by Rick Clark, Georgia Tech Admissions
Sophomore and juniors, even amidst eye rolls or sarcasm, are very attentive to their parent’s body language, non-verbal cues, and tone of voice. While they may be pulling away toward independence, they still need you, deeply value your opinion, and long for your approval. As you head into the summer before their senior year, now is the time to be 100% sure they know that your love, pride, and belief in them is based not on where they apply, get admitted, or ultimately go to college.
Maybe you think you have this covered. It is worth asking them that question verbatim or specifically telling them now that you support ALL of the colleges they want to research, visit, and apply to. OR… if you do have some conditions, limitations, or reservations on places you do or do not want them to look or potentially go, NOW is the time to be clear about those too. Leave. No. Doubt!
Have you bought a t-shirt for yourself recently from a particular college your student is considering – or you hope they will apply to?
Do you ask questions/ make time to visit/ or read the literature of only certain colleges your student is interested in?
Have you used the words “secretly hope” or “my first choice” when talking with friends about your student’s college search?
These are not hypothetical or manufactured examples. First-year students tell us these stories every year, often with a clear tone of sadness or an expression of dejection.
The good news is you have the ability right now to be sure this will not be your family’s story. Leaving no doubt does not mean completely resigning yourself to exactly where your student wants to apply or attend or what they want to major in during college. Instead, it means being honest about your hopes and dreams, listening—really listening—to their hopes and dreams, and most importantly reassuring them that you value the health and integrity of your relationship over any accomplishment, GPA, or offer of admission they may receive or not receive. Do not delay. I understand that it is “just May.” But May turns quickly into August, and seeds of doubt can easily germinate and grow with every passing month.
If you are the parent of a senior, basically all of that applies to you too, so go back and read closely if you skipped to this point. As your student careers toward graduation, you may have some triage work to do.
This week take the time to consider:
Does my student know with 100% certainty that I support the college they have deposited with?
If they are still debating between options, do they know that their happiness (not the name on a bumper sticker) is what I truly care about?
Have I done/said/intimated/worn anything recently that may place a kernel of doubt in their mind?
Have I done/said/intimated/worn anything during this entire college admission experience that may place a kernel of doubt in their mind?
Have I said anything to my friends (or parents of their friends) that does not reflect my 100% support?
If they are on a waitlist, how am I balancing my feelings and comments about what might be versus what currently is?
Again, when you are honest, if you have reservations about any of this, take the time to address it with your student. You are the adult here, so you need to lead. Apologies, transparency, initiation, these are mature skills that, undoubtedly, you would like them to acquire. Now is your opportunity to model those.
Most students arrive on campus nervous about something. Perhaps they are uneasy about making new friends, unsure about leaving home, or questioning their ability to succeed, or possibly any number of other very legitimate and understandable anxieties. Don’t let their security in your love and support be among that group.