As you can imagine, I have an assortment of different parents who come along with the most wonderful students I have the pleasure of working with. While they all share the same desire of wanting the best for their children, I would say the similarities end there. I have the “Tiger Moms”, the “Helicopter Dads”, the “Kun-by-Ya Parents”, the “Doctor/Engineer/Lawyer Parents” and the “Been-There-Done-That Uncles and Aunts”. All of them want to do their best to make sure that they have supported their child. I want to address five areas that I think are most critical in supporting your child through the process of preparing for this next big step. Note that while I will be writing about “supporting their application process”, I really see that as a medium to prepare them for the success of the transition to college.
OWNERSHIP: Your process should start with a conversation about how the student must “Own” this process, and that you as parents will be resources for them. You can outline the “map” in front of them; you can help them stay on track so they are in the right place at the right time on that “map”; you can be a 24/7 GPS if they are lost on that “map”, but it needs to be clear that the student is driving the car! This supersedes all other points I will discuss in this entry. And here is the surprise: you will have to remind yourself of this as many times as you will have to remind the student. The importance of this is that the student must eventually be prepared and mature enough to handle the very independent environment that he/she ends up at, where there will be a far greater need to be ready to take decisions for him/herself. If you push the student through, or even handhold the student through the process, you are doing the greatest harm (albeit with the best intentions). I have met students who have returned from universities abroad after a year, and the one thing that I have seen in all of these interactions is that their parents were overly involved in the preparations.
TIMELINES: Most common myth that I have experienced from adolescents about deadlines is that their best work happens at the last minute. In my over a decade experience, I have NEVER found this to be true. What I have found to be true is Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it will go wrong. So helping the student build time lines and internal deadlines is one thing that a parent should help the student with. As a rule of thumb, I get the student to focus on internal deadlines being one month before actual deadlines.