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How to Get Through Applications Without Screwing Up Parent-Child Relationship?

gclsportsgclsports Registered User Posts: 291 Junior Member
In every other aspect of his life, S18 is completely independent and self-motivated. But when it comes to college planning, it has been really hard to get him to do anything. He dragged his feet when it came time to make a list, when it came time to visit colleges, etc. Now it is crunch time, and he still has an "I'll get to it when I get to it" attitude. I don't think he can afford to have that attitude because he has a boatload of ECs, a rigorous class schedule that will take up a lot of time this year, and an ambitious list of colleges to apply to, many of which have November 1 deadlines (early action and priority consideration for financial aid and scholarships). Between his attitude and my anxiety about getting things done and about being able to afford college (which we can't if he doesn't meet the priority consideration deadlines for FA and scholarships), there have been a lot of clashes between us, and those are becoming more frequent.

I am trying as best I can to balance the need to let him lead this process against the need to make sure he gets everything done, done reasonably well, and done in a timely manner. But every time the subject of college comes up, he bristles. He clearly doesn't want to talk about it and I don’t understand that. He says he wants to go to college. He has done everything he can so far – taken rigorous coursework with high marks, gotten very good (though not tippy top) ACTs and SATs, invested time in quality ECs and community service, etc. – to make himself competitive for admission and, at some places, for merit aid. I'm not sure what is going on.

He seems to have hit a particular roadblock with essays and frustration is at an all-time high for both of us. I gave him the Common App prompts when they first came out and told him to think about them. Shortly after that, his English class worked on college essays, and he had a hard time coming up with ideas. I helped him brainstorm about possible topics. He wasn’t happy with any of the essays he wrote at that time (he chose a topic just to have something to turn in) and didn’t want to use them for the Common App. Back in April, we talked about the need for him to have an essay ready to go by August 1, given application deadlines and all the competing demands for his time this year. Then I left him alone to figure out the topic and write the essay. I knew he probably wouldn't have the essay done by August 1, but wanted him to have a clear idea of the time frame he needed to shoot for and I was hoping he would get it done before school starts on August 14, since time will be a factor after that. This summer, I have occasionally asked him (he would say “constantly grilled” him) about his progress, and he always assured me he was “working on it.”

Last night, I read the essay he has been working on, according to him, “all summer” (but I can recall lots of evenings out and days spent listening to podcasts, such that I don't think it's entirely accurate to say he worked on his essay "all summer") and honestly it wasn't very good. The general idea has a lot of potential, but the essay was not executed very well at all. (It was mostly about someone else and it wasn't clear how anything he wrote related to S18.) When he talks about what he wants to do with this essay, it sounds so much better than what he had on paper. I guess S18 could tell what my reaction was, because I had barely gotten through reading it and hadn't had a chance to formulate what to even say when he took his tablet away from me and left the room, clearly upset. Meanwhile, I am frustrated because I don't see how he's going to be able to meet deadlines if he doesn't at least have this essay out of the way.

Clearly, S18 is stressed out. Clearly, I am stressed out. I don't know what to do. At this point, I am more worried about preserving our relationship than about where he goes to school. But at the same time, he has worked so hard to get to this point. He finally has some preferences about where he wants to go to school, and I don't want to see him blow the application process.

Anyone else had this kind of experience with your child during the college application process and if so how did you handle it?

Replies to: How to Get Through Applications Without Screwing Up Parent-Child Relationship?

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 62,974 Senior Member
    Have you clearly told him what the cost constraints are?

    Is there an affordable safety suitable for his academic interests on the list?

    If the answer to both is yes, then it seems like you are making stress where there need not be.
  • northwestynorthwesty Registered User Posts: 2,749 Senior Member
    You should pick up "Crazy U' by Andrew Ferguson. It is a funny and fast read about the process of shepherding your first kid through the college search/application rodeo. Including the dreaded essays...
  • TiggerDadTiggerDad Registered User Posts: 915 Member
    Your son needs to take ownership of the college application process even if it means losing out on some imagined opportunities. Clearly spell out what the consequences are by not meeting the deadlines, not preparing for LORs, tests, essays, etc. Be sure to let him know that you're not the one who's going to college (and which college) and let him take the responsibility for his own actions. Then, step back and give him the much needed breathing room.

  • AroundHereAroundHere Registered User Posts: 2,459 Senior Member
    Essays are the worst! But for each kid I found a source of outside help.

    Kid #1 used the Essay Hell video course.
    Kid #2 used the classic Harry Bauld essay book.

    If you can afford an ethical college essay advisor who is not emotionally involved, consider it.

    While I have insist that certain time be allocated to essays, I don't demand to see topics or early drafts. In fact, I don't want to see any essay that's not at least 75% done since I know parents should not be over-involved in the process.

    I disagree on the "hammer home consequences" advice. Adding more stress will not get those creative juices flowing.
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