One mark of a true professional in any field is the ability to temporarily set aside distractions from their personal lives and get the job done right. You expect that your surgeon won’t allow her frustration with her kitchen contractor to interfere with your procedure. You expect your accountant to be precise with your finances even when he’s anxious that his kid’s private school tuition was just raised yet again for the coming year. Mechanics, personal trainers, therapists, hair stylists—no matter how compassionate you may be, their problems ultimately should not be your problems. If they willingly take on the work, you expect them to be professional and get the job done right.
Parents, the same can be said of you during your student’s college admissions process.
Parents have an important job during this time—to be the parent of a college applicant. Your kids need you to model how a mature adult deals with a stressful time. They need you to be a supportive ear and a mature voice of reason. They need you to guide, encourage, and keep them calm when necessary. They need you to not melt down on their behalf.
And most importantly, they need you to remember that this is not about you. You are not applying to college. You are not about to be judged by people who have never met you. You are not about to take your first big step towards adulthood, to risk being told you just weren’t good enough, and to be subjected to comparisons with all of your peers.
Some parents will justifiably claim that all of those things are in fact happening to them. They do feel judged based on how their kids perform. They do feel compared to all of their peers. They do feel the pressure of the coming transition when their son or daughter will leave the nest and call someplace else home for the first time in 18 years. Depending on your community and your peers, those might be totally legitimate fears (albeit over factors that just don’t matter in the long run).
If you have to, commiserate with your partner or with a trusted friend. But don’t bring those issues to the work of being the parent of a college applicant. This job is important, and your kids need you to get it right.
If helping your student through the admissions process feels like a burden, see this past post to relieve some of the unreasonable and unnecessary parental responsibilities.