'Tis the Stressful Season

Susan Hartley Brisson

To any parent of a high school senior, the stress and anxiety of the holiday season isn’t limited to planning a menu or finding the perfect gift.  As the application deadlines come ever closer (Early Action?  Regular Decision?  Rolling Admission?), your child becomes increasingly more (choose two of the following):  (a) dedicated; (b) dramatic; (c) delirious; (d) delicate; (e) doggone miserable!  Tensions are running high, as kids juggle the Common App personal statement with English 12 mid-terms, Science Olympiad competitions and rehearsals for the musical.  Forget family dinners, as the dining table is covered with unidentifiable detritus, and you just hope that the whole business is over soon.  You have plenty of good and loving advice to share, yet it’s ignored at best and at worst – yikes!  I know.  I’ve been there with my own three kids – and now, peripherally, with my niece and nephew. 

Messy kitchen table

So what can you do to support your college applicant without getting in the way of a process that they should be directing?  There’s plenty you can do, I’m happy to say, without robbing them of this opportunity to develop and exercise agency and autonomy. 

  1. Do help them manage some of the nitty gritty details.  Create a shared calendar with important deadlines that will help both of you stay on track.
  2. Don’t believe them when they say:  “I can handle this myself.”  Maybe they can and maybe they can’t – the executive functioning abilities of 17-year-olds can vary widely.  Provide some subtle scaffolding so that all the essay writing doesn’t happen during the week of the December holiday break.
  3. Do encourage them to seek out their school counselors early and often.  These folks are in the trenches with kids every day, and for the most part, they’ve done and seen it all before!  Talk through strategies and rehearse conversations, as necessary, but allow your child to cultivate and maintain that relationship independent of you.
  4. Likewise, insist that your child email or call the college admission office themselves with questions or concerns.  We on the Admission side are happy to respond to emails or phone calls, so your child shouldn’t feel intimidated to reach out to us.  Once they’re on campus next fall, it will be up to them to contact their advisor or schedule other appointments, so don’t rob them of an opportunity to begin to develop self-advocacy while still at home.
  5. And finally, do make sure they know that you are in their corner.  I remember so well, the dance I had to do when my oldest daughter was applying to college.  At every holiday meal, concert or open house, everyone knew that she was applying – and EVERYONE wanted to talk about it.  Except her.  She was barraged with all manner of well-meaning questions about where she was applying and when and why (and whether she thought she’d get in at College X, Y or Z!).  My job was to parry and deflect these loving grandparents and friends – to take the spotlight and the pressure off her for just a minute.

At Olin, we have a holistic admission practice.  We carefully consider all the information that we request from applicants.  And we are intentional in our requests for information: we ask for all that we will need to make a thorough evaluation.  Nothing less and certainly nothing more.  We recognize that this is a trying time for kids – as well as for the adults who guide and direct them.  Therefore, we try to be clear and concise in our requirements and expectations. 

Here is a unique link to our Common Application. If a high school student in your world is considering an application to Olin (our deadline is January 1, 2018), please encourage them to use this link to apply, and tell them not to hesitate to contact us directly if they (or you) need further information.  We’re here to help.

Best wishes to you and yours for a happy holiday season! 



Photo from: http://www.5minutesformom.com/21762/tackle-it-tuesday-susans-kitchen-table/

Posted in: Susan, All Admission Staff Blogs