Hello fellow parents, and welcome!
The question I get asked most about college admissions this time of year: What should I be doing right now?! I’ve got answers for you!
ALL PARENTS should be enjoying the holidays!
Do not underestimate this seemingly obvious bit of advice. Next year at this time might feel a little more dicey (if you’re a parent of a high school junior), or your kid may be living somewhere else for most of the year (if you’re a parent of a senior).
Embrace the now! Treat yourself (and everyone around you if they’re willing) to an old-timey dance party (see below), or if dancing with their parents is too corny/embarrassing/horrifying for your kid, offer and indulge in a sweet treat. (If you’re done with slaving away in the kitchen, store bought treats are perfectly acceptable!)
Beyond the festivities, reframe the question to “What COULD I be doing right now?”
PARENTS OF JUNIORS could be gearing up for some college shopping fun! Choose to make it fun and bypass the stressful grind of scheduling trips to 100 million colleges, forcing your kid to visit colleges that interest you not them, or prioritizing the college search all the time over whatever your child might want to be doing instead.
Sit your kid down for a tete-a-tete, ask the following questions, and listen (really listen) to their answers:
- Start with an invitation to engage: How are you feeling about looking at colleges?
- Continue by empowering your child to take charge: What can I do to help?
- If all is going well, and your child is receptive: Would you like me to schedule some college visits for you? (If so, do you have any ideas about where? If not, what’s your plan for this?)
- If your child freaks out upon the mention of “college,” ask Want to go out for ice cream? or whatever is 100% off the topic of college and a treat for you both. Reinforce that over the next year every single conversation and activity you’re going to have together will not focus on college, and watch their teeth unclench.
PARENTS OF SENIORS could be mitigating the emotional minefield that is a teenager either rushing to complete applications, dealing with the “disaster” of denial or deferral from their top choice school, or so relieved to be admitted that you worry your kid will skip studying for the second half of senior year.
- If your child was admitted to college early join the celebration! Then prepare to help them stay academically motivated. Also, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but a reminder to moderate displays of your own glee around your friends, whose kids may not have received such great news or may not have applied anywhere yet.
- If your child was denied from their first–choice college early decision, they may feel and act like the world just ended. Believe it or not, they will still follow your lead, so even if you feel their devastation deep in your soul, force yourself to move on. If you make it about your kid and not you, you’ll know just what to do and say, along the lines of, “I know how disappointed you are, but there are tons of other colleges out there, so let’s get excited about some of those!”
- If your child was deferred from their first-choice college early, first take care of business. Your child should let the college know they’re still interested in being considered for spring admission (see College Admissions Cracked for the exact information to include in a letter of continued interest). Then quickly encourage their excitement for other colleges, so they’ll sound genuinely enthusiastic on the other supplemental essays they only have days left to write.
- If your child hasn’t applied to college yet, other experts (especially those who have never been a parent) will calmly tell you to stay out of your child’s firestorm altogether while the entire household is burning with tension. Not me. Help in whatever way they ask during their mad rush if it helps tamp down your anxiety. But always keep in mind that if your kid waited until the last minute, this is on them, not you. Yes, tensions will burn high throughout your household, but do everything you need to do to enjoy what’s left of the holidays anyway. You deserve it!
PARENTS OF COLLEGE STUDENTS, I know some of you have been receiving this newsletter for a while, and college admissions is over for you (or the next child is on deck). If your child is home on break from college, here’s what I hope you’ll do.
- Look at your grown-up kid and congratulate yourself on your part in creating this young adult you raised.
- Let yourself fully feel your pride. (Cry if you want/need to.)
- Remember that your child has gotten used to living somewhere else, without your protection or your curfews. Consider if you want to adapt and change the rules of your household or not. It’s your call. Then make sure any updated house rules are clear to your child while they are living there. (FYI, my latest rule for my grown kids is that “hugs are currency” and while they’re sleeping in my house rent-free, I can collect those hugs at any time I please. Feel free to try it!)
- Schedule one-on-one time with your child before they return to college. It can be as simple as a walk or afternoon coffee, just the two of you, or a day trip to see the best holiday lights (remember when you drew the most info out of them on car rides when they were younger? Still works!)
You don’t have to do any of the above, of course, but you could, and I highly recommend it.
I have this mantra hanging above my desk. I hope it helps you too:
Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And just in case my mantra is not strong enough to meet your needs at this moment, go ahead and indulge in an old-timeydance break
to this (clue: “You’re a shining star no matter who you are!”)
or this (clue: “Hold your head up—movin’ on!”).