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Just Dreading this Cycle Again

LookAtMyShoesLookAtMyShoes 27 replies11 threads Junior Member
Parents out there who have gone through the college admissions cycle more than once, how did you do it? And to define what I mean by admissions cycle, I mean, most of high school really. My daughter got through it, but it was so hard to watch her go through it. The endless studying, pressing in extra curriculars, night after night up until 2 AM or later finishing one of her many AP homework assignments. The endless pressure of getting that ACT/SAT polished, Subject Tests, PSAT, and AP tests. I swear she was studying or taking practice tests every weekend for 4 years.

She has stated multiple times that high school was miserable and she missed out on so much. She reached her goal, but now she's forever damaged by it and will probably spend a lot of her adult life trying to overcome that hurt.

Her brother is coming up right behind her and in many ways he's as talented as she and maybe even more so in some ways. Yet he's more gentle, kind and soft spoken. He's the kind of person who surprises you to find out he's top of the class. He's unassuming and laid back.

Yet he's watched all his sister's success and wants that too. He's lived in her shadow and yet she's also mentored him, tutors him at times, and is arguably his best friend.

He sees the financial limitations our family has and knows that ironically, the most affordable colleges are the most elite and therefore, to contribute to the family, he wants to follow in his sister's footsteps and get into one of those schools.

So here we are, at it again. He's doing, I don't know, 10-15 hours of interest-specific volunteering per week, plus a heavy class load. Like his sister he's doing very well in school. It's all lining up again.

Yet, I can't help but feel serious fear. I don't want him to curse this experience. I don't want him scarred up by this. He's just not like his sister. There's no golden choice for him. Really, he's not even chosen his path. Yet, he's jumped into the deep end and I'm dreading it.

What you can't fully illustrate in a college app is the countless hours of studying for standardized tests. My god, it must have been hundreds and hundreds of hours. In all the essays, scholarship applications, common app, there wasn't one place to add that.

It's what she spent the most time on. It dragged her life down the furthest and yet it was the silent contributor.

He hasn't fully hit that yet. We at least learned to stick to the ACT. She studied for both before we figured out that our school system prepared them better for ACT. However, it's not just about studying to take these exams, but it's about over and over again until it's perfected to the student's satisfaction. At least that's how she handled it. We'll have to wait for him to decide what's his goal.

I can say that I'm not putting pressure on him. I actually have tried multiple times to have him pull back a bit. He's enjoying it so far, but he's only a sophomore. He has no idea what's to come. It's different when it's you doing all the silent studying.

Maybe this was a rant. Maybe I just needed to say this because I'm so upset inside how all this unfolded for my daughter. Don't get me wrong, she's loving college. She's ok and will flourish from the opportunities, I just don't ever want to see that again.

Can you guys relate?
33 replies
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Replies to: Just Dreading this Cycle Again

  • cinnamon1212cinnamon1212 1353 replies11 threads Senior Member
    Could not agree with Blossom more!

    Step off the rat race!! It is highly likely that schools (even 2 years from now) will be deemphasizing standardized tests. Be strategic! Really think about whether or not an activity is something that matters. For example, taking AP exams doesn't matter for admissions. Consider skipping them. Your son should only do activities that he loves, don't do resume padding. There is more than one way to get into college, this exhausting overwhelming method is not the only way.
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 30999 replies199 threads Senior Member
    edited September 29
    As the teachers are saying in this horrible pandemic year, give yourself (and everyone in your family) some grace. Let your son lead on this, and just make certain that he finds some good safeties for himself in case he tires of pushing for the top or his application cycle doesn't yield the results he had hoped for. And do encourage your daughter to take advantage of the mental health team at her college/university. She has a lot to unpack, but I expect that they have worked with many students who have similar issues and so will have useful ideas for her.

    Wishing you all the best!
    edited September 29
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 2955 replies48 threads Senior Member
    I’m actually looking forward to going through it a second time, now more educated. My oldest is a Senior in college and my youngest is a Junior in high school. Younger D has a slightly different major - CS vs. MechE - but many of the schools are the same so it’s familiar territory.

    I do have the advantage that she’s a very high achiever with a positive outlook, which makes a big difference.

    The only part that concerns me is decision time. Older D stuck with solid matches and safeties, not wanting to squeeze in at the lower end of the class. So she was accepted at 6 of 7 and waitlisted at the other, which was her last choice, applied only because it was free.

