As the May 1 National Reply By deadline approaches, high school seniors all around the country wrestle with making that final decision. It feels overwhelming. It feels so final. It feels so very important. And it is.
Some parents pressure students — thinking that they know best or just wanting to help their student make that decision. Some parents stand back and let the student wrestle with the decision on their own. Some parents guide and ask questions to help the student think through options. No matter what your parenting style, if your student hasn’t yet made a final decision, this is a very stressful time.
Research suggests that in most families in this country, parents will be involved in helping students make this final decision — and students welcome some parental input. We’ve suggested in earlier posts some approaches to help your student face this decision dilemma and some things to do once the decision is made. We’d like to suggest here that you not only support your student in making this decision, but also that you encourage them to take the leap and make that final decision.
You and your student have probably made multiple pro/con lists. You’ve considered location, majors, college reputation, class sizes, athletics or extracurricular activities, social life, graduation rates, employment rates, housing options, special features of interest — music, drama, sports, clubs, and finally carefully considered your student’s financial aid offer and total cost. Your student has tuned in to their ”gut reaction” — often the final deciding factor for many students.
In spite of all of the careful considerations and weighing of options, your student still hesitates to make that final decision. It is such a big decision.
Remind your student of important decisions they have made in the past. Remind your student to listen both to their head and heart. Remind your student that they have gathered a ton of information about the school. Remind your student that their college experience is ultimately going to be about their attitude and actions no matter where they go. And finally, remind your student that nothing is truly final — there is always the escape hatch of a college transfer. (Hopefully, they may never transfer, but knowing that it is an option may take pressure off of this decision.)
Then encourage your student to take action and make the decision. Take the leap.
Once that final decision is made, the notification sent, the deposit made, your student’s world changes. Now the effort is in getting to know their college. Now the fun is in planning for next year, looking ahead to possible Orientation and getting to meet other students at their school. It is time to get the sweatshirt and the car decal. Both you and your student can visualize and imagine and plan for the future.
Give your student room to make their own decision about where they will spend the next four years, but encourage them to take the leap and make the decision as soon as they can. Then find a way to celebrate together!