The College Search as A Teachable Moment
If you are the parent of a high school student, especially one who has taken an ACT or SAT and checked the box indicating that it was okay if colleges contact them, you will likely recognize this picture.
It's your kitchen table. Somewhere under all the college mail.
It’s understandable that both parents and students are overwhelmed with this wall of noise that hurtles toward them as the junior and senior years approach. And it's not just a wall of paper, the white noise of admissions marketing fills inboxes too. A high school senior in Virginia decided to track how many emails he received from colleges that reached out to him over one year and epically posted his findings on Reddit. In total, 115 colleges sent him a total of 2,175 unsolicited emails, with the top offenders sending him multiple emails a day, and most of them featured comically similar subject lines.
When you layer on top the intense focus on college attendance as an equivalent to life success, specifically attendance at a small subset of highly selective colleges, and you can see why college admissions stress is its own category of adolescent and parental anxiety. This focus on hyper-selective institutions is driven in part by a media culture that thrives on scarcity and exclusivity to generate clicks and revenue. This creates an echo chamber of stress. A kind of industrial-anxiety complex, if you will. There is, of course, a much better way.
Let’s take a breath and look at the college search for what it is: a moment. It’s a moment in time where a student must take stock of their life as they know it at that moment, all of their experiences, perspectives, ambitions, and credentials and communicate it all to a set of strangers who will review and render some form of judgment. While it may seem unique and different to both you and your student, when you think of it that way, you as a parent have experienced this process dozens of times.
You have experienced it not only in your own education, but also with every job to which you ever applied and every mortgage you ever sought to secure. Sure, I’ll admit that the college application process might at first blush appear to be daunting, with all the different deadlines, requirements, tests, and terminology. In truth, it’s a process that will repeat many times over for your child; as you, to more seasoned adult, can well attest. Your son or daughter will experience this process when they apply for internships, leadership positions in college, grad schools, and jobs should they decide to move out of your house after college. Kidding.
So decide to use the college application and scholarship processes as teachable moments, with the goal of helping young people grapple with the messy art of adult decision-making.
At Golden Educational Consulting, we wake up everyday and work to inspire young people to find out what inspires them. We do that by teaching families how to prepare their kids for the challenges of the college search. We provide highly personalized one-on-one college search coaching and educational assessments to families all over the globe.
So what does a healthy college search actually look like? Here's what we think the outcomes should be when the college search is done and dusted.
The student and the family should:
• Learn something about themselves in the process,
• Feel supremely confident in the applications being put forward,
• Experience a healthy and peaceful detachment from the process once applications have been submitted, and
• Look back on this whole experience with positive memories (e.g., they are still talking to each other).
For most families, the senior year will represent the last opportunity to have that son or daughter under the same roof as the rest of the family full-time. Enjoy that year. Soak it in.
I have visited hundreds of colleges and universities the world over and seen some amazing, life-transforming, education communities. Not a single one of them is worth sacrificing your family's health and wellbeing. Period.
Not a GEC member? Feeling stressed by the college search process? Let's chat.