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

gclsportsgclsports 480 replies17 threadsRegistered User 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?
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Replies to: How to Get Through Applications Without Screwing Up Parent-Child Relationship?

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78232 replies690 threadsRegistered User 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.
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  • northwestynorthwesty 3500 replies9 threadsRegistered User 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...
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  • TiggerDadTiggerDad 1891 replies70 threadsRegistered User Senior 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.

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  • AroundHereAroundHere 3584 replies22 threadsRegistered User 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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  • sdl0625sdl0625 663 replies11 threadsRegistered User Member
    to solve this problem, we hired a reasonable college consultant, who helped D with the essay , but more importantly, met with D once week for an hour or two starting in middle August, to help her get everything done on the applications. The burden was then off of me, and just like having an assignment due for class, she had certain tasks that were "due" once a week . Overall I probably paid around 500$. but it was worth every bit.
    With current S19. i am , with his criteria, helping to choose colleges to visit, and making him think about what he wants to accomplish his Junior year. Next summer he will be starting his process, and yes, I will be hiring the same person to help him.

    BTW i know plenty of kids, mostly male, who have procrastinated to the last minute. One missed the Nov 1st deadline for a last minute school, and ended up getting in, but not getting the needed money that EA would have provided. i think the whole process just terrifies them, especially the rejection.
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  • Studious99Studious99 888 replies23 threadsRegistered User Member
    First of all, you need to relax! Some of my most key college applications didn't even come out until mid-to-late October last fall. Now that was stressful! It sounds like your son is doing very well on his essay, already having a rough draft. Honestly, I found it easier to write essays during the school year when I had access to advice from English teachers and counselors. I would continue to encourage him to get his Common App essay done and maybe 1 or 2 supplements, but ease off on the pressure otherwise. There's really no rush at this time of year.
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  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes 33305 replies767 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    It's July...
    Really, it's July.

    personally, I'd give him your financial parameters and expectations (for example, barring something major, he has to start college this fall whether it be a uni or cc) and tell him you're there if he needs help.

    By the time you apply for colleges, you're mere months from college. IMO, you should be able to get it together to get apps in on time.

    (Usual caveat that my opinions apply to most, not all students. I of course recognize that there students with special needs.)
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  • compmomcompmom 10762 replies76 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 2017
    I would leave it alone. It's summer and the living is supposed to be easy :) (Though his summer sounds awfully short). Let him relax before the senior year onslaught.

    Two of my kids finished their essays the night of the deadline. I felt that was pretty normal. They went to tippy top schools. Photograph albums whether hard copy or on the computer, can be powerful inspiration for essays. Some of the best ones are about perfectly ordinary things. If you keep making a big deal about the essay, he won't be able to do it.

    My son showed little interest at one point and clearly felt I was nagging. I told him, in a friendly and serious way, that he did not have to go to college and could work instead if he liked. I went out and when I came back he had done a color coded schedule for visits!

    I know that kids apply to so many schools these days, but keep it down. That is a better way to decrease stress than to nag him all summer. I can't imagine doing a spreadsheet but that just lets you know I am a bit dated :)

    Remember what you wrote here and act on it: your relationship IS more important.
    edited July 2017
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