5 tips for navigating college admissions | Tech US News

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1. Don’t back away.

Help your child. No matter how independent, confident, or smart your teen seems right now, I guarantee you—deep down, they’re anxious, insecure, and scared about the process. For most high school seniors, the decision to enroll in college and the resulting application process are extremely stressful—to the point of crippling their ability to begin or even complete the process without assistance. Although it may not seem like it you that their college or major choice changes their lives may seem so to them. If ever there was a time to hold your child’s hand during a stressful experience, this is it.

Offer your help in a structured way. Saying, “Let’s sit down this Sunday at 2 p.m. and work on your application for two hours,” is more helpful in reducing anxiety than a vague, “Let me know if you need help with the application.”

2. Understand how teenagers choose colleges.

In my experience as a therapist and mom, teenagers use three main criteria to choose a college: name recognition, peer recommendation and proximity to home. It will probably be a waste of money to encourage a teenager to apply to schools that do not meet these criteria.

3. College visits are important, but not crucial.

I’m unsure about college visits. I know teenagers who visited many colleges and then chose a school they didn’t visit. And I know teenagers who really benefited from the visits. One of my kids visited the school of his choice and hated the visit but chose the school anyway.

If you like the school visit process and have the money, go for it. If you don’t have the money, virtual visits will be just fine. You might save money by visiting the top two schools that accept your child if you’re having a hard time deciding.

4. Ultimately, the choice should be your teen’s, but help guide them.

There are many stories of students who are terribly unhappy with their first year and transfer. I find that this usually happens when they chose a school too far from home or a school that didn’t fit their personality. Your teen should do a lot of research on school spirit, the types of people they will meet, and the opportunities at school. Also plan a visit so that they are not too homesick if they are far from home.

5. Help them understand that this is not a life or death decision.

Teenagers often think it is. College counselors often convince them that this is the most important decision that will guide the rest of their lives. Explain to them again and again that this is not true. They can always transfer. They can always change course. They can always change their mind about going to college. They’re only 17 or 18 – they don’t have to figure out their whole future. It’s just a step.

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