Tips for Managing College Applications

For high school seniors around the country, the final push is officially underway.  Busy preparing for and taking standardized tests, finalizing college lists, completing admission essays, obtaining letters of recommendation, maintaining hectic schedules….this can be an intense and stressful time for the students and their parents!! Here are several ways to decrease the tension and streamline this process, all the while encouraging the best potential outcome for your college-bound kid.

Start early!  High schools begin tracking students based on their plans for college starting in freshman year.  Which courses they take as well as the level of difficulty of their courses will help to determine their GPA potential and which colleges they may be a good fit for. Balance this emphasis by helping your child formulate a plan for their future while also maintaining realistic expectation for what they can actually handle.   Overemphasis on achievement can lead to burn out and a massive amount of pressure/stress (for everyone!)  Teaching your children how to manage their responsibilities is an important lesson they will take with them throughout their lives.   Emphasize learning for personal growth and opportunities rather than competition, grades, or external accomplishments.

As a parent, you can lead by example.  By reigning in and managing your own worries about the admissions process and statistics about where they may or may not be accepted, and show you can demonstrate calm under pressure.  Your kid will go to college. Maintain perspective about the myriad of schools available to your child and the reality that there will be a good fit for them among the acceptances they receive. Managing achievement pressure will help them focus on what’s best for them—rather than feeling the constant competition with their friends and classmates.   Remember that you cannot protect them from all of the possible disappointments in this process, and that your own anxiety may amplify their stress. What you can do is give them as many resources (college counselors, site visits, research) as possible to increase their chances of landing with the best school that is also the best fit for them.

Put each piece into perspective.  It’s massively important that your child receive a balanced education that is focused on both academics and life lessons, and more than likely, no singular element will determine what schools your child will get into.  As much as they have to put their best effort into all aspects of their academic portfolio, if the stress of academics is overwhelming, remind your child one test or score does not determine the rest of their life. Having a balanced portfolio (consisting of their course load, grades, sports, volunteer work, club associations, test scores, etc.) will help them to end up with a “best fit” school for them.  Often times “rejections” from schools are a protection against colleges that are not a good fit, and in the end, everything works out the way it is supposed to, even when it’s harder to see in the moment.

For more resources in managing the college application process, visit The College Blueprint.

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