Dear Your Teen:
We are not seeing any interest or desire from our daughter in the college process and pulling together a plan. She’s currently 17, a junior in high school, and is close to starting the ACT testing. We do not see the drive or interest from her on the college process. Can you advise on how I can motivate a teenager around this highly important topic?
Many students get overwhelmed and confused by the whole college application and research process and just shut down. The trick is not to look at the college process as one, giant overwhelming whole, but a series of bite-sized pieces.
Starting the conversation on college
A good place to start is to do some low-pressure college research with your daughter. Hop on the Internet together. Type the word “college” into a search engine and pick a city. Type in “college” with different words, like “warm weather,” “geekiest,” “friendliest,” or “sports enthusiasts.” If something looks interesting, take a deeper look. Have her make a list of the top five things a college must have. If a college doesn’t have this thing, cross it off the list. Attend a spring college fair if it comes to your area. There are also college search websites like Princeton Review and College Board to explore. If her spring break is coming up, consider planning a trip to visit some colleges. If she’s interested in a particular activity like music, sports, or drama, arrange to have her talk to students on campus who participate in these activities.
Hopefully she’ll start getting excited about what college has to offer. And once she’s found some colleges that might interest her, it’s a matter of getting her on track: creating a calendar with deadlines, researching scholarship opportunities, making sure she’s studying for standardized tests, meeting with her college advisor, etc.
And while I wouldn’t panic now, keep in mind that some students choose alternative courses of action. It is not unusual for students to take some time off before committing to a college. This is called a “gap year.” There are many ways to spend a gap year: internship, travel, volunteer, attend a gap year program, take courses online, or get a job. And for many students, it’s just what they need to feel ready for college.
Remember to ease her into the process and keep open the lines of communication. Whatever your daughter chooses to do, the important thing is that she chooses something that keeps her life and career moving in a forward direction.
Mandee Heller Adler is the founder of International College Counselors (@College_Experts) and author of From Public School to the Ivy League: How to Get Into a Top School Without Top Dollar Resources.