One Size – Does Not Fit All

I just returned from accompanying my daughter and a friend to Disney World.

Because I am an over-planner – I plan for plans a, b, and c – in almost everything I do – a few days before the trip, I packed my suitcase and then, what my children affectionately (or perhaps sarcastically) refer to as my “Mary Poppins bag.”

However, they never seem to complain when out comes a snack, a phone charger, a bandaid, a deck of cards, a wet wipe and extra hair tie, or a rain poncho.

Yup, that’s right – I carry a rain poncho – you know, those plastic ones that never fold back up to fit back into the bag it comes into – yup, that one.

While packing up for this most recent trip, I noticed something interesting. One package said, “One size fits all,” and another said, “One size fits most.”

How true is that! Whoever changed the packaging should be given a high five, kudos, and a raise.

As I was neatly arranging things in my carry-on, I thought about the “one size fits most” statement – and how true that is about most things in life – including the college search, application, and admissions process. However, the more I thought about it, if I were to put a statement on a college application workbook, I might change it to “no size fits all – your size fits you.”

If each of our children is different, shouldn’t their process be different, too?

Some of our children hit middle school and already have their sites on college (not something we promote, but again, our kids are who they are), others get the college bug as they enter high school, some in their junior year – and others not until senior year – and while that might stress us parents out – the number one rule of a successful college admissions process is to meet our children where they are and remembering that “no size fits all – their size fits them.”

So, if you are just starting the college admissions process, start where your child is. Engage them in the conversation, giving them the autonomy to take the lead in areas they are ready to and offer them support and scaffolding in the areas they need help in.

Here are just a few tips to help determine where they are and how to have productive conversations about college:

  • Start by asking how they feel about the college admissions process.
  • Validate their feelings and then follow up by asking what you can do to help manage those feelings. (use their words, i.e., how can I help manage your worry, excitement, etc.)
  • Ask them if there is anything that you might do that could exacerbate their feelings, and then remind them that you will do your best to avoid those behaviors (but that you are human too and might slip up)!
  • Be honest and tell them how you are feeling. (i.e., I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, I am feeling excited)
  • When having future conversations, let them have a say in the time and place of having them.
  • If you have several topics you want to discuss, let them have a say in which topic you will discuss first.
  • If your child is resistant to having the conversation, but you know that some decisions are time-sensitive, try giving them a reason for the conversation and stick to that topic, for example, “We need to talk about booking our trip because the airline prices will increase if we don’t book them soon.”
  • If your child is over-zealous about the process and is working at a speed more quickly than you are, make sure you are clear that you, too, are excited about their process, and then schedule a time (in the very near future) when you know you will be available and have the capacity to sit and give them your full attention.

Do you want more tips on parenting through the college admissions process?

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