Advice for Parents

Parents: The Less You Ask, The More You’ll Know

It’s counter-intuitive, but parents who take a step back from their child’s college admissions process may actually hear more.  It can be very hard advice to follow; we get it, but stick with us on this.

When I’ve asked groups of juniors and seniors what their parents can do to help them with the college process, their response is almost always… stop asking me about the college process.  A student once told me, “I just want to have one dinner with my family where college isn’t brought up.”

I think the difficult part is that it’s a vicious cycle going on: teens don’t talk, so parents assume that their teen isn’t thinking about it, so you ask and they shut down even more.

Trust me when I say that it’s on almost all of their minds.  Of course there are exceptions, and maybe your son or daughter is the very rare case that never hears about college from peers, teachers, or relatives. But if they attend a school with a significant college-bound population, they are aware.  You’re not introducing any new concept to them by telling them to worry about it.  They know. And they are probably worried.

And they may know much more than you think.  In fact, one way teens express anxiety is avoidance.  I know from experience that the boy who shrugs his shoulders when you ask him about college is secretly very worried about it and trying to manage your expectations as well as his by downplaying it.  What if he doesn’t get in anywhere? What if he mentions the school he loves and adults laugh at him? It’s easier to shrug than express those concerns.

But also, teens are oftentimes just downright contrarians. You tell them to walk, they run. You tell them to run, they walk.  You tell them to worry about college, they take a step back. Upsetting Mom and Dad is an age-old right of passage, and this is a BIG, fun way to get them upset.  The more it means to you, the more it could backfire.

But there are two things you can do:

1. Stop asking. Take a break. Take college off the table for a little while.  Give your child a day, a week or even a month, depending on the timeline. Come back to it later and ask in a low-key, maybe even one-on-one setting.

2. Hire a college counselor! This isn’t a shameless plug.  We hear it time and time again from our clients that when a student and parents were frustrated with one another, going to the experts was the best decision they could have made. We keep the students on task and keep parents informed. It’s a win-win.

Regardless of what you decide, remember that you WILL get through it.  But consider taking a break from the discussion if you are all getting frustrated or in a stand-off.  Also consider Campus Bound because the families who work with us are glad they did.