I’ve never posted before, but began reading the parents forum last year when my daughter was a junior, and wanted to say thank you so much to all of the people here who asked questions and all of those who answered them. I have learned an incredible amount here, all of which helped me to much better support her as she went though the journey of looking for, and ultimately finding the college that she will attend next fall.
The first thing I learned was that it was her journey, and not mine. My job was to provide support and some logistics, and to be clear about finances, but I really had to learn how to step back and let her be in the driver’s seat for the process. Sometimes I did this well, and sometimes not. It was at times difficult to not let my own anxiety spill over and affect her. Anxiety is circular and contagious. It was my responsibility to recognize when mine was popping up, and to try to not add to the stress.
In the fall of her Jr year, we looked at a few colleges in a very casual way. We looked at different sizes and types of schools, just so she could get a feel of what environment she might feel most comfortable learning in. We talked about fit, and feeling comfortable, and being among intellectual and social peers, but we also talked about the skill of blooming where one is planted. We held to the concept that there is no “perfect” school, but that in the process of asking who one is and what they are interested in, a nice list of schools could be formed.
She didn’t like the PSAT test although she scored pretty highly (commended scholar), and took a practice ACT through her high school in January last year because comments I read here led me to believe she would find that format more comfortable than the SAT. That format did feel much better; she got a good score on the practice, and a very good score when she took the actual test. She did not prep, aside from some at home practice tests the week before the test, but she generally scores highly on standardized tests. I attribute this in large part to the huge amount of reading for pleasure she has always done.
We did our only formal college touring during spring break last year, and she found it to be very helpful. A couple of colleges that looked great to her on paper didn’t feel like a fit in person, and a couple more really rose high on the list after visiting. A lot was to be learned from reading bulletin boards and spending time sitting and observing in student unions and cafeterias. She did end up with a few schools on her list that she was really excited about, but did not get to see, and she would have gone to admitted students days to see them if need be in the spring of this year.
Over the rest of spring and summer she did a little research on the computer and looked at some of the books like the Fiske guide, but mostly just enjoyed her summer, and her friends. She continued to work part time in an ice cream parlor, which she likes for the paycheck, the sense of responsibility and independence, and the people she has met while working there She also spent several weeks doing summer volunteer work with young children which she has done throughout high school and really loves.
A parent told me early on that it was a very long process, and that there was no earthly reason to make it even longer, and we took that to heart. Her excellent college counselor suggested that the rising seniors not even begin their essays until August at the earliest, because they grow and change so much even over that summer. My D did fill out some of the common app right before school started, but wrote no essays. In fact, she still was adding and subtracting a few schools from her list in mid October, as she learned more and investigated further. She started essays and supplements in September, and worked on them steadily. A lot of times she just worked for 20 minutes here and there, which took off the pressure. It was much more effective for her mentally to say that she was going to work for 20 minutes than she “had to write an entire great essay today”. She had a goal of being done with everything by Thanksgiving, since we were traveling over winter break, and she did not want to be doing apps on the road. She chose to apply to one school ED and one EA, but she had to finish all of her apps, because there was a very short turn around between finding out in December if she got into either of those schools, and us leaving town. She did not quite finish by Thanksgiving, but had applied to 5 schools (the ones with either no fee or who had waived fees), and was ready to hit send on the others when she found out her ED results.