From the NYU CHILD STUDY CENTER: ASK THE EXPERT
How Can I Help My Child
Cope with College Application Jitters?
My daughter Emily is finishing the eleventh grade, preparing for
her SAT exam, two SAT subject exams, and her calculus and chemistry AP exams.
At the same time, in planning for the future, we met with her school guidance
department and we are discussing the application process and beginning to visit
Emily is filled with excitement about college but is also
feeling stress, anxiety, and pressure arising from the details, deadlines, and
competition that she faces. She has not even begun to think about the fact that
going to college will end a chapter in her life and bring about major changes
in relationships with friends and family.
For my wife and I the process is stressful as well. We see her
struggle over these college-related issues and we see her moving slowly but
inexorably from adolescence to young adulthood. In addition, we have the
increased responsibility of helping her with some of the administrative tasks
related to the process.
In order to help our family get through this, I turned to my clinical
staff to provide guidelines and find ways to make this a less nerve-racking and
a more positive experience. Here are some of their suggestions.
Make the process a positive learning experience. One of the keys
to success in life is learning how to deal with time-sensitive and difficult
situations. Applying to college is an opportunity for teens to learn how to
organize, maintain optimism in the face of uncertainty, and deal with the
discomfort and anxiety of interviews.
Maintain an open dialogue with your teen on the role you will
play in helping him/her get through the process (how much hand-holding will be
needed) but don’t become over involved or critical. And don’t do the work that
they should be completing on their own. Remember that teens are moving towards
independence. The most important role you have is to take on the organizational
and triage tasks. Help them plan the process so that things don’t end up being
done in the last minute.
It is easy for anxiety and negative thoughts to get out of
control. If your child doesn’t get in to his/her top choices, it is not the end
of the world. Remain calm and optimistic, and be the voice of reason; otherwise,
you might intensify your child’s anxiety to the point that it is paralyzing.
Remember, along with the tension, this is an exciting time.
There is no such thing as the
perfect school. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Let the guidance
office help you understand which universities might be a good match for your
Above all, maintain a healthy sense of humor. This is a
complicated process with bureaucracy and absurdities built in. Don’t forget to
laugh and take time to relax. It will make the experience much easier.
We’ve implemented these tips in my home. I’ll let you know how
well they worked some time next year.
This monthly column provides educators, parents and families
with important information about child and adolescent mental health issues.
Please submit questions for ASK THE EXPERT to Glenn S. Hirsch, M.D., Medical
Director at the NYU Child Study Center at email@example.com.
To subscribe to the ASK THE EXPERT Newsletter or for more information about the
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