|Surviving the College Process as a Family|
Last month, I wrote about individuality and the unique talents, interests, and passions that our students bring to light in the college application process. With the holidays close at hand, I find myself thinking a great deal about the people around our students who foster these talents and encourage their interests while celebrating the passions that emerge with each passing year....
Last month, I wrote about individuality and the unique talents, interests, and passions that our students bring to light in the college application process. With the holidays close at hand, I find myself thinking a great deal about the people around our students who foster these talents and encourage their interests while celebrating the passions that emerge with each passing year. The final core value that we as a school are lifting up this year is:
Families: We embrace the family's role in the life of our day school, celebrating collaboration between home and school.
Until I arrived at Derryfield, my professional career had been spent working exclusively at colleges and boarding schools. While these are often nurturing and cohesive communities, the life of a day school student who frequently sits down to dinner at night with their parents is distinctive. These opportunities allow for essential connections between home and school, enabling families to debrief, plan, and delight in the excitement surrounding life at and after Derryfield. While great bonding and learning can take place, these moments can also create tension and leave both students and parents feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and frustrated.
As students near the end of junior year and begin their senior fall, the college process seems to be ever present. Between meeting with the College Counseling Office, email and letters from colleges, admission officer visits, college fairs, and constant discussion in the hallways, students can get saturated with reflection on college and overwhelmed by the details of a thoughtful search and application. In this season of giving, I want to suggest some of the greatest gifts that parents can give their children as a family embarks on this journey together.
- Ground rules. There tends to be a fine line between too much talk of college and not enough communication about the process between students and their parents. Many families have found it helpful to set one evening a week to check-in about a student's progress, thinking and concerns. This allows the student some space while keeping parents informed and reassured.
- Permission to explore. Some students feel confined by the criteria that their parents have set before their college search even begins. When possible, staying open to the wealth of options that exist in post-secondary education will enable students to own their choices and more easily find opportunities that fit their interests and strengths.
- Support and unconditional pride (ie: these are their dreams not yours). The college process can be disappointing to some students, as they realize that their test scores or other factors might make the college of their dreams unattainable. This can also be disappointing for parents; however, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the reassurance that happiness and success are not limited to attendance at any one college and that we will celebrate the options they do have and not dwell on what could have been.
- Time. This is one of the most valuable gifts parents can give. Time spent meeting with college counselors, visiting colleges, or just listening is always time well spent.
For those of you who want a more pragmatic approach or are looking for that last minute holiday gift, what follows are some more tangible gifts for your college applicant. Some of these are items we have found to be useful resources in the past and others are suggestions from this year's seniors:
Director of College Counseling
Fiske Guide to Colleges 2012, 28E
by Edward Fiske (Jul 1, 2011) This is a subjective guide book reviewing a number of colleges but one that families have found helpful. They have also developed an app for the iPad/iPhone.
Other Assorted Gift Ideas:
A Gas Card - Encouraging students to get out and visit colleges is the best way to start to refine a college search and demonstrate interest to an admission office. In addition, these college road trips as a family often create lasting memories.
A Roundtrip Airline Ticket - Not only is this a good excuse for a vacation, but also it sends the message to your child that they have permission to consider colleges at a distance that might be great "fits" for them.
Stress Ball - While we do our best to take the anxiety and pressure out of this process, a degree of stress is inevitable and our current seniors recommend this cathartic gift highly.
Filing System - Many of this year's seniors found it helpful to have colored file folders or some other system for organizing their college materials and applications. Sure, it may not be an exciting gift, but it certainly is useful think blender.
SAT/ACT Practice Books or Sessions with a Tutor - Again, maybe not the gift that brings a huge smile to their face as the tear of the wrapping, but past students have found that preparation done diligently can have the potential for significant returns.
Sweatshirt - College apparel always makes a good gift, especially if a student has been admitted early. Remember, however, buy them in your child's size, not yours!