Preparing for College? How to Help Your Anxious Teen through the Application Process

One of the most significant milestones in a teenager’s life is the college application process. As exciting as it is, it can also be one of the most stressful times — especially for an already anxious teen. There are many options to weigh, such as choosing the right schools, creating the perfect admissions essay, maintaining sufficient grades, and applying for scholarships.

The journey to higher education may start to feel more like uncertainty. As a parent, it can be difficult to watch your teen struggle with nerves, so it is important to love and support your child through this process and help them navigate the challenges as they come.

Start Early

The earlier the better! Most schools have an early admissions process for future students to complete. Starting early helps break down the tasks so they do not seem so overwhelming. It allows the teen to take their time and not feel so rushed to send in their application.

Create an achievable timeline with deadlines for completing standardized tests, application submissions, and financial aide. Being prepared like this may alleviate any additional stress.

Open Communication

With anxiety comes the potential for isolation. Reassurance and talking through any unpleasant feelings can help your child feel more comfortable with their college applications. Give them a safe space to process any fear, doubts, and career aspirations that may be weighing on their minds. Demonstrate active listening and validation for their thoughts and feelings. Teens will relish in the comfort as their parent acts as a trusted confidant.

Provide Guidance, Not Pressure

It’s natural for parents to want the best for their children. In doing so, however, they may provide unnecessary pressure without realizing it. Offer support and guidance without applying personal expectations. You can help them research, apply, brainstorm and prepare, but empower them to make their own choices and voice their own opinions about their future.

Manage Expectations

It’s important to provide your teen with realistic expectations about the college application process. Rejection is natural and a part of the journey. It does not mean they are not good enough or that they are failures. Come up with a plan to deal with possible rejection and encourage your child to keep an open mind about different schools. Remind them that the goal is not to get into the best of the best schools, but to find one that fits their academic, social, and personal goals.

Practice Self-Care

Along with anxiety comes the ability to neglect physical and emotional needs. Encourage your teen to prioritize getting enough sleep, eating healthier, exercising, and practicing stress management techniques such as mindfulness or meditation. Model these behaviors yourself and educate your child on the importance of caring for yourself. This is great practice for when they go off to college as well!

Celebrate All Achievements

It can be easy to get lost in the stress and business of applying. Remember to pause and celebrate with your child all the successes they complete, no matter how small. Celebrate finishing their essay, receiving a positive letter of recommendation, and sending in that first application! Acknowledge their growth and achievements as they happen. This will increase their confidence and help them learn to think positively about themselves. Positive reinforcement will make their college journey more exciting and fulfilling.

Seek Professional Help

Anxiety can be challenging no matter where it stems from. If your teens’ anxiety is causing concern, it may be beneficial to seek help from a mental health professional. Therapists can help teach effective coping strategies, stress management skills, help set goals, and boost self-confidence. They can be a great support for your child during this process and offer guidance for you all as a family. If you believe you or your children could benefit from counseling, reach out and schedule a session today!