The “C” Word!

By: Molly McCarthy

the c wordStarting as early as eighth grade, teenagers are introduced to the C-word. College, and all that comes with the admissions process, begins to influence each little choice a student makes: whether they’ll be able to take Geometry Honors or to stay home from school or to go out with friends on a weekend. Teachers mention it here and there, parents and relatives bring it up as a topic for family discussion and as decision time approaches, it is basically the only thing high school seniors talk about.

I am in the middle of this process myself and am by no means an expert on how to get your child into their dream school but here are some thoughts from high school students on the c-word.

Problem: Grades and majors aren’t the only thing to consider when looking at schools.

Solution: While academics and financial aid should obviously receive most of the attention, don’t forget to consider the more interesting characteristics of colleges such as sports, food, clubs and activities, school spirit, study abroad etc.

Problem: Our high school is highly competitive and people begin to see their classmates solely as competition.

Solution: I am definitely guilty of this but I found that the more I obsessed over whether my classmate would get in somewhere instead of me, the less confident and more anxious I became. Focus on your own goals and potential to achieve them instead of constantly comparing yourself to others.

Problem: The waiting game is mentally and emotionally taxing because all there is to do is check the mail.

Solution: Emphasize with yourself, or with your child if you are a parent and try to minimize additional stress. Once applications are submitted, the decision is out of the applicant’s hands. Their continued diligence and good work ethic will serve them well in terms of maintaining good grades, but the bulk of their application is based in the work they’ve done leading up to the application deadline.

Problem: Students “hate talking about college,” yet it seems to be all they talk about. Whether it be in a class or at a friend’s house or at Hot Bagels, there has hardly ever been a time this year when college did not work its way into conversation in one way or another. People complain about applications, and then once those are submitted, they complain about waiting, and then once decisions come out, each acceptance and rejection and deferral and waitlisting is carefully analyzed by everyone in the graduating class.

Solution:  Respect the fact that not everyone is going to get into their top school. Try to avoid gossiping about why this person got in over that person because none of us work in admissions. Everybody knowing and talking about your decision letter only adds drama to what can already be a very stressful process.

Problem: Students, with encouragement from their parents, find “dream schools” that eventually they begin to obsess over. They get into the mindset that they could only ever be happy at this one school. This leads to tremendous anxiety leading up to decision day and potentially severe disappointment.

Solution: Help your child find a “safety school” that they actually like and would consider attending. Identify what makes the dream school so great and point these features out in other schools. Emphasize that putting all your eggs in one basket is not realistic due to the insane competition applicants face.

Problem: Parents don’t know how to respond to their child’s rejection any better than the child does.

Solution: Be sensitive to the fact that your child has been awaiting this news for months and to have it finally come, but not be the letter they hoped for, is crushing. Give them time to process the news but don’t allow them to give up and get into a slump. Remind them that everything happens for a reason and that their rejection from College A should not let them assume their rejection from College B, C , D, E and F. Qualified students get rejected from colleges every day. Above all, parents should make sure they do not let on to their personal disappointment, particularly in cases of legacy, because your child will internalize this and feel even worse.

MollyMcCarthy2CropMolly McCarthy is a senior at Ridgewood High School in NJ, and one of four girls! She participates in New Players, Sharing the Arts, and Student Government among other things and is excited to share some tips and teenage perspective!

If you are a high school student and want to contribute for your townsend us an email with your name, school, year in school, and interests. Include a sample writing piece which best demonstrates your ability to convey your opinion or a story clearly and concisely. 

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