Taking the Nightmares Out of the College Admissions Process

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I knew my son’s college application process would be stressful but I didn’t know that it would give me nightmares — literally.

Last week, I dreamt that the University of Wisconsin at Madison denied my application for admission.

Denied! Not even wait-listed?!

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No matter how much I pleaded with the admissions officers, they wouldn’t budge. It didn’t matter that I already had an undergrad degree — and a law degree!

“We are a very selective school,” the admissions officer reminded me. “You will have to do better.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, last night I had a dream that I was admitted to some nameless/faceless school, but once I got there, I couldn’t leave.

No matter what mode of transportation I chose, I couldn’t get off that campus: I fell down while running away, the car wouldn’t turn on, the elevator wasn’t working, the taxi I got in kept bringing me back to the dorm. I was in my very own clichéd horror movie.

So, why am I having these nightmares and not my son? I’m not the one with the looming deadlines and the multiple essays yet to be written.

I’m having nightmares because somehow, we parents have been roped into this process, a process that our parents weren’t privy to. My parents didn’t even realize that I had sent in my college applications until they were in the mail. They didn’t read my essays or proof my application to check for stupid mistakes — that was all on me.

To top it off, we parents now get constant updates from the college counselor’s office letting us know how much our kids need to get done and when. When I was in high school my mom and I had one meeting with my college counselor and that was the last my parents heard from him.

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I understand that the college admissions process is ridiculously stressful for students now. Kids don’t apply to a handful of schools anymore — they apply to 10 or 12 or 15. And each application requires an essay (or three) and it really is a VERY BIG DECISION. The kids are stressed, and this stress is spilling into other areas of our children’s lives, namely the dreams of their parents.

So how are we supposed to cope? Medication? Meditation?? Mediation???

Mediation (or hiring an outside counselor) is one option — albeit a very expensive one. An outside counselor may provide some “adult” supervision during the process, but you need to be the type of parent who is comfortable turning over the entire process to someone else.

I’m not that parent.

Some friends suggest simply not buying in to the whole process. Literally — don’t buy all the “how to get your kid into college” books, don’t search the Internet for college info, and just delete email updates from the college counselors BEFORE reading them.

Easier said than done.

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The best advice, though, was actually offered by the high school college counselor during my son’s junior year:

Our kids are the ones going to college, so let them deal with this process. If they can’t keep up with the emails and the deadlines now, how will they manage going to college, where they will be bombarded by deadlines and choices? This is a difficult but necessary step toward their independence, and we need to let go.

I’m working on it…

Soon, we will be on the other side of this whole thing, and my nightmares about college admissions process will end. Then, I can have dreams about him being away from home and nightmares about how I won’t be able to reach him…

Connie Lissner is the founder of lifestyle blog i suck as a parent

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