Applying for college is stressful for parents and kids. Here's to making it a little bit smoother through understanding one another better.
Communication breakdowns (followed by foot stomping, door slamming and not-so-PG-under-the-breath mutterings) between parents and their teenage students are about as prevalent as PB&J sandwiches in middle school cafeterias.
But unlike PB&J, they are neither convenient nor tasty…nor do they pair well with a cold glass of milk.
And if you thought there was a lot of foot stomping in your parent/child relationship BEFORE the college application process began, well…better buy the bulk pack of Ibuprofen (and the giant tub of peanut butter) next time you’re at Costco. Cuz, folks, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
If you’re a parent, there will be times during the college application process when you’ll have no idea what your student is thinking. [There will also be many moments when you’ll have no idea what you’re doing. But that’s a whole different story….] You’ll go back and forth between “How can I help?” and “Do they want my help?” and “With an attitude like that, there’s no way in HELL I’m helping!”
And if you’re a student, you’ll probably find yourself aggravated or frustrated (or, more likely, BOTH) that your parents just don’t understand what you’re going through, that they keep pressuring you, that they just don’t get it, and that you just want them to let you BREATHE FOR A MINUTE.
Have no fear – we’re here to help! Think of us as the Merriam Webster to your parent/child relationship. No, we have no idea how to convince your kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room… and we don’t understand why your parents want you to clean before the cleaning lady shows up either…but we CAN help you better communicate (kids) and understand (parents) what this whole college application process is all about. Because if we know one thing from years spent helping families navigate this process, it’s that everything is better when a family is working as a team.
So here we go: what your student is REALLY thinking about the “hell on wheels” known as the college application process…
1) I am totally overwhelmed.
“I have to write my personal statement while channelling the spirit of James Joyce/Emily Dickinson/E.B. White AND have a weighted average of 103 in all my classes AND run for President of the French Language Honor Society AND build shadow puppets for art class AND clean my room AND…:
2) I am exhausted.
3) I am scared.
All this talk about my future is REALLY freaking me out. I’m seventeen! I have no idea what I want in life, and I have to figure it out/pretend I’ve figured it out so that I can pick a major?! I don’t even know what some of these majors MEAN (what on earth is APPLIED mathematics? Don’t you ALWAYS apply mathematics?!) If I don’t know what I want to do now, does that mean I’m gonna be a failure and just end up living back at home for the rest of my life? I love my parents (sometimes), but I can’t spend the rest of my life helping my mom figure out how to work her iPad.
4) I am under a lot of pressure.
No one in my grade is even talking about normal stuff anymore. I mean, did the entire WORLD miss the Mila Kunis baby news?! Everyone is talking about their apps, grades, test scores… School has suddenly become crazy competitive. You know my best friends? Even THEY are competition now. If they get into to Stanford, I don’t get in to Stanford. If they get into Princeton, I don’t get in to Princeton. I have this unmistakeable urge to crush them and get into more schools than they do. That’s an awful thing to think! Why?! Why do I have these thoughts?!
5) I want your help.
6) I DON’T WANT YOUR [expletive deleted] HELP! STOP TRYING TO CONTROL ME!
I’m an adult! Leave me alone! It doesn’t help me when you push me and ask me questions and bother me ALL the time. Can I get a break, please? Do you think I have no idea that my apps are due in a few months? Do you REALLY think I need a reminder to APPLY TO COLLEGE? I know! Give me some room! I’ve been relatively successful at being alive thus far. And in just a few months, I’m LEAVING. That means I’m going to have to do things on my own, without relying on you as much. And I don’t want to admit it but it’s scary and confusing and I need to know that I am capable of doing things on my own, or else this transition is going to totally suck.
7) I need to have a life outside of college apps.
If I work on my apps 24/7 and don’t see my friends or rest or sleep or have time to relax, I’m going to hate you. I’m going to hate myself. I’m going to hate this process. I’m going to hate college. I’m going to generally be a hateful person.
8) I need you to be open minded, honest, and a good listener.
Brace yourself, parents, when I tell you the first idea I have for my college essay is about how Miley Cyrus is the voice of my generation, or the attentional benefits of playing Call of Duty for 3 hours a day, or an imagined conversation with my conscience about having cheated on a history test in middle school. Brace yourself, parents, for a first draft riddled with there/their/they’re misspellings and commas littered about the page like dandruff. But give me time. Listen to my ideas. Don’t try to force yours on me. Give me suggestions, but gently. (I’m more likely to listen to you that way.) And unless you actually ARE an expert on college apps, like professionally, realize that you’re just as clueless as I am. And maybe, if you’re going to ignore me on this listening stuff, learn a thing or two before you start spewing your advice.
9) I am fine!
Or I will be…once my acceptance letters arrive.
So here’s to a more harmonious college application process collaboration!
Students, you can thank us later. But first, get a peek into what your parents are going through in The 13 Stages of the College Application Process (For Parents). It’s not all confetti and rainbows for THEM, you know, and it might help you to understand a bit of what your parents are going through, as well.