As students finish their AP and SAT tests, they move onto to thinking about what to do with their summer. For some, it is the competitive student that wants to max out their summer with a job, community service, and college level courses. For others, it is the parents trying to pad their resume and their SAT scores with tutoring and adventures in a foreign country.

As someone who helps families through the college admissions process, I’ve worked with a variety of students and parents who are trying to to figure out the “perfect” resume and application and I’m telling you this mayhem has got to STOP! I was excited to read about Harvard’s Turning the Tide Report, where colleges and universities are making the case for why being caring matters in college admissions.

Kids are more than just students. They are human beings and applying for college is more than just getting into a college; it is about their own self-discovery and reflection. As the report so aptly conveys, it’s about getting students to care about and engage with the world around them. It’s getting them comfortable with situations and people that are different from them. It’s about focusing on the factors that aren’t captured by numbers.

As we guide these students that are filled with dreams, talent, and hope, we need to try to cut back on their stress. Below are some tips to help your family ease the stress when it comes to applying for college:

  1. Focus on Quality — Not Quantity — It’s not about the amount of extracurricular activities nor the variety. It’s about demonstrating their passion for what interests them through their time commitment. If your child likes music, then ideally, they are involved in activities inside and outside of school that show that.

  2. Develop them to be a Person — One day, these teens will go into the world and make a difference. Support their interests in helping others. Don’t make them do community service because you think it will look good on an application. Have them pick service activities that interest them. Figure out what they care about and how you can support that. You don’t have to go abroad to help someone. You can start in your own backyard.

  3. Don’t Select Schools Based on Rank or Name — Each student has their own unique set of values, interests, talents, and skills. Select schools based on those factors rather than a “name.” When I work with families, we set realistic expectations so that everyone wins through working to create a plan that best serves the student. They won’t stay at a school, if they aren’t happy there.

  4. Let them Sleep — I cannot stress this enough. Not only does sleeping more equate to a longer life, but it also allows students to absorb information better. More importantly, they are less stressed and happier when they get more sleep. Try to work on time-management with your child to try and reduce all-nighters. Bad sleep habits early on can lead to bigger sleep problems later on. Take my word for it — I personally developed insomnia in college and am still recovering.

  5. Make it Fun — Take your child on campus tours and balance their work with fun activities. Ideally, if you pick activities based on what your child enjoys, “preparing” for college, shouldn’t feel like work.

This is often a time of either great joy or sometimes disappointment for college bound students.

I'm guessing you're reading this now, because you have either been waitlisted or rejected by your first choice.

First of all, don't take it personally. I know some students may think that they weren't good enough or perhaps they met the qualifications, but are still confused as to why they weren't accepted.

Unfortunately, college admissions isn't as clear cut as we'd like it to be. Just meeting the average GPA, rank or SAT/ACT score isn't quite enough to guarantee you will be accepted by the school. In truth, there are no guarantees.

The one thing I do want to get across to you today is - that its not necessarily you. Similar to a breakup, where the cliche line is "It's not you, it's me," this is kind of the opposite, especially if you are a very competitive candidate for that college or university.

Accept that you can only be in control of your own application and as long as you have submitted the best application possible, then there's nothing more you can do. The application results are based on what you submit, BUT also based on what other applicants submit and you can't control your competition.

In some cases, there are students that may get admitted that you may think are less qualified than you are and that's another example of when you don't actually know what the school was looking for to round out their class or if there was something special about that applicant, outside of their academics.

If you were waitlisted, you can still write a letter of interest to the school that waitlisted you sharing why you love that school and how you would definitely attend if accepted. Your passion has to get across! Also consider including specific examples of what makes you and that school such a great fit.

If you were rejected, its time to accept that you did a great job and put out some great applications. Then review the schools that accepted you and decide which is the best one for you. I mean...wouldn't you want to go to a school that is "into you?" I'd like to think so :)

Lastly, if you are still dead set on attending your number one choice for college/university, you can always apply the following year as a transfer student.

Now, go and enjoy the rest of your senior year!

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