    Younger D’s list starts with MIT, Stanford, and Caltech and goes “down” to Michigan/GA Tech. I’ve injected some reality to the list, in terms of adding a few safer schools, but she’s not used to not succeeding. It will be interesting.
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  • mom2andmom2and 3105 replies21 threads Senior Member
    Hugs to you and yours. I am not clear on how or why your daughter spent so much time and energy studying for standardized tests? Was she having trouble getting the scores she thought she needed? Did her scores go up significantly?

    I would start right there - have your son do some prep but focus on his classes and ECs not on the test prep. Most kids tend to do as well as they are going to do with some, but not excessive prep.

    No matter what, HS can be stressful, especially for kids that want to go to excellent colleges or even their state flagship. For parents, it can often mean trying to de-stress the Type A kid that is pushing his/herself really hard or trying to nudge the kid that has potential but doesn't really care about his/her grades (often his!). It is easy to say let them relax, but grades do matter especially for kids that want scholarship money. It is challenging to balance striving to do one's best with reducing stress.

    Good luck!
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 1038 replies20 threads Senior Member
    I just want to say that I do get it. I think the "fashion" on CC is to be super laid back and not worry. That just isn't me and I hear you and empathize. It is hard when you have a high achieving kid not to get caught up in the rat race, no matter what everyone here says. Mine isn't even in college yet but I am dreading the second one who will be harder because he wants more specific things.
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 2279 replies21 threads Senior Member
    edited September 30
    And there is no reason a kid can’t be one and done for testing.

    This. I saw my kids’ friends have weekly test prep tutoring all the way through HS. My kids spent a couple of weeks (maybe 10-20 hours total) self-studying with Khan academy with 2-3 online practice tests and were both one and done with more than adequate scores. We did these sorts of tests cold 30 years ago. Don’t get obsessed over what in the end is only likely to be a marginal difference in score.

    Do I worry about my youngest, who doesn’t care about much other than video games? Yes of course. But I’m not going to force him to do things he hates for the sake of a college application.
    edited September 30
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  • ClassicMom98ClassicMom98 740 replies1 threads Member
    edited September 30
    I do get it. After older S went through the process, I was glad that younger S had 3 years before it was his turn. That being said, studying for standardized tests doesn't happen in my area. I don't think tutoring exists. I think mine prepped more than most. I bought them a Barron's book and they said they leafed through it a bit before taking the tests. So, we didn't have that to worry about.

    Both kids were in a combo of AP/DE classes. Older S took several of the AP exams. He wasn't one to study much and is the kind of kid who did well anyway. What was stressful was all of the applications essays and scholarships. He applied to dozens of national scholarships. What a waste of time and such a disappointment. He fared much better with the local ones. Edit - the race for valedictorian/class rank was VERY stressful for his grade. Oh the stories I could tell about what went on behind the scenes.

    As a parent, it was stressful watching the results come in. He was waitlisted to the Ivies. HIs GF (who was more like a D at the time) was a combo of rejection/waitlist. So hard to watch the disappointment - not to mention the rejection of all those scholarships. Ugh. Ultimately, they wound up at schools that I believe were perfect for them. All's well that ends well, but what a rollercoaster. Not for me! I like boring stability.

    Watching his brother/GF go through the process was beneficial to younger S. He saw how hard it was for them and he buckled down and became much more serious about school. Ultimately though, the process was much easier for him. Whereas older S was striving for the best school for the best price, younger S was targeting large public schools. And mostly likely in-state ones, as his DE classes would automatically transfer. He said he didn't want to take any AP tests and I said fine. It saved me $$$, saved him stress, and he really didn't need the credit anyway. He had 50+ from the DE classes. And we didn't waste any time on national scholarships. He concentrated on the local ones and did VERY well.

    Best of luck to you all. We are now in the job/internship hunt cycle. I'm not sure if that's better or worse.
    edited September 30
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  • rickle1rickle1 2775 replies23 threads Senior Member
    Second time around for us was physically more demanding as D is a performing artist and all her schools were auditioned base so there was much to plan. I wasn't being over involved, just appropriately so as there was no way for her to book airlines and hotels and check travel schedules with work, etc. There was a lot of that (like at least 10 trips - 6 or 7 straight weekends which was both fun and exhausting).

