Some of the teenagers I work with aren’t quite as communicative – shocking, I know – so I stay in touch with their parents about what the student has heard so far. While I prefer to talk to my kids and get to send them applause hands emojis directly, chatting with mom and dad gives me the chance to make sure we’re all on the same page.
One of the most important things a parent can do in the college application process is be a guide for their kid’s feelings. It’s easy to downplay the significance of getting admitted to a safety school – we knew the answer was going to be yes! But every yes from a college is a big deal, even if we knew it was coming. And parents are best positioned to drive that point home.
When your kid mentions that they got an email from a college telling them that their admissions decision is in their portal, make a fuss about it. Gather the whole family together, pull out your phone, and get ready to snap a picture or a video of the big moment. If you see a (hopefully big) envelope come in the mail, present it with a little fanfare. When your student gets admitted somewhere, do some research so you can talk about the aspects of the campus or the local area or the programs that sound cool to you. Start planning a trip to visit the college, and when you’re on campus, help your kid see all the exciting potential in the classrooms and the dorms and on the quads.
If you respond to a college acceptance halfheartedly, your child will get the message that this is not worth being excited about. If you hear about a yes from one school and immediately mention the other schools that you’re more interested in hearing back from, your child will learn that some schools are good enough and some schools aren’t. But, if you can demonstrate your enthusiasm for every school that says yes to your kid, they will also feel that excitement.
They will start exploring the parts of the school that sound interesting to them. They will begin imagining themselves on that campus, with those friends. And if they’re genuinely excited about the places that have said yes to them, then the no’s won’t sting quite so much. Most of the advice for parents going through the college application process is about stepping back, but in this instance, you get to take the lead.