Surviving the College Application Crunch

Helping Your Teens Deal with the Pressure of Applying to Schools

It's that time of year! No, not the holiday season. It's the time when college-bound seniors must start narrowing down their college choices as the first deadlines for early action and early decision quickly approach. Now is the time to request transcripts and teacher references, complete applications and work on essays. 

In addition to application-related tasks, there is still of course studying and homework to be done. After all, just because the application crunch has begun doesn’t mean the world around your teen stops -- even though he may wish it would.

Is your teen irritable or anxious especially when you bring up the topic of applications? Is her stress beginning to stress you out? Perhaps your teen seems immobilized or even unconcerned about his applications. Is his lack of stress stressing you out?

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Regardless of the reaction, the reality is that this time of year can feel like a real pressure cooker for both you and your teen. As a parent, it is difficult to feel powerless in this process. This is a good opportunity for you to get used to the way will things will be in the future, especially if your teen is planning on going away to school.

Of course, there are always things you can do to relieve your own stress, help your teen relieve her stress, and decrease the tension between you and your teen regarding this issue. Here are helpful hints on how to manage the college application season.

1. Organization is the key to less stress. Encourage your teen to remain as organized as possible when going through the application process. Suggest that he create a system to keep track of the progress of each application.  You can certainly offer ideas on how he can do this however, refrain from doing it for him. 

2. There are other things to talk about with your teen. Applications are ,of course, an important topic to discuss with your college bound teen, but keep in mind it is not the only topic. Because you are not in control of the process, it is certainly tempting to ask for constant updates. Your teen does need your support and guidance through this process, but he also appreciates your interest in other things in which he is involved. 

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3. Don’t let your own stress get the best of you. If you are especially in tune with your teen, you may notice that her stress feels catchy. You may do both yourself and your teen a disservice if you let the lingering stress take you over. You can help both you and your teen by remaining calm and caring. Remember, you are your teen’s most important role model.

4. Disinterest requires a discussion. If your teen seems to shy away from college application related tasks, it may be time to talk. There could be a host of reasons why he seems disinterested. It is important to remember that not all folks follow the same path to college. If your teen is not quite ready to take on a full load there are many other options. Talking with him about this may reduce his stress and yours.

5. You are not the one applying. You may of course have some good ideas about which school would be a good choice for your teen. You should talk with her about this however, do not get upset or discouraged if she has a different view. After all this her future, not yours. If by some chance she doesn’t make the best choice the first time, she can always transfer.

The application process will soon be in full swing. In terms of stress, less is more. That is, the less stress you and your teen experience, the more your teen will get done. In your role as a supportive parent you offer your teen the best opportunity to calmly and carefully negotiate this sometimes tedious process.

What tips do you have to offer to other parents on making the college application season go smoothly?

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