Here’s what your high school senior may be feeling now that he’s picked a college.
by Anne Vaccaro Brady
The deposit is in, the housing questionnaire filled out, orientation scheduled and now your teen may be wondering if he chose the right college. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. You might also be asked, “Do you think I made the right decision?” Unless you had doubts all along about your student’s choice, be supportive. As my daughter, a college sophomore, told me when I asked her about this, “Don’t second guess your kid because if he thought it was the right choice, then it probably is.”
In addition to the indecision, your high school senior is likely reacting in a way that reveals a bit of anxiety, and fitting into one of the profiles below.
The resident student For some kids, the reality starts to set in that in a few short months they will be leaving home and spending their time with new people. This is especially true for those going to a college with few if any kids from their high school. My daughter is the only person from our town at a very large public university. The idea of new friends and new experiences sounded more appealing before the college commitment was made.
As the parent, you need to reassure your teen that other kids will be in the same boat, and that even though the adjustment will be hard, you know she can handle it. Don’t downplay the challenging nature of the situation, because this is a big step. Remember to focus on the reasons she chose this particular school because those things aren’t changing.
The commuter student Students who are commuting might start wishing they’d opted to go away. They’re worried about their friends making new friends and having “exciting” experiences without them. Of course, with today’s social media, they can all stay connected, but the concern is legitimate.
Assure your student that this won’t be a repeat of the high school experience, especially if he’s willing to put himself out there. Encourage him to start researching campus clubs and activities now as a way to find kids with similar interests. And check out the college website for any special commuter programs.
The already-out-the-door student Your senior might be one of those who, with the decision made, is prepared to head to college now. This is often a sign that she’s just tired—of everything. Many public school students have been together for 13 years. The kids wanting to move on tend to be the ones ready for some independence and all set to make some decisions of their own. There could also be a bit of anxiety about the big move and they just want to get it over with already.
Talk to your student about what she’s looking forward to at college, and help her establish realistic expectations. Too much excitement about how great college will be can lead to some big disappointment the first few weeks as she adjusts to her new life.
The student with the anxious parent As my daughter told me, these are the kids who start college too aware of how far they are from home. Keep your issues to yourself. Lamenting about how much you’re going to miss your child because he’ll be so far away can make it harder for him to talk to you about his fears.
With our daughter, we reminded her that she was only an hour and a half away by plane, and we could hop one easily in an emergency, plus she could reach us anytime because we all have cellphones. We admitted that we’d miss her, but explained that what mattered to us were the amazing experiences awaiting her.
Our daughter has told us we downplayed the adjustment part too much making the first couple of months harder than she’d anticipated, but she’s still happy with her choice.
When the second-guessing sets in, our job as parents is to support our children in their decision and reassure them that college will be the positive experience they expect.
Share your thoughts and experiences with the college decision in the comments section below.