How to be a Stress-Free Mom During College Admissions

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This continues the conversation from our previous article with Dr. and Mom Aviva Legatt regarding how to navigate the college admissions process.

Dr. and Mom Aviva with her family

Tell us about the most common misconception or myth about the college admissions process that you’ve encountered with moms.

Aviva: I have one that’s not so much about moms, but a common myth about college: My child has to do volunteer service hours. Service is wonderful. However, colleges are looking for civic action at a high school level that can benefit many people. That’s perhaps one of the most common misconceptions. 

Whatever students are doing—book writing, creating an organization, it’s important to have an exponential impact and to impact as many lives as possible. Colleges are looking for students with a service mindset that would help as many people as possible.

As a mother myself, I can’t keep up with the changes. For example, the realm of social media. It seems each year (okay maybe every few years) there’s a new platform. What should moms be mindful of? Does a college admissions’ office take social media presence into account?

Aviva: Yes, social media is a gray area, but there might be something that sparks [an admission officer’s] interest and they may google the students and see social media pages. If they’re not done in a flattering way, it could hurt the child’s chance of admission. Encourage your kids to be mindful of what they are putting out there, no matter the age. Your online presence will outlive you and anyone can check it.

Another option is to create a website to demonstrate your own work, which can make your application more powerful because there’s [digital] proof. Again—students should be mindful and if there’s anything out there that’s not appropriate, clean it up. If someone does find your profile, you don’t want to be embarrassed. Rule of Thumb: if you wouldn’t want a mom reading it, don’t write it online.

Sadly, another changing part of the landscape is the increased violence and mass shootings at schools. As moms, how can we help guide our kids to find schools that are inclusive and pay attention to mental health? How do we make this part of the equation for selecting and identifying a good school for our kids?

Aviva: This is complex. It raises two different challenges and I recommend taking a close look at two key locations on a campus. The first is a place where they can go if they are in danger. If students are having trouble on campus, where can they turn? It’s important for moms and their kids to look at the efforts of public and campus safety to learn how they are keeping students safe.

The second location is the counseling office. What services are being provided to help students with mental health challenges? How accessible are they? There are not enough counselors at schools to meet student needs. It’s an area for growth on many college campuses, especially if you know your child may need resources. It’s important to learn about resources there and maybe nearby. Freshman year can be an isolating time without deep friendships. For many, it raises transitional issues.

Any advice from your mom that you’d like to share with other moms?

Aviva: Live micro and make the most of your choices at the micro level. The reality is that anything we have can be gone tomorrow. I try to live micro and encourage others to live that way too.

If there’s one piece of guidance for the college admissions process, what would it be?

Aviva: At every stage, get the 360 view of your child. At each stage, try to get the full perspective—educationally and emotionally. I’ve found it helpful to engage the teachers and other professionals to get ideas on how to help them grow and develop. The same might be true for other moms—get that other view. Teachers see hundreds of kids in their career. They know kids and they know them in this context. Take your teacher’s feedback on your kids seriously—hear it at least. Be mindful, take it into consideration, and respect where it is coming from.

Do you have any interesting stories from the mom’s perspective?

Aviva: A common theme of moms from her stories and interviews of successful kids was these moms let their children be who they are and didn’t get in the way. Their kids had a lot of freedom to explore and do things on their own terms. That gave them agency to pursue their dreams. In these situations, they were talented people, but sometimes moms can hold kids back. The ways we’re raised make a big difference in what we’re able to do.

Heading to college is a really unique journey. For moms, supporting our kids in this process may feel like a stressful process. I’m not sure it always feels like a fun journey or adventure, but hopefully, these pearls of advice from Aviva can help make the ride smoother.

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