A top-ranked college may not be best for your kid. Give them these gifts instead

It’s hard not to let peer pressure and your own feelings get in the way when your child makes a decision that feels so public and important to their future, said Kymberly Spector, the mother of a high school senior in South California.

“It seems like when you’re at it, this is the biggest decision and the biggest deciding factor of her future,” he said, adding that he strives to keep his daughter’s individual experience a priority over competing with other parents. .

Getting into a top-tier school has become more difficult and more important to the metaphorical family report card, which ostensibly symbolizes how well we raise our children, said John Duffy, a Chicago-based psychologist.

“For some (young) people it’s going to lower their self-concept, and for some people they’re going to feel like life is kind of a pass-or-fail question rather than an ongoing essay that you’re always writing,” he said. .

Parental pressure on college options has been on the rise for the past 20 years, and sadly, perfectionism among children has been on the rise, according to research published last week by the American Psychological Association.

That perfectionism can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, said study author Thomas Curran, an assistant professor in the department of psychological and behavioral sciences at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The pressure to give your child the best education is real, but the best education doesn’t always come from a popular institution, Heitner said. To help your family get through college decisions in a way that minimizes stress and maximizes students’ ability to make good decisions for themselves, experts recommend that adults give their children these gifts.

A return to your values

The college admissions process is full of noise — from counselors, schools and other parents’ social media posts, said Duffy, author of “Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety.” For her child’s sake (and your own), it’s important to take a breath and consider what you really want for her child.

“Inevitably, parents will say, I want them to be happy, I want them to be whole, I want them to be good citizens,” Duffy said. Once they get over their initial urge to keep up with their neighbors, “I hardly ever hear them say I want them to go to the best college they can, and I want them to make as much money as possible.”

How do we transmit that mentality to children? Heitner said it’s important to focus the conversation not just on how to get into an elite college, but more on the life they want to have and the many ways they could get there.

A break from social media

Social media has broadened the scope of who gets updates about our kids, and there’s a lot of flexibility that can take place there, Heitner said.

Online superiority can add to the pressure, “sometimes even undermining children’s opportunity to share their own news on their own timeline,” he added.

Heitner advised that information about children should never be published without their permission, and that during the college admissions process “people should consider taking a break from social media, and their children may want to, too, because all these posts stress them out.”

The security of unconditional love

The unfortunate truth is that much of the pressure on college is out of the hands of families, and parents may be anxious for their children to do their best academically as opportunities seem to become more competitive, Curran said. .

But it’s crucial to communicate those expectations with unconditional love and support, she added.

What children need to hear is “no matter the outcome… no matter what happens, you are loved,” Curran said.

the joy of learning

We can also help our children rekindle the joy of learning that can often be lost by focusing on test scores, rankings and admission rates before moving on to the next phase of life, Curran said.

Instead of focusing on school rankings, Duffy suggested taking study breaks with her kids to do something they enjoy together, like watch a show that makes them all laugh. She can also teach joyful learning by example by engaging her kids in the fun things she’s working on, like cooking, music or languages, Curran added.

It is a gift that can make your academic life more enjoyable and successful.

“If you dedicate yourself to your education, you will enjoy it, but you will also reap the benefits,” Curran added.

Trust your child’s choices

Rather than a marker of their success, it can be helpful to think of higher education as the first decision your child makes as an adult, and “the more you show that you’re confident in your ability to do it and to do it well, the more successful they’re going to be.” be,” Duffy said.

They will have many decisions to make, and allowing them to feel their own identity and showing that you trust their intuition will empower them in the future, he said.

“As long as kids are allowed to go their own way, I’ll never see them come back with a screwed-up first year,” Duffy said.

Know that the best option may not be the best ranked

What research has shown, but our egos and anxieties can obscure it, is that the prestige of the college a student attends is not necessarily a direct indicator of their success in life, Heitner said. Some people go to a top college without achieving their goals, just as people who attended a community college can go on to have the life they dreamed of, she added.

A 2018 study from the University of Kentucky found that a school’s selectivity had no significant impact on men’s future earnings. Women saw a 14% earnings boost for every 100 points added to their college’s average SAT score.

Duffy suggests removing the classification and focusing instead on what fits well. Sometimes the location of the school makes a big difference, or its size or the academic programs it offers; most of the time it’s about whether the people around you inspire and connect with you, Duffy said.

No matter what college your child attends, “he can’t have failed at life at 17,” Heitner said.

And whatever choice they make, families and students should remember that there is always an opportunity to change plans or try something new, he said.

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