Parent Touch (or not)
So I rarely direct any blogs to the parents of teens applying to college, but today I am. I have worked for more than two decades with students from ages 12 through to 22. Parents are very in touch with all their children’s quirks, needs, emotions, and so forth. Parents are truly aware, but when teens are teens, parents are quickly frustrated.
Teens do not want to share and have parent contributions. It is a natural developmental phase to begin the separation process. The teens are physically grown, but not so much intellectually or emotionally, but they are in the very place they should be…willing to take a few risks, try a few things, and see what works and what doesn’t. Many have some self-awareness, and many have strong will. Rather than fight with your teen, allow them their voice.
Counseling teens has been one of the most joyous experiences in my life. Oh they are a tough crowd; every single thing is a negotiation. But I am willing to take the time, to put them in the decision making position, and to flesh out their reasoning and emotions and to provide the support as they wade through complex thoughts to arrive at a choice that works for them, best. It is why, if there is any way a parent can factor in the expenses of a private college counselor, it is worth the cost in saved arguments, and meltdowns!
As I have worked with students who have 504 Class ADA disability codes, I have perspective. I also have an arsenal of history with students over time, to ensure them of inevitable successes and potential failures. All the students go off to college, whom I work with, and almost all are happy at their first college. Some do transfer, but once again, they have learned something about themselves and understand where they need to be.
When it comes to college selection, often parents have a strong hand in this choice, as finances are involved. I have had no students ever who could pay for their entire college experience by themselves. All usually do need parent support. So since parents are paying, it really is appropriate to put the brakes on to choices that will break the bank! I always ask parents to wait until they have filled out FASFA and discovered their contribution and what amount is left to be funded either through loans, merit scholarships, specified scholarships, or other funding means, such as grants. So while applying, let your teen apply to schools that seem expensive. They might end up giving the most in terms of merit scholarships, which takes the tuition load down immediately. Often the merit scholarships extend the life of the college career for the student as long as the student keeps up with studies. Some schools are boasting 75% off with merit scholarships to middle class families, but remember, often these scholarships are strictly applied to tuition load, not housing, board, and fees. However, if a student has high scores or grades, some schools will offer up to 90% in merit scholarship based on FASFA. People who believe they make too much for FASFA aid are actually harming themselves in the long run. People who have gross incomes of 500K have actually qualified for FASFA …granted it is a composite of assets, cash, costs, and other considerations such as elderly parent who are supported, etc. But even getting a 10K dollar break on tuition can be a plus to any parent’s bank balance.
In the past 11 years, how college is funded has changed dramatically. First the actually costs of going to college has not risen much in the past four years at all. Second, low income students and first generation students have become a special class in Admission for most universities and colleges. Colleges are supporting free tuition for low income and first generation students whose parents’ adjusted gross income is less than 125K, 85K, or 65K, depending on the school. Virtually all major schools are allowing this class entrance and complete support. After what they offer in terms of tuition free, then they further help by offering work-study, grants, and merit scholarship to help defray room and board. Many states have now established funding pools for the state college and universities for residents of the state to get support if they are low income or first generation, and a few states extend this special resident scholarship pool to state first responder children. It pays to have someone help you find your specific financial needs after your child has been accepted. Every college’s Financial Aid office will assist to as much as it can it working the aid offered by the school and through Federally funded programs to get you the reduced tuition package. And many will also then support a path to helping defray living costs through other programs.
When it comes to helping your student complete applications, a word of caution is necessary, DON’T! Seriously. Do not help your student write essays. You can help with biographical information about yourself and so forth, but please let your student do his or her own work. Teachers can tell, always, when parents do their child’s homework or projects. We also know when parents are doing college essays. Years ago, when there was a heavy emphasis on SAT Vocabulary, students were advised to use those vocabulary words in their essays. NOT TODAY. Students are to use their own voices. Sixteen-year-old are not: trenchant, ardent, frenetic, ebullient, bereft, etc. There are very smart students out there who do actually have elevated vocabulary. For me it is a purely pleasurable experience to read their essays, because their voice enhances and exudes the use of such words. But the typical teen, when you spend five minutes of their time in conversation, you can tell immediately a 45 year old wrote the essay. I coach the student to bring his or her own voice to the table. Years ago, the emphasis was on well-balanced, but that is not the case anymore. So essays that cram in 20 activities or experiences are usually not very good at all, as they typically get lost in the myriad of stuff to say, and miss the entire point of the essay and do not answer the question. The essays are also not supposed to be explanations or defensive. These are conversations telling Admissions something about the student that is not obvious from the paperwork. The student is sharing something. Let it be your student’s voice. If you are still itching to touch, correct some grammar, for sure.
If your student doesn’t want you involved, you might want to hire someone to help with the process if you can do so. I find most teens do need a sounding board and guidance. Guidance counselors are busy with 10-50 students and do not drop everything for every student question. Many simply glance over the essays. So, it does help to have someone who has the experience spend the time to help. I caution against buying “essay” services. I have found these tend to be almost templates rather than a student’s actual voice. Again, the voice and words are not typical of your child.
So parents, here is some holiday cheer…this will all be over within 10 weeks for almost all seniors. Try to let your student have the odd emotional outburst, as they will. You are the person who has to love them no matter what, so you are the person who gets the ire. But look at it this way, it is really hard to separate if life is all glowing and rosy, a bump or two, or even a volatile outburst or two, is helpful in letting go and putting your student in a place to learn to take care of his or her steps forward. You are a very important part of this process, and the more you loosen the reigns and allow them to take control, the better off all will be! Please, I offer single sessions or affordable packages of few sessions if you need a professional, independent to support, contact me.