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Calming Your Parent's College Anxiety

Help calm down any anxiety your parents may be experiencing about you being in college.

Maya Moritz

March 03, 2016

Calming Your Parent's College Anxiety
Most college advice will focus on you- your classes, your friends, your work-life balance. But, what about your parents? Especially if you’re the first child to leave the nest, you’re going to have to deal with major parental anxiety at every stage of the process. Here’s how.

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During the application process, you’ll see whether your parents are more hands-off or prefer to basically apply for you. It’s up to you to make sure that the application is still your application. If your parents lend a hand too often, tell them so. In my experience, the best way for a parent to help is through strategy. They should help you decide where to apply early decision, how many schools you should apply to, and maybe what your essay should be about.

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Go to them for application questions. Have them help you put together a resume and list your most important extra-curricular activities. All of this assistance will create a stronger application. But stop them from hovering over your work. You should write at least the first draft of your essay and then have your parents look over it. When they do, they should provide criticism, not rewrite the main body.

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When you’re about to hit send, review your essay. Did you write less than half of it? If so, it won’t sound like a student. Colleges can tell if an essay was written by an adult by the diction and feel of the essay.
After your submission, your parents can step in again for help with the FAFSA and other official documents while you focus on scholarship essays.

Moving to College & Your First Semester

When you first move in, your parents will be highly stressed. They may cry on the drive up. Let them. Make sure to control your own stress as well in order to help them cope. When my family took a ten-day trip to Scotland to drop me off at St. Andrews, I became grouchy because of my stress. This wasted a day or two of precious family time when we could have all been enjoying ourselves before I didn’t see them for a semester. Once you move in and wave goodbye to your parents, your life will become chaotic. The first week will be a mad dash to make new friends, join clubs, find your classes, and buy your textbooks. During the first week, try to call, text, Skype, or Facebook chat your family at least once. Sometimes so many calls can become overwhelming, so I took to writing a weekly family email with updates about my classes, friends, and activities. After the first week, you’ll settle into classes and find a stable group of friends. Don’t let this routine lead you to neglect your folks. A daily text will often pacify a parent, as long as the weekly phone call is not distracted and rushed. Fill them in on your life, making sure to mention your grades. If you’re struggling with classes, your parents may have suggestions. Also, you don’t want to blindside them when exam results arrive after first semester. Calm their nerves about your social life, whether it’s the fear that you’re partying every night or never leaving your dorm.

Second Semester and Beyond

When everything falls into place and college becomes comfortable, your parents will probably feel fine if you space out your communications somewhat. Later on, your parents will trust you to study for your tests and go out for an appropriate number of nights. Don’t give them an account of hours studied and parties attended. Instead, focus on activities. It’s time to establish your place in college clubs and societies and make the connections that will lead to internships. Tell them about your events and ask if they have advice. They can help you update your resume or apply for a research position. More importantly, they can step in if the administration of the school poses any problems. I switched rooms this semester, which was relatively easy in my school. However, in American schools, the process is daunting. Sometimes, a parent’s call can hasten whatever change you need to make. Your parents will be most helpful when it comes to housing and travel, especially if they’re the ones funding your adventures. Always ask permission before the purchase of a plane ticket or hostel stay. Contact doesn’t have to be a pain. Calm parental anxiety with frequent phone calls. It’ll strengthen your support system and your parents will thank you.

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