The College Craze – How Does it Affect Your Teenager, Your Younger Child, and You?

Laurie Hollman, PhD’s new book,
Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior
will be released October 13, 2015. Pre-order discounts on amazon.

The College Craze: Middle School Muddles

Do thoughts of college affect your middle schooler?

If your child is finishing middle school or entering high school college talk may begin. While you can keep things calm at home by reminding your child to keep learning for pleasure, the schools may be hyping it up urging the kids to take challenging courses they aren’t ready for and joining extra-curricular activities they aren’t interested in. This is how the college craze begins.

High School Headaches

If you have a senior in high school, the college choice is probably solved this time of year unless you’re faced with a wait list puzzle or a potential gap year. If you have a junior the pressure is on for those final exams, final year’s grades, ACT or SAT scores and maybe an AP test to add to the worries.
Some kids try to stay out of the fray and keep to themselves, but they’re just keeping a stiff upper lip holding their feelings close to the vest. Keep your eye on them.

So, as the kids worry or triumph, so do we. We may have had our hopes dashed and choices forgotten or been mightily surprised and pleased. We may feel proud of our teens with hard earned results with lots of hard work over an extended period of time, but it’s still been a drain.

Taking the Pressure off Parents

Parents are definitely needed to help their kids through this pressured time that seems to begin earlier and earlier in schools. Parents need to think what choices make sense for their child, not for themselves. There’s a lot of competition among parents as if where their child goes to college proves they have a “better” kid.

While prestigious schools give career advantages, we all know plenty of great examples of successful adults who went to unknown schools or left high pressured schools without finishing and have great careers and happy lives. Being 17 or 18 doesn’t mean you know how to plan for the next decades and it’s unreasonable to assume that’s true or even wise.

It’s important for parents to remember, their child has to live in the college atmosphere for a few years, so decisions about city or country, large school or small school, pressured or relaxed environment are choices the student needs to make. Let them know you trust their values.

The Parent’s Job

• Help your children gather information, don’t leave them to flounder on their own.
• Help them explore their choices.
• Build their confidence by telling them about the gains they’ve made as they’ve progressed even a rocky road through high school.
• Advocate for them to get help from the guidance department or someone who specializes in college choices if your school doesn’t provide such an expert.
• Most important, remind them that learning is for pleasure, exploration, and discovery.
• If they’re sure of what career path they want, narrow down the schools that provide that path with them.
• Be available as a guide and a coach, not a director or fault finder.

Most Important: How to Keep Yourself From Being Crazed

1. Keep in mind that your child is watching how you take in information and take part in the search. If you’re calm and curious, they will have that attitude, too. Enjoy road trips to different schools in their junior year just to learn, not to make decisions or have interviews.

2. Talk only with parents who share your values, aren’t competing with you as a parent, and calm you rather than rile you up. You’ll know quickly who those parents are; they’re your college search buddies, not your rivals.
This relaxes everyone because it’s just for the pleasure of seeing different parts of the country and how different college kids live. Some parents wait to visit “after we see where you get in.” But that’s only pressure without knowledge.

If you have the time and resources, hop in the car for a trip and enjoy each other’s company before it matters. Then you’re more prepared and you’ve inevitably narrowed down the search.

We don’t need anyone to tell us that college is an essential part of our world today, but keep perspective. It’s a beginning of an adventure, not a final step, or proof of self-worth for you or your child