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Your Stressed Out Teenager

Is there anything worse than a stressed-out teenager?  Yes – an already stressed-out teenager adding college application stress on top.

College admissions is a process famous for inducing stress, placing a huge burden on entire families.  It doesn’t have to be that way – and you as a parent can decide how much pressure you put on your kids to perform academically, and how much they decide to pressure themselves.

I saw this piece on CNN last weekend that reminded me how parents and teens can work together to reduce stress – first by just recognizing that it’s there:

Parents often consult with us about college visits when they go out of town for Thanksgiving, winter break or spring break.  “We’re going to Boston to visit family,” they tell us, “so we’re just going to swing by Harvard and Tufts for quick visits.” (or Stanford for those visiting relatives in Northern CA, or Columbia for those visiting family in NYC….etc.)

When you “just drop by” a highly selective college, you are subtly sending your child a message.  “This school should be within my reach,” is what your child will take away from that quick visit.  “This school,”  [which in Harvard’s case rejects 94% of its applicants and 80% of the valedictorians who apply] “should be a target school for me,” your high-performing child will think.

Our advice is two-fold:

  • First – if you really want to visit these types of schools – please don’t buy the sweatshirt yet.  Wearing it for two years will only deepen the connection and make the pain greater if a rejection eventually comes.
  • Second – if you consult us before your trip, we’ll be happy to give you a list of a broad spectrum of colleges in the area where you’ll be visiting that can help your teenager get a balanced view of the variety of college campuses out there.

The Journal of College Admissions, the official publication of NACAC, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (of which the entire Magellan team are members), published an article which discussed how stressful the push for admission to elite universities is among students of affluent families.  We often find ourselves talking to parents about actively working to avoid making their kids feel like they (the kids) will disappoint them (the parents) through the college admissions process.  There is nothing worse to a teenager than feeling they have disappointed their parents.

Your support during the college exploration process for them to really look for colleges that are a good fit, instead of just focusing on the ones whose bumper stickers will look good on your car is extremely important.

With NACAC’s permission, we’ve posted the article below.

Extreme Pressure, Affluent Students (Journal Dec 2013)

Our work through Magellan College Counseling allows us to be cheerleaders, advisors, guides, coaches and counselors, both for students and parents.  This is a difficult road.  Students and their parents don’t always enjoy open lines of communication.  But with time and a plan, the process can be made organized and low-stress.

As always, feel free to get in touch for a consultation!


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