As parents with sons and daughters prepare to enter the new school year as seniors, their worlds pick up and, for many, become frenetic. The focus is often split between the excitement of freshly sharpened pencils and new school supplies, and the pressure of upcoming college tours and class placement exams.
If your student is entering senior year, they are one of 3.6 million high school seniors students. (This is according to the National Center for Education Statistics, whose report is based on 3.3 million students from public high schools and 0.4 million students from private high schools.) For the college-aged student in your family, the number of students that attended American colleges and universities in fall 2018 was 19.9 million. Total enrollment is expected to increase between fall 2018 and fall 2027 to 20.5 million. That’s a lot of lockers to be filled with the belongings of the minds of our future.
Thinking about these numbers made me realize how many families nationwide are setting up their senior for a successful college career. As students prepare to navigate this busy term, here are some tips to help their (well-meaning) parents learn to let go and allow them to soar.
- Get planning and make deadlines. Don’t waste time easing back into the flow of classes and homework. The truth is that the earlier you plan and prepare appropriately, the easier transitioning into college will go for you. Set deadlines that are realistic and can be achieved with routines and hard work.
- Find balance with school and extracurriculars. Many colleges and universities consider the holistic student and their achievements when making acceptance decisions. As such, don’t let your extracurriculars (like sports, music, drama, debate, clubs and leadership roles) fall by the wayside as you prepare for the SAT exam or dig into homework. Fill out your calendar with these rich and rewarding activities. This will culminate in a brighter college experience.
- Take it easy, breathe and seek help.It’s a good idea to talk out your plans, and any challenges in your way, with your parents, guidance counselor, teachers, pastor, church leader, or any person you feel can offer you trusted advice and a good listening ear. The struggle is real, and your support system is there to help guide you toward success. In fact, when we don’t ask for help and keep our worries, struggles and fears inside, our minds become fertile ground for anxiety and depression. As I have written on this topic – The Latest Trend in Gen Z: Anxiety & Depression, published on my website – rates amongst Gen Z and younger millennials are ticking up at alarming rates. Don’t let these thorny issues get in the way of enjoying your last year of high school.
- For college and university applications, keep your options open. Entering senior year, you may be dead-set on top choices. However, it’s wise to visit multiple campuses, talk to friends at school and their parents about where they are going, and check with family friends who have already left the nest and are in the thick of the real-life college experience. Chances are, you’ll be surprised to find how many great choices are out there. For example, I thought I wanted a smaller liberal arts school where there were fewer students per class. I knew that at smaller schools TA’s and professors make time for more one-on-one educational development. What I didn’t know was that on the flip side to a smaller school is a large university where there are big time sports, endless clubs and resources to guide the larger student population. When I discovered this while visiting universities in the fall of my senior year, I fell in love with the bigger school because the resources and opportunities felt like a treasure trove to explore.
- Be safe, smart and Party Without Regrets. It’s no secret that alcohol and other drugs are often unwelcome invited guests to high school campuses, parties and then at college. Vapingand companies like Juul – as I have explored in a piece published on my website, Teen Vaping: From Flavored to Marijuana, An Alarming Epidemic Grows -have taken over on many campuses as adolescent activities du jour. The last thing you want to do is inadvertently get a DUI, be in a car accident, or attend a party where things get out of control. Stick with your friends who are close and trustworthy. For more tips on how to party without regrets, visit my article, Party Without Regrets, published by Recovery Campus ( ) on January 18, 2018.
- Let it go. Parents – you have done your best and your best is done. Don’t wrap your child up as if they are in saran wrap, avoid steam rolling your way with coaches and teachers, and definitely don’t snow plow others who are in their way. Be sure to avoid hovering like a helicopter, and don’t come up stealth-like as a submarine. I know you want what’s best for your child, and in the end it will be their college experience not yours. For more tips, check out my article – 6 Fears That Drive Snow Plow Parents, published by Thrive Global on April 1, 2019 – on the fears that drive misguided parenting and how to avoid them.
- Mistakes happen. Be open to learning from them and course-correcting. Perhaps your student picks their college, packs their bags, moves in and discovers this isn’t the right school for their professional goals and development. Let them learn from this experience. There are many options these days, and keeping your eyes open to the various possibilities will open doors to different opportunities. For more parenting tips, visit my article – Top 10 Parenting Tips, published by the Huffington Post on December 1, 2017 – which I wrote in collaboration with Jim Holsomback, who works at Triad Adolescent Facility, a division of Harvard Mclean.
- Discover joy. There are many spinning plates in sending your child off to college. Every event attended, all the planning and preparation and socials can comprise the process. Look for the good and smile through each turn. These are the moments you’ll remember and cherish. To learn more tips and tricks for developing a sense of joy in life, visit my article – Finding Happiness, published by the Huffington Post on December 1, 2017 – and make joy a centerpiece of your day.