By Theresa Yerger, Director of College Counseling, Merion Mercy Academy
As we approach Thanksgiving and move into the Christmas season, you may be gathering with friends and family members more often than usual. This can result in catching up and conversations turning to seniors who are applying to colleges. It’s natural for well meaning family and friends to want to inquire about applications, majors and future plans, but often this can unintentionally lead to additional stress and/or your senior having the same conversations over and over. I witnessed this at holiday gatherings with my two older children who are currently a freshman and sophomore in college. They often felt pressured to talk about college and future career plans when they themselves were not really sure of anything! Here are some tips for for handling the college conversation in the upcoming weeks:
Instead of asking where a student applied or any admissions decisions, focus on curious, more open-ended questions. What interests you? What is your favorite class or activity? These questions may relate to their college goal without entirely focusing on their destination.
Refrain from offering unsolicited advice or opinions about colleges or the application process. Seniors have done ample research and spend months thinking about where they are applying; they do not need unsolicited opinions from family and friends. If they ask for your feedback, then it’s okay to offer your thoughts. Otherwise, follow their lead and engage in other topics.
Parents should check in with their senior to see how they are feeling about college talk before the festivities begin. If they’d rather not talk about the application process with family and friends, please pass along the message to well meaning guests that the gathering is a “college-free zone.” If it’s something they are excited to talk about, that’s great; proceed full steam ahead! Remind your student that if they are asked a question they don’t feel comfortable answering, they can always answer vaguely with “I’m not sure yet.” Or, “I’m taking a break from college talk today.”
Seniors, it’s natural to get caught up in the college admissions frenzy in your senior year. You’ve spent the past months taking SAT’s and ACT’s, submitting applications, writing essays and then more essays, doing interviews, setting up application portals and creating more passwords than you ever thought possible. You may be waiting anxiously for December when many schools release early decisions or perhaps you’re still considering applying to more colleges. Do yourself a favor and forget about all of that this Thanksgiving week. Spend time with your family. Enjoy the delicious food. Take a long nap. Binge watch your favorite show or read a great book. Whatever it is, make an effort to pause and to breathe. This Thanksgiving is most likely your last one living full time at home. Make time to think about your parents, caregivers, friends and other influential people in your life and offer your thanks and appreciation to them. Saying thank you in person is great, but calling, texting or writing a note or email works too!
Here’s wishing you a wonderful celebration of the many blessings in our lives!