PART 2: Five Ways to Stay Grounded During the College Process
Last month I shared about the first way to stay grounded in the college process is to invite calm. If you missed it, here is the link to the blog post.
The second way to help you stay grounded in the college process is to minimize the pressure.
Whether you know it or not, there are a lot of unspoken pressures in the college process for your student. One piece of advice, let’s not add to it. Pressures are coming at your kids from EVERYONE— teachers, coaches, friends, friends’ parents, and yes, even parents. I know most parents do not intend to create more stress for their children but it just happens.
Questions I’ve been asked from students are proof that they are feeling the pressure….
“Do I have enough activities on my resume?”
“Are my scores good enough for XYZ college?”
“My scores aren’t good enough for that college.”
“What kind of career do you think I would be good at?”
Can you hear the pressure?
Students are worried about so many unknowns. In a world full of unknowns right now, let’s just accept that there aren’t always going to be answers. And you know what? It’s going to be ok! Your children will be ok. YOU, the parent, will be ok. I promise. We can’t expect 17 year olds to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. But we can help them explore the options. Instead of saying “Christopher is just like me. He isn’t good at math.” try encouraging them to explore the things they ARE good at. (And I might add, what message does this send your child but telling him/her that they aren't good at something? It’s likely they already know this so they probably don’t need to be reminded of it.) Self-discovery is supposed to be just that— discovering strengths and growing edges for one’s self.
Finding a student's interests can be fun! I recommend job shadowing or interviewing professionals in different fields to help them discover and possibly narrow down their interests. You may just be surprised by what they learn! This is just one recommendation of how to have fun in this college process and (hopefully) minimize some of the pressure of “not knowing.”
And the “not knowing” goes for the parents too. When you’re attending a holiday party or family gathering and are asked “Where is Simone thinking about going to college? Does she know what she wants to do?” this is your time to get comfortable with the unknown and respond with “She’s exploring her options. Let’s face it, she’s only 17 years old and has time to discover her passions.”
We’ll explore this topic more down the road. Let's get back to minimizing the pressure.
Here is one suggestion I offer to parents. Make a commitment. Sounds pretty easy, right? It will take a little discipline and some self awareness but I know you can do it!
Make a commitment that you will meet your child where they’re at and enjoy the journey of exploring the possible answers. Notice I didn’t say “finding the answers.”
Repeat after me:
I will not add to the pressures my student is facing.
I will commit to listening more to my student.
I will not compare my student to others. My student’s process is unique to them.
I will trust my parenting.
When a student is in a panic about application deadlines, college essays (and maybe you’ve just experienced this recently with November 1st deadlines) and they have a chemistry test tomorrow, what can you do?
First, I want to encourage you to respond and not react. Since COVID, I feel like it’s easy for many of us to react to something right now. Respond with concern. Respond with a question to learn more. Refrain from reacting, even if your student is reactive. Give them space to just be for a moment. Take 3 breaths!
As I mentioned in my last blog post, this is a great opportunity for parents to model calm for their children. When students (or anyone really) are in the panic zone, learning doesn’t happen. Our brains simply do not take in information the same when we are panicked. While this sounds like common sense, we get caught in the craziness of life but we can always return to calm. Students simply don’t have the experience or know how to regulate themselves. (As adults, we barely have these skills ourselves! Especially during a pandemic.) This is our chance to help model and guide and offer perspective.
I heard someone speaking to high school students just last week and they offered great advice.
Control your controllables.
He went on to explain “control what you can control and the rest, let it go.” The college application process is topsy-turvy. So much of it is in the hands of others. We can only control so much. So, do your best to be patient with your student’s process. Offer support and grace. Minimize the pressure.
Coming next month, Experience Joy.