About a month ago, I wrote a blog post about how students should be able to handle the application process on their own, with a limited amount of guidance from parents/counselors friends. This month, the focus is on how parents can help get students to that stage of the process:
Last week, I was volunteering at a camp for six days, and I had eight campers in my cabin from a range of placed in Georgia. It was a wonderful week, but as you can guess, there were also a few challenging times, usually associated with either getting all eight out of the cabin on time or that wonderful event of mealtime, also known as “please just eat your food and don’t make too much of a mess”. One of our campers had a challenge with certain mealtime things, from cutting up meat, eating yogurt without getting it on his face, and the horribly sticky mess that is syrup (they really should just ban this substance from all children under the age of 13).
One of the newer counselors at the table stepped up to help this camper by cutting his food, going to get paper towels, and pretty much sticking close to the camper for every meal in case of emergency. About a day later, one of the wiser, older counselors (not me, I swear) stepped in and essentially said “Stop helping him. He needs to learn how to do these things himself.” The focus became less on doing things for the camper, and more on helping him learn how to take care of himself. The first day or so was a challenge, watching the camper struggle with the steps. If you have ever watched a kid struggle trying to learn a new skill, your first instinct is to help in any way you can. But by the end of the week, everyone was less stressed, the camper was much more independent, and mealtime was much better-if you don’t count syrup as being the devil’s condiment.
This same situation plays out again and again in a number of areas. Think back to elementary school projects, with some seeming to have been created by a professional artist, while others are barely able to remain standing, but at least completed by the actual student. Or how about some thank you cards being written in too-perfect script, while others have letters of all sizes and dirt smudges on the edges. There is a time for helping our kids with certain activities, and a time to let them handle the process on their own. This is one of those times. As one of my fellow counselors just said, let your student ride the bike and you just act as the training wheels, because the training wheels are coming off next fall whether you like it or not.
The Admissions application process is a key point in letting the student take care of their own “project”. Yes, parents are there to give guidance, to gently nudge their kids in the right direction, but to also know not to cross over the line and just do it themselves. It might be easier to go ahead and be a big part of the application process, but the skills that are learned by having the student do it themselves will translate into more comfort in managing their first year in college, apply for internships, etc. When students start signing up for their first semester of classes, generally during orientation, the first step many times is telling the parents that they should go get some coffee as the student needs to handle this step.
I have been through this process twice as a parent, and I know it can and will be challenging, but you will make it (and so will your child).
Good luck, and Go Dawgs!