This story was first published in our Paying for College 101 Facebook community. It’s been edited for clarity and flow. The name of the member has been omitted to protect their privacy.
Calming After the Admissions Frenzy
As the parent of a senior, the frenzy of the admissions process is finally calming down for me. It’s time to reflect on the last months and years, during which the college application process played such a large role. The Paying For College 101 Facebook group has been invaluable to me; I found so many incredibly helpful tips and people here. I thought I’d write a bit about one aspect of our process that perhaps isn’t mentioned so often.
The Emotional Letter: A Shared Achievement
My son’s school requires them to write a letter to their parents for the midyear senior report card. In his, he wrote about the college application process and how he felt we did a great job at it, together. Although it was quite a lot and at times very stressful, I also agree that it was, (gulp) a meaningful and bonding experience. It seems to me that this in itself is a big win, as the whole process really has the potential to create tension between kids and parents.
Planning the Process: Key Steps to Success
Looking back, I feel there were three things that helped make it a good experience:
- Starting Early & Self Discovery: We gave ourselves a lot of time, starting with the college application process in the middle of sophomore year. But we didn’t start with colleges or planning applications. We spent months on what I call ‘the period of self-discovery’, discussing my son’s interests, aspirations, and scenarios like gap years, alternatives to college, trade schools, internships, and traveling.
- Exploring & Researching: We visited schools to determine various parameters and encouraged my son to ask any and every grown up about their after high school experiences and advice. We discussed the college budget and what it meant for his search. This research phase, without the pressure of actually having to apply anywhere, allowed him to settle on his priorities, guiding the search for a path ahead.
- Approaching the Application Phase: We discussed how he wanted to approach the actual application phase and how we wanted to work together. I don’t agree with the opinion that college application is solely the student’s responsibility, so we decided to treat it like an Odyssey of the Mind (OM) season. I was the coach – he was the athlete.
The Final Act: A Celebratory Finish
And, in the end, we hugged and high fived when the decisions were cast. I’m happy that this part of my parenting journey is coming to an end with a shared sense of “we did good together!” (Although, here’s a secret: a part of me really doesn’t feel happy about sending the kiddo out into the world…).
Lessons learned…In my eyes, giving ourselves a lot of time and talking a lot, at first focusing solely on my son’s dreams, wishes and requirements (which include budget) allowed him to feel invested in the process and brought us closer, and being very clear about who does what created less friction.
Use College Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.
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