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College Talk Blog

Why kids avoid preparing for college

I often speak to parents who are frustrated with their teen who does not seem to be putting in enough time on SAT or ACT Prep or appears to be avoiding writing a college essay or working on college applications or even going on college tours. The parent point of view is often that the student is playing around. Parents also feel that their teen either does not care about college admission outcomes or that the teen assumes that college admission is assured.

Speaking to the students in question often paints a different motivational picture. Often the teen feels that college is so far away when it is not as far away as it seems to them. Some are anxious about the idea of leaving home and the school environment they know for the unknown. Others fear the potential rejection of submitting a college application. Some students do not feel confident of their academic abilities and fear they will not earn sufficient standardized test scores. Added to these teen worries is the social acceptance or rejection of their college admission accomplishments. Parents can also fall victim to social pressures related to college choices and admission outcomes. 

Families tend to choose one of three behaviors 1) make the student totally responsible for success or failure, 2) micro-manage the student or 3) bully the student into submission. Each of the approaches has some measure of success and also some risks. One thing I like to remind families is that this is the student's last year at home. I ask if they want the last memories that they and their children have of their days living under one roof to be about college arguments. The last days that teens live with their families set the stage for the adult-adult relationship they are forming. Families who fight their way to college may find that they make fewer decisions together later and that they will spend less time together.

College decisions, processes and outcomes are rites of passage and part of the growing up process. Parents should point out deadlines and encourage students to meet them. Optimally parents become key trusted advisors to their children and students grow as a result of the college process. Helping the student make the best decision leads to student confidence, success and enhanced skill.

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