Hello fellow parents, and welcome!
I know you hold your (grown) babies tightly in your heart as you ship them off to the recently re-opened high school for those daily hours when you cannot protect them. Our kids are capable of so much more than we can imagine, but they still need us to provide a safe harbor at home from stuff like pressure to get straight As and have perfect hair (even when it’s raining) and wear the right jeans (so confusing nowadays–straight leg? bootcut?) and be voted Co-Chair of whatever club, and feel worthy when chatter in AP Bio class devolves into college talk.
Speaking of college talk, as the school year kicks into gear, names of celebrity colleges work like bombs dropped on bewildered juniors and seniors in high school hallways and upon parents just trying to relax with a friend outdoors, at a safe distance, over a latte. I know you know intellectually that cutthroat competition to get into the same 50 colleges (out of thousands of possibilities) does not lead to what we really want for our kids (happiness, health, love, strong values, a fulfilling life in which doing their own laundry plays a part…). But with all the college talk and what I call “prestige dysmorphia” swirling around you, it’s natural to lose track of what’s real and what’s hype and to feel stressed out. Then there goes that tension-free zone we’d hoped to establish for our kids.
A quick mental trick: Try to redirect any stress you’re feeling into the closely related feeling of excitement for your child’s bright future. There’s much data behind The Science of Being Better When You’re Nervous, and this Learner Lab podcast might entertain and inspire you and your child during that drive toward an ACT test session, college visit, playoff game, or what have you.
On another random topic (sometimes cooking helps me point my addled brain in a saner direction), are you wondering what to do with all those tomatoes besides boiling them down to a thimbleful of sauce? This recipe for easy freezer salsa popped up on my search engine, I tried it, and I declare it a winner.
practical back-to-school stuff…
Thank you to Ariana Huffington, Jeff Seligo, Gayle Forman, and BookAuthority who named College Admissions Cracked one of the 13 best college ebooks, 50 best print books, and 7 best audiobooks of all time! (Fun fact: I had to audition to narrate my own book.) If month-by-month guidance through the entire college admissions process would bring you peace, pick up a copy of your own or gift it to a friend in need, and don’t forget the freebies for all on my website.
Parents of high school freshmen and sophomores, authenticity plays better on college applications than contorting to give colleges what you have heard they want. Encourage your child to explore, challenge themselves academically, and deeply engage in classes and activities that bring them joy. Students driven by sincere curiosity about their studies (meaning skip registering for that AP Calculus BC class if math drives them bonkers) and genuine interests (meaning forget about “founding” a chipmunk chasing club to look good on college applications) fare better in college admission, as well as in the mental health arena, than those who participate in what they think they should. Truth.
Parents of juniors, register for the PSAT in October, but then encourage your child to prioritize doing well in classes over doing well on standardized testing. Colleges have always prioritized grades and rigor over test scores, even before the test optional movement gained traction, which it has. Hazzah!
Parents of seniors, it can be a tough balance to help your child with time management while encouraging them to take ownership of their college applications. Schedule a sit-down to share needs (your needs are legit, too) and devise a plan moving forward before a war of wills breaks out in your household. (The odds of winning such a war against a stubborn teenager are not in your favor.) You’ll find an agenda for that family meeting and a whole lot more on this topic in College Admissions Cracked.
For everyone, our country’s youth are suffering from a mental health crisis paralleling the pandemic. Just being there with your unconditional love, as a sounding board and resource for your child, is more important than most of us realize. But beyond listening, and consciously redirecting stress into excitement, here’s a friendly reminder to watch closely for signs that your child may need mental health support beyond your capabilities and help them find it. Also, please be mindful of your own mental health. This pandemic has taken a toll on all of us because COVID-19 really is a matter of life or death—the college admissions process is not.