04 Oct

College Application Meltdown – It Finally Happened to Me!

A few evenings ago, around 10:30 p.m. my husband and I witnessed a very rare event. Our son had a meltdown over the college selection and application process. He was overwhelmed at the task at hand and it became apparent that our attempts to reason with him and soothe his emotional state were not going to help alleviate the situation. I had been hearing for years from other parents about these moments in family life, but I thought I would somehow be exempt.

As you may know, I, like many of you, am a parent trying to deal with a high school senior who is struggling with the decision as to which colleges he will apply. You would think that being a college planning professional would make it easier for me than most mothers to guide my child in this area. Guess again! My 17 year-old chooses to mostly ignore my years of sage advice that other families are thrilled to learn and pay me for! Well, I take that back, he will listen to me only when it is convenient for him.

For example, earlier in the year I had a discussion with him about how he shouldn’t get his heart set on one particular college because there are many colleges that could provide an outstanding educational experience for him. In fact, I told him, whether he ended up going to a state or private school he would always be able to find extraordinary teachers on any campus and his experience will be what he chooses to make it.

So the other night when he had his meltdown, he threw that info back into my face by telling me that since it really doesn’t matter which school he ends up at, maybe he’ll just go to community college so he doesn’t have to “fill out all those stupid applications!” (Am I the only one who has heard those words?!) Well at that point my husband and I had recognized that our son was actually experiencing a full-fledged meltdown. How did we know? Because before that time, our son’s first choice college was Cal Tech! (He is a very good student with high grades and test scores.)

I do have to say that I am very proud of how my husband and I handled the situation from there-we actually told him we would support any decision he made, including going to community college. And then he said, “I’m not saying that I WOULD go to community college; I’m just saying I don’t think these schools should make the applications so difficult and WHY would they ask for a reference letter from my counselor who is new to the school and doesn’t even know me!!” (I have no argument for that statement-I agree with him.) So my husband and I sided with him and we told him he just needs to power through these few months and get them over with. Play by the rules and then he’s done and can enjoy the rest of his senior year.

Shortly thereafter, and still frustrated, my son stomped up the stairway and down the hall to his room to get ready for bed and managed to mutter “good night.” My husband and I looked at each other and realized we had just witnessed what so many teenagers are feeling right about this time of year. It’s unfortunate that the college admissions process has become so stressful and competitive for many students. But I am happy to report that the next day when I went into my son’s room, I found him working on his University of CA college application! What a difference a day makes (and a good night’s sleep.) No more signs of the meltdown for now!

As parents we need to remember our sons and daughters especially need our support during this time in their lives. Many times it means just letting them vent or complain without judgment. Instead of trying to talk sense into them or change their minds or butt heads with them, we just need to be there for them. I found that I can help my son through this time by being a good listener and reassuring him that this time is just a small blip on his life line that will be behind him sooner than he thinks. We need to let our students know that we believe in them and that in the end, everything will work out just fine -for them and us!

All the best,
Deborah Fox

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One Response to “College Application Meltdown – It Finally Happened to Me!”

  1. 1
    Pay for College Blog » Blog Archive » 5 Things Every Parent Should Know About College Applications Says:

    […] (And don’t think I was immune just because I have 12 years of experience in this field – my son still had a meltdown moment when it was his turn to fill out those […]

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