Starting today Tuesday, September 10, Carol will be leading a series of 3 free webinars to teach students how to write powerful and authentic college admissions essays.
It’s hard to keep your cool when your child is not on top of their college applications! Depending on where you live, they are back to school—or just about to go back to school—and they haven’t finished the work you thought they should finish over the summer. Now what?
I’ve been through this process three times with my own children—who landed at Princeton, Yale and Oxford—and dozens of families each year. Nearly every parent I know wrestles with this challenge at some point in the college process (because kids are kids and put off lots of big important things)!
You may be tempted to do the work for your child, telling yourself things like, “I’m just getting it more organized, so he can finish it on time!” or, “She never proofreads. I just want to make sure there are no mistakes.” Don’t do this. Of course, you can—but you absolutely should not. Not even a little.
By doing the work for your child, you lose the opportunity at the heart of college admissions: learning to work side-by-side with them, getting to serve as their mentor and coach, while they take the lead on a big, important, multi-faceted project.
How can you empower your children to take the lead on the college application process rather than doing the work for them? Here are 5 secrets that have helped me, and other parents, survive the college admission trenches with great success:
1. Ask questions. When you start with demands (or judgments veiled as questions) like “You need to…” or “Did you finish…” your child will shut down. They hear nagging and stop paying attention. Try open-ended conversation starters, like, “How are things going with your college applications?” Ask 5 questions about his or her life (not about college apps!) for every question you ask about applications.
2. Listen. Once you’ve asked those open-ended questions, let your child speak as long as they need. No interrupting, no suggesting, no “what you need to do is…” Just listening is an extraordinary gift. Your child will figure out what they need to do themselves.
3. Take care of yourself. Between taking care of your child, work, and other family responsibilities, make time to attend to your own feelings and needs throughout the college process. Your stress is real. So do something every day for yourself. This could be as simple as a short walk or a few minutes of journaling. Whatever works for you, create a daily ritual, and do it.
4. Get comfortable with imperfection. There are going to be typos, missed meetings, and applications that go out the door that are not your child’s best work. That is part of the process, and it is fine! When I worked in admissions at Rutgers, we could sniff out applications that had been manicured by parents or advisers from across the room. And we were inclined to reject those students. Colleges want young people who do their own work. Let them.
5. Be an optimist and a realist at once. You want to be your child’s biggest fan and No. 1 advocate, while also making sure that the fundamentals (let’s be honest: money) are taken care of. So encourage them to find schools that are a good fit. A couple of reach schools are fine, but at least half the schools on their list should be places where they will get in, get money, and receive the academic support services they need to succeed. Since you are financially tied to the outcome, this is one place you can insist. Do you have specific questions about how you can support your children’s admission process? Email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer them on Facebook and in the next column. Happy Autumn and Happy Apps! Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO of Story To College and author of Write Out Loud, has taught over 8000 students–from first-generation college students, to the children of bankers and CEOs–and teachers from around the world how to tell their stories and succeed in college admissions and financial aid.
Do you have specific questions about how you can support your children’s admission process? Email them to me at email@example.com and I will answer them on Facebook and in the next column. Happy Autumn and Happy Apps!
Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO of Story To College and author of Write Out Loud, has taught over 8000 students–from first-generation college students, to the children of bankers and CEOs–and teachers from around the world how to tell their stories and succeed in college admissions and financial aid.