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Parents – One of the variables in the college search equation April 30th, 2009 | No Comments

Where are your parents in this process?

Just 10 days ago I was up at Clark University talking with parents of admitted students. Now I have to tell you, I generally don’t talk with parents much. I am really a teacher at heart and my passion is working with young people… but I suggested to one of my friends in the admissions office that offering a workshop for parents, to address their concerns about their teens leaving home was a possibility worth investigating. She liked the idea and I ran with it! Happily the two workshops were a great success… and I discovered that I liked talking with parents about their role in supporting their teens with decision-making and facing the changes/transitions ahead!

So where are you and your parents at this very moment in your college search process? I am guessing (hoping!) that you have had a few talks about where you might want to look… so here are some questions for you to consider. Perhaps they will start a few conversations.

How do you want your parents to help you during this process? How much support do you want and need?
Answers can include some or all of the following – depending on what part of the process you’re thinking about…
❍ “Just leave me to my own devices I will figure out what I need to do, where I need to visit, and how to handle all the pieces”
❍ “I could use some feedback about my ideas for places to look, people to talk with, and pulling all the pieces together – and maybe we’ll look at some of the colleges together”
❍ “I haven’t a clue about how to approach this task and I need your support through every step.”
(My take on the two extremes is… they’re extreme… not the best route: in the first case because you probably need information about family financial information (at the very least); and at the other end of the spectrum, how will you manage at college if you’re getting your hand held all along the way to getting there – I know, a brutal comment… but, it’s true, right? I think it’s a parent’s job to help you become a competent, independent individual who seeks support when necessary.

How will you tell your parent(s) what you want, in a way s/he can hear it?
Maybe you want to spend a little time on your own or with a friend and imagine what you want this process to be. Now, I am an arts and crafts kinda gal and so I like to create Treasure Maps (collage with magazine pictures, drawings and keys words, that create a picture of what you want your future or an event to look/be like), mindmaps, or Mindscapes (Nancy Margulies cool work). Whatever methods you chose, take the time to envision who you want to be and what you want to achieve in this college search process. And, that process includes the role(s) you want your parent(s) to play.

At the beginning you may just want to shoot around some ideas with your parents, then maybe it’s asking for the car keys and a map or money to hop on a train and check out some colleges… be sure to have the conversation about price range early in the process. If you don’t know what your family/you can afford, you can’t know where to look… And, don’t buy-in to the myths about state schools being less expensive than private colleges! If you just look at the numbers you will be missing important information… the private colleges often give significant amounts of money in scholarships or financial aid.

A few parents I listened to the other weekend hadn’t had the “Let’s figure out how your college education is going to be financed” conversation with their teens – and their teens were ready to chose a school! Learn from their experience – don’t repeat it! If it’s uncomfortable for you to start this conversation, talk about reading this blog… it’s a way into one of your most important conversations with your parents.

Be sure to leave the door open to possible changes in the types and amounts of help you want to receive… it may change as you get deeper into the process.

How do you think you will grow and change during this process?
It’s going to happen – and you may feel it before your parents recognize it… Or, they may not really be ready to see it, as they are going through their own thoughts and feelings about the future – both yours and theirs.

Make the time to let them know what you’re thinking… Too many parents commented on how they didn’t know what their teens were thinking – or how to begin a conversation about these really important topics and decisions… it made me sad.

What do you want your last year in high school/at home to be like?
It’s a big question! Find the time to think about and plan for it – so you can enjoy it!

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