As the new school year gets under way, many students and families are filled with excitement and anticipation. For seniors and their parents, it means embarking on what many view as the most stressful of times during the student's K-12 education. It is a time filled with anxiety, fear, worry, arguments, and stress. Throughout this trying time, the greatness of this milestone tends to be left behind. Here's the good news about this: it's normal to have these feelings. The bad news is, these feelings can be tough, if you allow them to consume you. In being true to our mantra of never stressing about the college admissions process, here are some tips for making this milestone the positive experience it should be.
- Yes, you can get into college! There are thousands of four year colleges out there to choose from, and not everyone has perfect test scores or grades. If that were the case, I would never have been admitted to college! As long as you choose wisely, you will find a school that is the best “fit.” I also ask that students think back to last year's graduating class from their high school. I want you to think about all the people who you believed slacked off, or barely got by in school. Now think about how many got into college. My guess is that you can think of at least one person (who everyone is scratching their head trying to understand how he or she got in). While they may not have gotten into a school you believe is up to par with your academic record, it further illustrates the point that there is a college for everyone!
- Colleges want to accept you! The prior statement is probably something you do not often hear. The reality is, that the vast majority of colleges are looking for any possible way to admit a student. Colleges invest millions of dollars every year to recruit students. When colleges do not meet their quota for an incoming class, colleges have a shortfall in their budget. This may result in hiring freezes, layoffs, tuition hikes, and programs being cut or modified to cope with the shortfall. As you can see, incoming freshman are important to the financial health of an institution, and most colleges are driven heavily by tuition. While this may sound cynical, this is the reality. Without healthy enrollment, colleges suffer greatly. This does not mean it is a cake walk to gain admission, as students must show off every positive quality in their application. As I tell each one of my students, this is one of the few times in life you can brag about yourself, because you must show them you deserve admission.
- Plan everything out! This is probably one of the most obvious tips students hear all the time. Be sure that you know where you want to apply by the end of September (at the very latest). After hammering this out, look at the deadlines and make sure you keep on schedule. While Senior Year is very busy and applications are very annoying (yes, we will admit this) it is to your own benefit to stay on track.
- Take time for you! Take this piece of advice as more of a life lesson. Be sure to make time for yourself and do things you enjoy. As many will tell you, “life is a journey, not a race.” The same can be said for the admissions process. It is important for you to keep up with things you enjoy, in order to maintain staying motivated and refreshed. When a student does not stay refreshed or motivated, how well do you think they will function in an interview? How well will their essay turn out? Being refreshed and motivated not only keeps you focused, it will also have a positive impact on your work!
- Everyone needs to be on the “same page!” Students and their parents should sit down in the next few weeks to discuss a game plan. Both parties need to state their expectations for the coming year, regarding everything related to the admissions process. Topics such as how many schools the student will apply to, what the budget looks like for college visits, how both parties will effectively communicate, and any other issues that all of you may imagine for the coming year. Having everyone on the same page is of the utmost importance, in order to maintain a happy home and a successful admissions process! From my own experience as a private college counselor, I have seen numerous cases of how not being on the same page, can adversely impact this process. I tend to find myself acting as the mediator in late October or November, when issues arise, all because the families had never set ground rules at the beginning. So, take time in the next few weeks to talk about the college admissions process and set down those ground rules!
Following these basic guidelines will help in alleviating some of the Senior Year stress and make this year the incredible journey it truly is!
Best of luck for the coming school year!