Apply for College – A Parent’s Role

College studentWhen my oldest son was a senior in high school he wanted to “go away” to college and experience the bigger college scene. We live in California and had many wonderful colleges to choose from (as well as affordable in-state tuition) but that was not his desire. None of us were sure if he really had the grades and test scores to get in some places, but we had to let him try. This “process” of applying took about 6 months and here are a few of the lessons I learned that I hope can help you.

  • Keep your mouth shut! It is better to just pay the fee and let him apply (within reason of course), then to tell them they can’t get in. Let the school do that.
  • Do review the entrance requirements (grades, test scores, etc.) with your soon to be graduating child and get clear about due dates. I created an Excel worksheet of his final choices. Some schools did drop off, by his choice, when he realized he was probably out of the running. The biggest help was having the dates as a reminder.
  • I “gently” reminded him about due dates and discussed with him that this was more his responsibility. Much was done up to the wire of the due dates, but he made it. This was probably the most stressful part for me…how much do I really push? Does he really have the organization skills at 18 to stay on top of this? I decided to act somewhere in the middle.
  • The essay writing exercise brought us a lot closer together. His Dad and I did take him to lunch one day to brainstorm ideas he could write about. His first draft topic was not the best choice, as it didn’t give him enough room to show his character. It actually positioned him in a negative sense. I had to choose my words very carefully so as not to hurt his feelings, and let him still own it, but after a few talks and brainstorming on another topic, he wholeheartedly agreed. I almost cried when in frustration he said, “Mom, they want me to write about character traits and I don’t really know what they are.” It struck me that this is really hard for most adults to know about themselves, let alone a high school kid. This is definitely something they could have been writing about, over and over again, in their high school English classes and apparently do not. So…we went onto the internet and explored sites that list character traits. As we discussed them, he was able to form an outline of ones he felt applied to him. Then he turned them into an essay outline. Suffice it to say, we went through several revisions of the essay drafts…I had to be careful not to cross the line of writer and let him “own” the essay. In the end, he learned about himself and we are closer as a result. What a relief for all when the last application was submitted.
  • Then the wait. All email for the college went to him. All mail has his name on it and you’d better NOT open it or suffer the wrath. This is the time you pray you are communicating well together. We fared fine but he still liked to tease us.
  • Colleges wait to tell you until the very last moment. My husband and I had many private talks about the wait and the possible outcome. We maintained a positive and somewhat low-key discussion with our son so that he wouldn’t get overly anxious. I was happy to see he was handling well. He was a bit anxious but he didn’t let it consume him. Then the answers came in…a lot of no’s but several said yes. He really wanted USC, I think more because many in the family went there, but it was not meant to be. The applicant pool that year was huge. He handled the no’s well. It came down to University of San Francisco and the University of Washington. He chose UofW and we were all ecstatic. We have much family in the state of Washington, including my parents (my son’s grandparents). He would be looked after well. Thank you Lord!
  • Then came the immediate flurry of signing up, paying the money and of course, getting a school sweatshirt which I think my son never took off! It was kind of cute to see all of his friends with their respective shirts.
  • My husband had delved into the process for paying for school. Even though money was coming from us, all access to the school was through my son now. They worked together to get my son’s account properly set up.

Kids grow up fast. They learn to deal with real disappointment but also experience the fruits of their efforts. As a parent, I continue to learn to let go and trust that things will work out. No one can ever tell you how to deal with the issue of your child leaving! I was excited for him and but crying on the inside. I tried to be tough on the outside. My mind  knew it was a new stage for both of us but it didn’t make it any easier!!

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