Adult Support for Getting Through College Application Stress
If your family is going through a lot of stress because your son or daughter is applying to colleges, you’re not alone. As the deadlines approach, many applicants have begun tearing their hair out over the college application essays. The bad news–as I’m sure you’re discovering–is the senior year is even more stressful than the junior year, and it spreads throughout the household. But the good news is there are several ways adults can offer support with the essay. Notice I stressed support. You shouldn’t write it or nag about it. You should be supportive.
This can be challenging when stress levels (students’ and parents’) are high. Don’t be impulsive; think before you act! Perhaps today is your lucky day because I’ve done some of that thinking for you! But it’s up to you to follow through—and that’s not always easy. Maybe my suggestions will make it a tad less arduous.
If your son or daughter hasn’t started the essay, you can help sort through the writing prompts. Families can help the student remember situations that might be good for illustrating personal strengths. Families also can help the student emotionally and organizationally. Taking time to talk together before the writing can be helpful. You might want to ask your son or daughter the type of help he or she would like, but be firm about boundaries. Not only should there be a definite line between what a parent can and cannot do, there needs to be a definite line between what the student will and will not accept from the parent. These boundaries must be clear! If parental feedback is too stressful or not objective enough, ask a friend whose child also is writing essays to switch with each other as “feedback parents.” Older siblings, aunts, uncles, or grandparents also may be helpful.
College counselors (in high school and college) are excellent sources for offering the “big picture” in what schools seek in students. As a word of caution, however, these professionals are super busy this time of year. It’s best to go to them with very specific questions that won’t take too much of their time.
College consultants and writing coaches can be great stress reducers for parents by creating structure and goals. Their experience helps bring out the student’s voice and strengths. They also offer insight and fresh viewpoints, similar to that of a college admissions officer. (Excuse my cheap plug, but anyone desiring my services can get more information about it at http://writestuffhelp.com.
Naturally, English teachers also can offer ways to make essays more compelling and free from errors. Many English teachers recreate the college essay experience as a classroom writing assignment. I’ve heard of some teachers who swap papers with other teachers to avoid bias from already knowing the student. I think that’s a great idea. However, some English teachers are better than others. The best teachers realize the difference in focus between a “college essay” and an “academic essay.” For instance, the focus should be more on the student than the student’s passion. The key question, one that college admissions officers want answered, is “What did I learn about the student from reading the essay?”
Sometimes there are low-cost assistance and classes for help with writing the college application essay. Check with libraries, teen organizations, writing organizations and schools for inexpensive seminars or classes. Even if you can’t find anything like that, libraries and bookstores offer publications with essay samples.
Well, that’s all the advice I can offer now! Good luck and good writing!