Assumptions

As the November 1 early application deadline for many colleges creeps ever closer, students, parents, and counselors are often on edge, especially with each other. Everyone is busy. The stakes seem so high. The risk of one tiny mistake or one dropped application ball destroying years of work feels so real. It can all bring out the worst in otherwise good, reasonable people.

One way to restore some measure of sanity and civility is to make assumptions. That might sound risky, but assumptions can work wonders when you make the right ones, at the right times, for the right reasons.

Here are a few recommended assumptions to make at this time of year:

Parents:
Assume that your kids are feeling pressured, measured, and judged at every turn right now (most are). Assume that this is not a happy state in which to exist (it’s not). Assume that, in spite of what might seem like a lack of initiative or an abundance of application procrastination, many kids are simply struggling to manage the first project of real life significance that they’ve ever faced. And assume that with your unconditional love as their buoy, the good kid you’ve raised will find their way at whatever college is lucky enough to get them.

Students:
Assume that any querying or outright nagging from your parents comes from a good place. They want you to have everything, and they live in fear of you somehow missing an opportunity and resenting them for not being more involved. Also, assume that while this process really should be all about you (a doctrine that far too many parents break these days), the truth is that like you, they’re feeling judged and measured through comparisons to what other parents are doing for their kids. I know those comparisons shouldn’t matter. But the truth is that most of us never quite get over the insecurity that comes with seemingly falling short. Assume that your parents are human, that they mean well, and that they’ll return to some semblance of parental normalcy after all of this is over. And while you’re at it, assume that you’ll be OK no matter what happens, that your work ethic and character matter more than whether or not you go to a famous college, and that you would be hard pressed to find a grown adult who’s still being legitimately held back because of a grade, test score, or admissions decision that arrived back when they still had pimples.

Parents and students:
Assume that your counselors want what’s best for you and that they’re working like crazy on behalf of you and all the other college applicants at your school. In almost every case, that’s exactly what’s happening. And there’s almost always a reasonable explanation for any evidence appearing to the contrary.

Counselors:
Assume that parents and students who bring their frustration to you, even when lobbed unfairly, are only doing it because they’re stuck. They don’t want to feel this way. It’s not pleasant or comfortable, and those particularly irascible families certainly aren’t enjoying their ride to college. But the college application process and all the associated pressures wreak havoc at home and at school. Assume that many of those people who can be so unreasonable today will be so contrite and thankful for your help when this is all over. Assume that the work you’re doing is both important and difficult (it is). Assume that you and others trying their darndest to do it well are compellingly dedicated professionals (you are). And assume that no matter how draining, frustrating, or otherwise challenging the work may be, you’ll probably head to bed tonight secure in the knowledge that you’re making a difference for someone (and likely for many).

Will those assumptions be true all the time, for every person, in every scenario? Nope. But the assumption exceptions will pale in both comparison and frequency to every assumption that proves true.