Every year, as the admissions process starts, I meet with parents and high school seniors with the same anxieties, stresses and hopes as families from the years before. Undoubtedly, the admission process can be stressful. Applying to college has become irrationally complex and complicated. But there are some simple ways to minimize the stress.
1. Get on the same page.
The biggest mistake that I see families make is that each person thinks about this process in a vacuum, and with the belief that everyone else has the same goals, leading to confusion later. Parents and children should sit down and talk about the colleges that make sense, what major or program is ideal and realistic, cost and financial aid, and any fears and concerns. It might be a hard conversation to have, but it is better to do it before diving into the admissions game.
2. What is the goal?
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the craziness of the process, to focus on just the brand name of a college and to want to collect admissions offers. But take a step back to remember that the singular purpose of admissions is to find a college for your almost-adult where he will thrive, prepare for a career and life, succeed, be challenged, and be fulfilled. Focus on the child, not the college.
3. Keep expectations realistic yet ambitious.
This is a fundamental tenet in our office. We should always encourage our youth to stretch beyond what is possible, to push themselves, and to deal with and learn from failure. With this mind, students should apply to their dream colleges, but not just their dream colleges. They should apply to the best schools for them that span the spectrum of difficulty of admissions.
4. Get organized early.
Summer is an ideal time to get organized. Applications open in August, but early summer is the perfect time to research and visit colleges, draft essays, and secure recommendations. A few well-spent hours every week will go a long way.
5. Roll with the punches.
The admissions process is relatively straightforward. You must plan for errors, learn to deal with different personalities, get comfortable managing others, and know that overcoming obstacles is a must.
You will survive the admissions process minimally scathed and incredibly empowered. You will learn about your own goals and dreams. You will be able to better articulate what is most important to you. You will find this process is as enriching as it is rewarding. But in preparation of this very important step, a large dose of focus and planning will make all the difference.
Purvi Mody, the founding partner of Insight Education, has more than 17 years of experience as an educational and college admissions counselor.