Your teen can relate better to you if you give them an actual story to relate to. Encouragement to all parents: Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, especially as you ask your teen to be vulnerable and trust you with their feelings.
I would love to hear from you. Try the recommended steps above and let me know how they worked for you. If you’d like to, share any other things one should say to their college-bound teenager?