I read a great book not too long ago about a seemingly perfect family in the San Francisco Bay Area that comes undone over their eldest daughter's quest to get into Harvard. The book, called The Admissions, will hit uncomfortably close to home if you too are feeling frazzled by your child's college admissions process. But I encourage you to read it, not only because it's incredibly funny and smart. It's also a great cautionary tale about how the pressure to be perfect and get into a certain school can be overwhelming.
So how to help alleviate that pressure? Try to help students understand that their lives don't depend on getting into one particular school, say experts. Tell success stories of people who went to all different types of colleges. There are more than 4,500 post-secondary institutions in the United States, so there is bound to be more than one school that would be a good fit. Also, be realistic about where to apply. Make sure your child applies to several safety schools so that he or she gets some good news when students start to hear from colleges. Finally, make sure you aren't projecting your own hopes and dreams onto your child and setting unrealistically high expectations. Students are often most afraid of disappointing their parents. Make sure your child knows that you will be happy as long as he or she is happy, no matter which school he or she ends up choosing.
Starting early, applying to a wide variety of schools and keeping in mind that students can be happy and succeed at a number of different colleges are the keys to staying sane during this pressure-cooker process. And reading a good book for a few laughs along the way can't hurt.
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