CONGRATULATIONS!!! You are the proud parent of a high school student. You and your child have made it through all the challenges those middle school years bring and your child is finally in the home-stretch of their secondary education. But with this big shift, comes big changes. Namely, the world of college prep.
I know you are thinking, “Wait, it was just yesterday that they were born and I was holding them in my arms, rocking and cuddling them. How has time flown by so quickly?” Now they are in this ever-changing, overwhelming part of their lives where getting into college takes over. Over the next few years, you will see your child transform before your eyes. High school students are on a journey of their own, they are growing up and finding out more about their dreams and goals for the future. They learn to drive, go on their first date, start and making decisions that will direct their future paths. And with each passing year, they become a little more independent.
This is part of the growing up process. But never fear, just because your kid doesn’t need you to make their sandwiches anymore doesn’t mean you can’t still be a super parent! They are going to need your guidance for one of the biggest decisions of their lives: college.
It is during this wonderful time as a parent that you get to make some of the greatest memories, ones which you and your child will cherish forever. I know what you are thinking, “How am I supposed to do that? College is around the corner, the admission process is competitive, it’s expensive and I want my child to have the best opportunities possible. What can I do to help them, make sure they are getting the best advice and guidance possible?”
The biggest thing to remember is that you are the passenger on this journey. I understand how difficult that is for us as parents— after-all we have been in the driver’s seat for years. Having gone through this process, myself with three different children, I get that. But it’s important to understand that letting them make their own decisions is part of their transition into adulthood. We have to remember that our child will be living, eating, studying and attending events on the campus they attend, not us —that is why it is important that they are in the driver’s seat. We need to give them the freedom to veer off what we perceive as the “charted course” and explore their options.
As you read this, it may be difficult to let go of being the one in control. Just remember, as the passenger you get to be the guide, the one who helps them through traffic jams, reads the directions, navigates the rocky terrain, and the one they turn to when the rubber meets the road.
Create A Digital Portfolio:
Admissions counselors want to see that a student has been pursuing their passions since before applying to college. A great way for your child to showcase their pursuits is with a digital portfolio. Work on creating one together! This is a great opportunity for you to help your students archive all the things they are going to do by taking pictures, videos, saving those awards and special projects that you love some much. Help them compile the info into an attractive package that will catch the admissions counselors eye. Having all this in one place will save you and your teen from the headache of searching and trying to remember it all when it comes time to apply. Create a digital portfolio where it is all stored and when they are ready it is at their fingertips and you will enjoy going through the memories together.
Find colleges that are close by and take a campus tour. Or if you are taking a family vacation, throw in a college visit. If your child loves sports or the arts, attend a college event, so they can get a sense of what the programs will be like. This allows your child to begin thinking about the college experience and determine what qualities they want in a university setting. Try visiting a variety of schools and programs — big and small, public and private, so when the time comes they have a base point to go off of. Just remember, these initial visits do not have to be your child’s dream college. Keep it simple and easy for the two of you to enjoy the experience.
Help Them Find Balance:
Teens today have so much pressure to take every AP or Dual credit class available all while being a leader in 20 different organizations. Oh and did I mention that they might start a non-profit, business, research project or internship while they are at it? All of these things are important and help a student build their college application but it can also cause burn-out if they don’t know how to balance it all. Fortunately for them, YOU are your teens biggest advocate and supporter. If you see them putting so much pressure on themselves it unhealthy or being stressed out all the time, intervene. It’s ok to give them permission to take a break or not be the best at everything. You can even suggest doing something fun and non-academic related together, as a way to blow off steam.