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“Did you submit your application yet? You only have two more months! Don’t wait until the last minute!”
Parents are already very helpful in reminding you about your numerous stressful responsibilities on a daily basis, but during college application season? Suddenly it’s not just your mom and dad. All your relatives and your parents’ friends and your neighbors become highly interested in what schools are on your list, what majors you’re applying to, and generally just about everything related to your application that you have already labored hundreds of hours worrying over.
You may experience something different, but here are six things that many of my friends wished they could tell their parents during the college application season.
#1: “Please keep my private life, well, private.”
It is a common trend for parents to ask every person possible for advice regarding schools and applications. Naturally, they end up sharing many details about your personal life that you may not want to be common knowledge.
Before you know it, suddenly your piano teacher and your next door neighbor know about your grades and SAT scores and extracurricular activities and everybody starts giving you advice on how to write the essays. Because, of course, they went through the same exact process thirty years ago with the same standards and are completely updated on new trends in admissions.
#2: “But I don’t want to go to that school?!”
Generating the college list can be difficult in itself, but it gets even more complicated when your parents start adding schools that you’ve never wanted to go to. Usually the justification is “But it’s ranked #___ on U.S. news!” or “You need a safety school, and this program is ranked #___” or even “Mr. Yakamoto’s cousin’s daughter says this is a very good school. She’s a doctor!”
It may not matter that you’ve done in-depth research relating to the school and you really don’t feel like you fit into the culture. The general idea is: “Get accepted, then worry about that.”
But what they may not realize is how frustrating it may be to write the “Why X school” essay when you don’t even know the answer yourself. What’s surprising is that apparently $85 is too much to spend on several art classes that you love and cherish, but it’s totally fine if it’s the application fee for a school you have no wish to go to.
#3: “That information is not…accurate.”
As a general reminder: WeChat group conversations may not be the best place to get information about the U.S. college system. No, turning in your application earlier doesn’t guarantee an extra read by admissions officers. No, visiting the college doesn’t give you a statistical boost in chances. And definitely no, getting mail from colleges does not mean that you’re a target recruit and that you should apply there.
#4: “Please stop talking about colleges.”
Given that you already face enough reminders about the importance of college apps at school, at your various activities, on Facebook, in the mail, you really don’t need to think about it even more.
Some parents have the magical ability to turn every conversation into tips for the college application season. It often turns into laments about things they regret not having you do. Like sending you to SAT boot camp, because apparently your 35 on the ACT wasn’t high enough? Or pushing you to join a sports team even though you don’t have a single athletic bone in your body and you’re deathly afraid of moving objects. Or moving to Alaska because some colleges like to get students from all fifty states and you’d have less competition there. It doesn’t matter if all you asked them was “What are we having for dinner tonight?”
#5: “I know how important having a successful career is.”
Parents are somehow under the conception that, despite them raising you and teaching you for the past seventeen years, despite constant reminders from the media and society in general, you don’t have practical goals.
Yes, making money and getting a good job is important. Yes, you understand that very well. Yes, you have taken all of this into consideration when choosing your major. More so than just making money, you also want to challenge your intellectual boundaries and explore a field you’ve always been fascinated by. And you’ll work your butt off to achieve success, even if it may not be in a traditional field.
#6: “Please let me be me.”
“You do you” is a valid statement, so please don’t keep talking about how amazing other people are in comparison to your own child. Yes, Sally from Chinese school is nationally ranked in debate and Roger from piano set the new school record in cross country.
Though parents may feel that by comparing you to very accomplished peers will you will be motivated to do better, it actually just decreases your self-esteem and sense of worth. It makes you feel like you’re not successful enough, even if you have worked hard and achieved numerous accolades yourself.
The experiences of my friends are personal and real, and hopefully you’ll find solace in that other people are also facing similar situations. I personally was lucky enough to have very supportive parents who gave me the space I needed and lent me help when I asked for it. No matter what setting you’re in, I hope that you’ll find a remedy to any problems you might face. Very soon, all of this will be just a distant memory that you’ll look back fondly upon, so best of luck!
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