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Five Skills Your Child Can Learn from the College Admission Process

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Nov 18, 2013 12:02:00 PM

We’re on the bridge. I hadn’t even noticed. The bay stretches out to the horizon, and the sky is that shocking blue it only turns in late fall. The sun turns the approaching skyscrapers golden-kissed. The smile that tugs at the corners of my mouth is completely involuntary. I love this city.

Encourage your son or daughter to take the out-of-towner’s approach to college applications and enjoy each step with a sense of novelty and wonder. They will discover all sorts of things about themselves and their aspirations. 

There are at least five life skills to be learned from the college admission process:

1. Scheduling. The biggest change from high school to college for many children is organizing their own schedule. For junior parents, college apps are a great opportunity to organize the summer to make sure your child gets his or her essays started—maybe even finished—before school starts again, and have time for work, friends, and other things that are important to them. For parents of younger children, take the time to discuss upcoming summer opportunities that will deepen your child’s engagement with their passions and interests.

2. Project management. College admissions officers say that most students’ essays are sloppy and don’t help them in the admission process. The best admission essays are written in phases. Model this kind of planning as you go on family vacations, or start including your child in planning day trips. Even planning your weekly groceries! That way, when you remind your son or daughter to plan out their college strategy, he or she will know what that means, and you won’t have to hover and double-check their work.

3. Self-advocacy. The most important thing your son or daughter can learn from college admissions essays is how to make a case for who they will be in the future based on what you will do in the past. Whether it’s in an essay or an interview, help replace generalizations with specific instances where their actions made a difference in the lives of other people.

4. Budgeting. The biggest stressor for college students is money! Have a frank conversation with your child about how much you can contribute to your college education. Make sure to apply to colleges where you are a strong candidate both for admission and financial aid. If you’re thinking about money, set up checking and saving accounts in your own name, and start saving money for college.

5. Iteration. College application essays are a chance for your son or daughter to learn about him or herself, to try different topics and approaches, to reflect on the key moments that have brought him or her to today and what he or she is doing to make a difference now and in the future.  Research suggests that students who take this process approach, who prepare to succeed by practicing, do succeed more often than other students. This is a difficult and extremely personal journey—help them to take this process approach, planning in time to practice and draft repeatedly, but try to refrain from asking to read the essays, unless they ask. Your trust in their ability to choose a topic will strengthen them, and will also help you resist the impulse to write or edit their essay for them.


This article originally appeared on College Prowler. To read the original text, click here.


Topics:college admission