By Piyali Syam, Google Author
The beginning of the school year is fast approaching! For those of you with kids entering their senior year of high school, that means something big – college application season is right around the corner!
Make no mistake, the college application process can be incredibly daunting – especially if you’re navigating it for the first time. Conflicts may arise at this time, perhaps distressingly. Tensions abound, for yourselves as much as for your child! And no wonder – choice of college, choice of major… these are big decisions that are likely to have a profound impact on your child’s future.
Here are some of the most common triggers for conflict – and how you can deal with them.
Conflict #1 – Money
Money is a crucial factor when applying to colleges, especially as costs for obtaining a college education continue to soar. Your young prospective student may have a dream college in mind, but does he or she fully understand the cost? Not only in terms of the immediate future, but for the years ahead.
As the one holding the purse strings, your family’s finances play a pivotal role in your child’s college decision. Have an honest talk with your child about his or her college ambitions and what your family can and can’t afford. Explore and discuss options such as public universities, scholarships, and loans. You can find out more about funding options here.
Conflict #2 – Wanting Distance
Your child wants to move across the country, but you and your spouse want him or her to stay closer to home. How do you resolve this? Firstly, you must accept that college is your child’s decision. If he or she wants to move far away, ultimately you should not attempt to stop them.
One thing you can do, however, is open the floor for discussion about the root causes behind his or her reasons for wanting to be so far away. You may find that there are alternative solutions, and that their desire to create distance is in fact due to other issues, either at home or at school.
Try instigating a relaxed, non-confrontational conversation about their choice of college. Avoid sounding critical, but do ask enough to reassure both yourself and your child that their motivations for being so far away are soundly based on the merits of the college, and not for a more emotive, impulsive reason.
Conflict #3 – Choice of Academic Program
You want your child to pursue teaching. Your spouse wants him to major in computer science. Your child himself has a calling for the arts. As parents, we want what’s best for our children. However, at this stage you have to trust that your children can figure out what’s best for them.
Ultimately, they will live their own lives. Realize that your child is his or her own person. You can draw on your own experience to inform the advice you give them, but accept that you are different people, and as such, their decisions are their own. The best thing you and your spouse can do is support your child in making an informed decision, and present a united front.
Conflict #4 – Getting Overwhelmed
When it comes to selecting and applying for colleges, the sheer magnitude of the task can sour the most harmonious family relationships. Without a calm, logical and well-timed action plan in place, you may find that the atmosphere becomes fraught as deadlines loom and panic sets in! Your child may be feeling overwhelmed, and this often leads to heated tempers and irrational behavior.
Just bear in mind – while the ultimate decision of where to go to college is your child’s, the college application process itself involves your entire family. Make time to sit down with your child and make a list of colleges he or she may already be thinking about applying to.
If he or she doesn’t have any specific colleges in mind yet, make a general list of qualities which he or she would like in a potential college (some factors to consider: distance away from home, cost, academic programs, campus culture) and then research colleges that fit these standards together. Here’s a tool that can help.
Next, create an action plan! This is crucial. Work out exactly what needs to be done in the next few months and fix it into a timeline. Set reminders! Keep a college application calendar, where you and your child can mark important dates to keep track of, and action items that need to be completed by those dates. Hang your calendar on the fridge or somewhere else where it can’t be missed!
Be prepared to help in any way you can. Send off checks for application fees and help edit your child’s application essay drafts. Be available and be aware, but don’t hover – this may only add to the stress!
Sending your child to college is a group effort. Always aim to work as a team with your child and with your spouse. Remind yourself that you’re all working towards the same goal! Follow our tips and you’ll hopefully find that, like all challenging experiences, this essential yet stressful process can ultimately bring your family closer together.
PARC can help families at this difficult time. If you’re struggling to keep the peace, and conflicts are worsening as time goes on, make an appointment to speak with one of our expert relationship therapists. We’re here for you and your family.