Applying to college is nerve-wracking, and not just for the applicant. The state of constant worry over a child’s status is certainly not exclusively reserved for “helicopter parents” during application season: “I like to think I’m a pretty laid-back mom,” says Kayla Lei, mother of two. “I have given my daughter a lot of freedom, but she doesn’t always tell me what schools she’s considering or what plans she has, and I have to pry it out of her.”
To avoid situations like these and keep stress levels to a minimum, I sat down with Bruce Hammond, the college counselor and vice principal of Tsinghua International School (THIS), to talk about how parents and students can cooperate during the application process and how the school factors in.
According to Hammond, the first step is something simple, perhaps glaringly obvious, but essential: start talking. “Sit down and have a conversation,” Hammond advises. “For parents, it’s really important to be forthright about any issues or concerns they may have – especially about financial ability. If there are going to be financial parameters, you need to make them clear from the beginning.”
After establishing your expectations or wishes, listen to your child. They will probably have different ideas than you do, but keep an open mind and reserve your questions for the meeting with your child’s counselor. College counselors like to meet with the parent(s) and the student around the end of the student’s junior year to give them a chance to voice any concerns and work out any issues. Your reluctances regarding one issue (say, the size of a college) may dissolve after talking to a college counselor and learning the advantages and disadvantages of both small and large schools.
Some conflict is inevitable; you and your child are not going to agree on everything, but Hammond reminds parents that at the end of the day, it’s the student who will be attending the college. So while he recognizes that, of course, parents are acting in the best interest of their children, it’s important to allow them to take charge. Not only does this ensure that the college chosen is a good match, it also helps students become more independent and to prepare for the future. “There needs to be an understanding of who’s making what decision,” says Hammond, when asked how parents and children go through the process smoothly.
Most of the time, he recommends giving the child a little more free rein. Students are taking their next step into the real world as they go off to college. As difficult as it may be, parents need to start seeing their children as adults and have faith that with good communication and help from counselors, students will find the right school for them.
Photo by Peter Gene