counselor tears & college applicant fears

10AM brought me to tears today. I was at my laptop typing away after attending a college counselor update breakfast. (Colleges host such events to make sure we know the latest and greatest about their process and offerings.) It was a fun and engaging morning full of chatter, catching up with colleagues and learning. So why was I crying? I guess my emotions remembered what my brain had refused to focus on earlier today. The TV stayed off this morning, I did not scroll through my usual go to threads. I ignored the date.

We remember feelings over facts of course. As the tears came, I stopped blocking the memories and found myself pacing as they took over. Walking out of room 105 into the DCDS Upper School hallway and seeing my Crisis Team colleague sprinting away from me sobbing. Telling students that it would be fine and having no idea what I was talking about. Listening as students told me their fears about loved ones in NYC and DC. Calling my friends and not being able to get a line into the east coast. Hearing who was lost or unaccounted for. Holding it in until I made it to my red couch at home. Wondering how to teach on 9/12.

I was quoted in the New York Times seventeen years ago on 9/11 & again today.  The 2019 article is for applicants whose lives took shape in a post 9/11 world.  What does that mean?  I was thinking on this all day as I listened to applicants and their families, but I kept getting interrupted by flashbacks.On 9/10/2002, I quickly typed my thoughts on a desktop computer at my college counseling desk and emailed them to the NYT in between teaching history and dashing to field hockey. Loved living the busy life of students back then.  I fed off their energy and perspectives.  Still do!  Just wish that the general college application process had become less complex rather than more layered, nuanced and varied.

Parents today are more involved in the process than I ever remember. Some even complete the applications and literally finish the entire process for their child. As in the applicant does not even know where they applied.

Tonight on the NACAC college counseling Listserve, a counselor asked how to keep parents from tripping up the process. Another counselor shared that she gives families a responsibility chart to define the appropriate parent role, student role and counselor role. I love that. Clear cut directions. How refreshing for all!

Parents are operating from a place of fear. They want what is best for their child and do not know the best way to get it. The college app process is a fear feeder with its hard to navigate pathways–and both peers and the press often stir it up even more by sharing random “facts.”

Boundary crossing sends so many mixed messages. The students may feel as though they are not perceived as capable, or that the process is to be feared and that they should be shielded from it. I do wonder if part of this parent behavior is a manifestation of having a child born into the questioning times of 9/11. The ultimate unknowns were indeed at play and imbedding their emotional reach into the hearts of new parents.

One way applying to college has indeed become less complicated is in filing for need based financial aid.  No more paper forms, can use a phone app, and one’s tax return may just be a click away thanks to improvements to the FAFSA.  (Just make sure to complete the CSS Profile if college requires it.)

*Here’s to the Class of 2020 kicking off a fruitful college app season. We will #neverforget the year you were born. 

Published by instacollegecounselor

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