College Counseling with Family Pathways
It’s winter, and a new year, a great time to explore new opportunities. If you are a parent of a senior in high school, you may be stressing about deadlines that haven’t been met, waiting impatiently for the “yes” or “no” letter from your child’s first choice, or wondering how you’re going to let go after graduation! The list of worries and opportunities continues until the day of decision, acceptance declared, final choices made.
Parents of high school juniors may feel their worries are farther away, but no less intense. Juniors often fall into extremes, one side worrying too much about their future, the other unconcerned. You may be worried that your student will NEVER begin determining their future, start acting interested in their SAT/ACTs, subject test outcomes, focusing on their academics this year, all pieces that need to brought to fruition as they enjoy, yes, enjoy their junior year of high school!! OR you may be working to calm an anxious child whose focus weighs on them heavily.
As a college consultant, I know the importance of certain statistics, GPAs, SATs, APs, SAT II, ACTs, but when asked what should my junior be doing to prepare for the next step of college? I always advise, “enjoying their junior year. Finding the connections, the meanings of being young!!!” It doesn’t last, and therefore, we should make sure that everyone, and we can model this, should be practicing being in the moment. Corny maybe…but the reality is, there is far more out of our control in the future, than in the moment of time in which we are in! Yes, the higher achieving student may have more choices, or options, but that isn’t say that those options or choices are any better a fit, than simply the right school for the right student.
For parents of seniors, it’s never too late to focus on what’s important, understanding that learning is ongoing, transitional and more powerful than a focus on the outcome, the score. But let’s also remember, we are working with teenagers.
They are impulsive, easily influenced by their peers, often unable to articulate what makes them both unique, and happy. Your student can often misconstrue your opinions, and feedback as intrusive rather than helpful-your intention. So, what can you do to help them through this process of self-discovery, this transition from high school to being more independent?
- First, remember to listen with an active ear. Listen between the lines; what your student is NOT saying can be as revealing as what they DO say.
- Secondly, validate your student’s uncertainties. Most don’t know what it will be like when they leave home, (unless they have been in a boarding school), to live in a group setting, with lots of other students
- Third, remember, this is ultimately a journey for all of you. Letting go…is your part of this journey. Not only is your teen beginning their transitions out of the house to independence, but you have to let go of them being around.
- Dialogue with your teen. This is a great time to give them opportunities to share their hopes and dreams. Help them to see the value in being realistic while at the same time entertaining all possibilities.
- Keep a sense of humor. These are challenging times for all of you. Tensions run high, stresses are many, but there are rewards. Work to keep a sense of balance, and laugh at yourself on occasion.
- Positives first! Focus on the acceptances, not the rejections. Maybe they didn’t get into their first choice, but their other choices should be good ones. This means they didn’t apply to schools they wouldn’t actually consider attending.
Bottom line, it’s a fine balance. Working to model calm, supportive engaging behavior with your student will help your family as you all pursue new pathways.
Steve Michaud owner, of Family Pathways College Counseling, is a practicing independent college counselor in Bozeman MT. Steve has extensive experience with families from coast to coast helping them to navigate post secondary options.
Contact Steve: Stevemichaud73@gmail.com or call 406-570-1178