Navigating College Prep on Social Media: The Pitfalls of Comparing Your Child’s Journey

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Navigating College Prep on Social Media: The Pitfalls of Comparing Your Child’s Journey

Published December 20, 2023

A frowny face, straight face, and smiley face with a woman standing under the straight face and looking up with an unhappy look

Of all the differences between my college application journey and my son’s, the presence of social media has to be the most significant. 

On the one hand, it can be helpful to read about other families’ experiences and glean advice to help you and your student avoid some of the mistakes. On the other hand, it can pull you into a pit of stress and anxiety, making you question your student’s every move as it compares to others, jumpstarting your natural tendency to worry about your kids to the point that you’re lying awake at night wondering, “Will we get in?”

I have found that the most active parents on Facebook and other forms of social media are those with high-achieving kids or those who desperately want their child to be considered a high-achieving kid. 

The parents of truly average high school students tend not to be as vocal, but when they speak up, it’s like an avalanche of commentary. Parents from all corners of the world pipe in with thoughts, and often just to say, ‘Thank you, it’s nice to hear from parents of truly normal, aka average kids!” It’s like a breath of fresh air to hear a student is taking their first AP class their senior year — or none at all — because some days it feels like everybody is on some kind of fast-paced college hamster wheel and I’m just trying to remember whether my kid’s doctor appointment is at 2 or 3.

So here’s my first piece of advice as it relates to Facebook groups for parents of college-bound kids: 

Look for Facebook groups that have rules that apply to you, and leave them if they’re not enforced 

I joined a group for parents of so-called average students last year thinking I had found my people and all I found was disappointment. Every day parents of students with sky-high GPAs and test scores would lament about how their students’ grades are still too low for the types of schools they have their hearts set on. To my surprise, GPAs in the 4.0-5.0 range and SAT scores above 1200 were most often cited, and stories of students who started nonprofits in the tenth grade popped up. 

Imagine trying to maintain that when you’re also enrolled in at least a few honors or college-level courses, participating in multiple sports or clubs, taking on a leadership role in at least one of them, volunteering, and possibly holding down a part-time job on the side. Honestly, I don’t know that the average American adult could keep up with all of that, let alone a high school student! 

For the record:

The average American high school student’s GPA is about 3.0 and the average SAT score is 1050. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

This is what is considered average by definition. Some of us place such high expectations on our children and ourselves that we no longer feel proud of our kids if they fall into that group. Oh, you’re “average-average,” not just “average.” 

I am not one of those parents, and I invite you to step out of those stifling social media circles and join me in a world I like to call reality. 

Like so many kids, my son did not easily take to learning online during COVID, and since it was his freshman year of high school, it didn’t exactly set him up for success. Still, he managed to stay above a 3.0 in his sophomore and junior years but struggled with test scores, just like I did when I was his age. Tutoring helped, and eventually, his score increased, but it never reached high enough to warrant automatic scholarships, nor was it high enough to meet the “average” ranges of some schools. He joined a couple of clubs and organizations because he felt he had to but he never became deeply involved with any of them. He’s had a few part-time jobs here and there, but nothing that ate up most of his time. 

The problem is that we have created an environment where “keeping up” is not enough for some schools and parents, and we’ve forgotten that it’s more than enough for many others.

My son is a terrific, responsible young man with a bright future ahead of him. His grades and scores don’t speak to that necessarily, and how can they? We’re not graded for being kind to others. We’re not graded for keeping up with our chores. We’re not graded for being great sons or friends, or even for being responsible with the money we earn. None of this shows up on our transcripts. Instead, we’re graded on how well we understand quadratic equations (algebra) and whether we understand electromagnetic radiation (chemistry), which won’t likely have any bearing on your life in the future unless you’re planning to become a bonafide scientist.

Look for social media groups that celebrate meeting expectations not exceeding them.

If your student, like mine, falls in the so-called “average” category, here’s the good news. There are so many schools out there for them — and they’re wonderful! I know because one of the Facebook Groups I joined early on was Paying for College 101, run by Road 2 College, and it was there a parent shared that there are search sites that allow you to look for schools based on your child’s test scores and GPA, so you can hone in on the schools that will “love you back,” as they say, from the start. 

I would have never known that without that Facebook Group. I also learned that many schools have what’s called rolling admissions, which means they are constantly evaluating applications and accepting or denying applicants, rather than doing it in one or two fell swoops. A mom in the Paying for College 101 Facebook Group mentioned this last summer and it prompted us to visit two schools with rolling admissions whose stats aligned with ours. By the end of September of his senior year, my son had already received two acceptance letters, which immediately took some of the pressure off.

Here’s another tip I picked up from a parent in a Facebook Group: 

Join the parent groups for schools your child is accepted to. 

Even if they choose to ultimately not attend, it will help you keep up with deadlines and the ins and outs of that particular school, as many of the parents there have children who are already college sophomores, which means you benefit from their experiences. 

I joined the parents group for the University of Alabama the moment my son was accepted and have already saved countless posts that I know will come in handy once he’s officially enrolled, not to mention those about housing deposits that came in handy now. From transportation services to and from the nearest airport to which dorms have the best and worst reputations, these groups are a wealth of knowledge and support.

I am not an educator or a psychologist, but every fiber of my being says we need to stop trying to squeeze into a one-size-fits-all plan when there’s a wide variety of “sizes” to try. This includes leaving social media groups that make you feel anything but supported, encouraged, and motivated.

To start, join me at Road 2 College and Paying for College 101, two groups that are moderated 24/7 to ensure that all opinions are heard and all paths to college are celebrated.


Use R2C 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.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Mom Says Daughter’s Average SAT Score Wasn’t Measure of Future Success

I Watched My Average Student Get into College, Against All Odds

Yes, Average Students Do Succeed in College




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