The College Application Process: Helping Your Teen Cope
The experience of stress during the college application process is inevitable - for both teens and their parents. Here are some guidelines to make this a positive experience - one where adolescents have a chance to learn and practice good coping skills that will be of benefit for the rest of their lives.
Stressful procedure for both teens and parents
For teens, applying to college gives rise to natural anxieties: the process itself is long and involved, with a whirlwind of tasks, details, and deadlines, throughout which the teen feels pressured by others' evaluations and feelings of fierce competition. Moreover, "success" - in this case, acceptance to a school - is something of a double-edge sword in that it symbolizes the beginning of the end: of high school, familiar settings and friends, life in the family home, even adolescence itself.
For the same reasons, the process is stressful for parents too, since it is difficult to watch your adolescent facing such uncertainty and struggle. You also have increased responsibilities as you coordinate college visits, struggle with financial issues, and oversee other administrative aspects of the process. Moreover, you have to contend with your own, naturally ambivalent feelings about the upcoming changes when your child finally moves out of your home.
Positive learning experience
But there's an upside; one of the great keys to a successful life is learning to see the advantages inherent in difficult situations. This is an ability you no doubt hope your child will acquire, and the college application process can be viewed as an excellent opportunity to practice the skill. Viewed this way, the college application process can be seen as a valuable learning experience that will pay off many times over as your teen traverses adulthood. For instance, the college application process is an excellent opportunity for your teen to learn how to organize and carry out a complicated project, maintain optimism in the face of uncertainty and stress, and appear poised during evaluative interviews - all crucial skills for any profession!
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.
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