Writing this post in the middle of November, I’m aware both parents and students are in the thick of the overseas school application process. Given the competitiveness to study at both boarding school and colleges overseas, I’m not surprised that parents are becoming more and more involved earlier.
Students do need their parents to partner with them in the application process, to provide guidance and encouragement, but too often parents overstep their role and provide too much help — which could actually hurt a student’s acceptance chances. Not to mention, you take away an opportunity for your child to build resilience and self-confidence. Imagine how your child would feel if at the end of the day, they were accepted to their dream school because of your efforts and not theirs?
- Ensure decision-making is a two-way street that should be made by both you and your child together. Ultimately, it’s your child who is attending the school; if your child has visited the school and has had the opportunity to gauge his / her own interests in them and balance the pros and cons of each, listen to their opinion and have a frank discussion on the best choice for your child. However, don’t impose your decision on them without consulting them first.
- Don’t micromanage the whole process for your child and nag them about deadlines and tasks to do. If you come across as too naggy, you take any enjoyment out of completing all those applications. It’s tough enough as it is already; your child doesn’t need you to stress them out any further. If you need to remind your child to do things, try other methods such as wall calendars in a visible location or scheduled reminders through applications such as Google Calendar or To-Do apps on smartphones. At some point your child will need to learn to deal with important life-changing activities — including meeting deadlines and solving problems they may face along the way.
- Set a good example to your child by being courteous and polite when you communicate with admissions officers. Thank them if they spend time answering your questions or meeting you in person. Greet them with their proper titles, do your homework by researching the schools before you meet them and ask questions that show you have put some thought into it. For reference, refer to our post on application etiquette.
- Let your child be himself / herself. Don’t try to overly “package” them into something that you think admissions officers want to see. Schools value individuality and a student pool with a diverse range of experiences. Foster your child’s interests and what he / she is good at. It’s acceptable for them to do the different from their friends.
- Don’t add your voice to your child’s essays or personal statements. Let your child write them. Your child will be able to provide nuances that can add vitality to their application. These small details can often be the most revealing. More importantly, by allowing your child to write his / her own essays, you’re giving them a chance to practice doing something that they will have to do frequently once they are in their new academic environment and to build crucial communication skills. You can review your children’s essays by offering suggestions and helping them proofread for grammar and spelling but do not control the content.
- If your child has the opportunity to interview or meet school representatives, take a step back and let your child meet the admissions officers on his / her own. Let your child be the focus of the admissions’ officers attention. Let your child answer and ask questions on his / her own and don’t rush in to fill in the gaps that you think are missing. Your child has an opinion; let them express it and if they’re curious they will have questions. Schools look for students who can speak up for themselves and who are unafraid to ask questions. Besides, learning to do so and self-advocating is an important part of life.
- Provide your 100% encouragement and support. Your child might not make the choices that you want them to make, they might procrastinate here and there, they might occasionally want to give up faced with setbacks, but be supportive and guide them through the process. Don’t make it into an overly-competitive process by comparing your child to their friends or your friends’ children. During this time, in between school, test prep, extra-curricular activities and school applications, do your best to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Photo courtesy of Prep Beijing
Alicia Lui is a co-founder at Prep Beijing!, a coaching company focusing on core soft skills such as effective communication, social and emotional skills, etiquette, critical thinking and leadership skills. Prior to founding Prep Beijing! She has worked in management consulting and in banking. She holds and MBA from INSEAD and Bachelor’s from University of Chicago