    That said, it was less demanding regarding the staying on top of things. With our first we were all over him to get his essays done and LORs and speak to GC about sending stats, etc. Second time around we just let D handle it. Not that she was better at it, we were just less stressed.

    I'll actually miss the process a bit as it was fun helping them research programs and schools, and I loved visiting the schools. Made me want to go back to college and choose something along the lines of where my career took me vs. what I thought I would do.
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 42817 replies2306 threads Super Moderator
    My first was high-achieving and athletic and I was stressed out of my gourd. He got admitted into some top schools, like Amherst and Wash U. After he fell ill with schizophrenia and had to drop out of college, my priorities changed and I didn't get as stressed out with his younger siblings. They were both different from him and different from each other. At least my youngest ended up going to a school I had liked a lot during the first college search, so it wasn't all a waste.

    Yeah, then there's the first job search, which the younger two kids are experiencing at the same time since the middle kid took two and a half gap years before going to college. Ack. I think it's even more stressful than the college search, but the good thing is my kids are older and pretty much handling it on their own, except when they ask me for advice occasionally.
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  • ordinarylivesordinarylives 3215 replies45 threads Senior Member
    We chose not to run, as @blossom would say.

    While the elite schools may be the only schools guaranteeing that all need is met, many other schools meet full need for some students. If you're talking about elite school level stats, you may very well find plenty of schools that are affordable.

    Both kids did as much as they wanted in hs. They quit activities. They didn't take all the APs or "self-study" for any of them. Both went to schools never mentioned on CC (but have similar stats to many that are--what you get for living in flyover country) and graduated without debt. One just finished a master's and is working in a position where she can use it. The other, without all the engineering hand wringing that seems to go on here, is an engineer with a FAANG company on the west coast. Not saying there weren't "moments" in hs or that it was a stress-free La Dee Da experience, but it doesn't have to be the sheer hell of hours of studying, ECs, volunteering, and absolutely no time for oneself. Just choose not to run.
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  • ChaosParent23ChaosParent23 795 replies47 threads Member
    My kid worked hard, but nothing like what you're describing. One of the biggest things that helped him was being able to read critically and digest info quickly. That's something that can be worked on even as a young child. Just read. Alot!

    Another thing that kept him sane is simply not buying in to the rat race. He had 2 friends who went to U Chicago and another who went to Vandy. Great for them, they earned it! But that wasn't him. He found what fit him outside of anyone's expectations.

    The one thing he did was take the ACTs alot. He couldn't fit in private tutors or test prep w/ his athletic schedule so he sat the first test as a Frosh, and then a few more times after that.

    Of course HS wasn't completely stress free, but that had more to do w/ his athletic schedule and being gay in a place decidedly anti-LGBTQIA+.

    In the end he's where he is meant to be and is doing very well.
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6903 replies2 threads Senior Member
    edited September 30
    The US definitely puts way too much stress on our high school students. I think that this is a major problem that harms our kids. The fact that just getting great grades in tough classes is not enough for admissions to top universities adds quite a bit to the pressure. It also adds to the lack of sleep for kids who get home exhausted after three hours of ECs and still need to do homework for their AP classes.

    I still remember the papers coming off the printer after midnight. This was a regular part of high school for both daughters. I would take the papers up to them and say goodnight.

    My two daughters reacted quite differently to this. One thrives with stress and always being busy. She found high school stressful, but managed it okay. The university application process was very stressful, with affordability just adding to the problem. The other is brilliantly intelligent but does not deal well with stress. We needed to keep her focused on not worrying about anything other than doing well in school. Since we live near the northeast corner of the US there are quite a few schools to the north and northeast of us in Canada that are not too far away and that admit mostly based on grades. This meant that she did not need to worry about ECs at all, and also did not need to worry about cost. This reduced the university admissions process to mostly just deciding which school to attend -- admissions itself became a non-issue (she had trouble believing this until the acceptances came in given the process that her friends were going through).

    I think that parents need to pay attention to their kids, and help each kid to get though this insane process. Different kids will react differently, and we need to pay attention to the differences.

    Which means that I agree with the original post except one point varied for us: For us the elite schools were not the most affordable. This will of course vary depending upon many factors.
    edited September 30
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