by Karen Stabiner
There are plenty of guide books that tell the college applicant how to prepare for standardized tests, or write a great essay, or pick the right college. But how about parents? What are we supposed to do to keep from losing our sanity – and our perspective? Here is a handful of tips from a mom who survived the process:
- Be an educated consumer: Don’t get flustered. By now you’ve likely bought a car and a washer-dryer and a new computer and possibly a house. You know how to ask questions and find the model that suits you best. No one will penalize your child if you ask a lot of questions, so be a smart shopper.
- Just because the advice is out there doesn’t mean you need it: You will meet parents whose child is taking prep classes in everything from filling in bubble grids to developing a firm handshake for that alumni interview. Think about what kind of assistance is meaningful for your child, and don’t cave into peer pressure on the rest.
- Take the applicant to dinner, or a movie, or both: Once your child gets an acceptance letter, life starts to move at warp speed; they’ll be moving into the dorm before you know it. Spend some time being a family senior year; if you invest every waking moment in the application process you’re going to wish you hadn’t.
- Don’t hover: This is almost impossible, as eighteen-year-old high-school seniors have been known to need help with things like organization and deadlines. You can monitor what’s going on – but the key is not to nag, which makes them worry that you think they’re failing. Create a system – a big white-board, a file cabinet, a weekly update – that feels more like a collaboration and less like you’re panicked.
- Avoid sticker shock: The vast majority of undergraduates do not pay full price for their college education. The financial aid application process is not easy, but there is still money out there. Fill out the requisite forms, finish and file your taxes early to meet aid deadlines, and on April 15 you can relax while everyone else is in line at the Post Office.
Karen Stabiner is the author of the novel “Getting In,” a delightfully smart comedy of class and entitlement, of love and ambition, set in a world where a fat envelope from a top school matters more than anything . . . almost. Available now where books are sold.