February is probably the most stressful month for students who have applied to college. They hear crickets from the colleges but the buzz among teens is really loud. In January, the applications went in. And now they wait. Some letters may come in March, but many come in April.
This is the time when the kids start talking and worrying. They know who has applied where and who has been accepted early. There is great stress and pressure and worry. My oldest applied early decision and was done with it all in December.
But Grace applied in January and was part of the big wait. Every day there was some new revelation when she got home from school about who is most likely going where. Worries she would not get in anywhere.
We told her early in the process to keep her choices to herself. That didn’t happen. Then everyone starts talking and comparing SATs and grades. With each new discussion, there were mounting doubts on her part. We would hear things like, “Well, I guess I’m not going to college.”
So even though it seems like the applications have been put away, and your child might be less preoccupied about college now that they have entered the waiting phase of the game, this quiet stretch during February can stir pent up emotions and insecurities. Try to remember that for many of our children this is the ultimate test of their own knowledge and self-worth. Even though as parents, we know it’s not the end of the world if they do not get into their first-choice school or any school at all. This is the first time that they have worked so hard for something so great, and no matter what we say it can still feel like they are not adequate enough.
So, work on focusing on the present with your child. How can the two of you make the most of the last few months of living at home and the safety net of a parent before your child gets sucked into the reality that seems to be college? How can the two of you focus on the normalcy of life before the rush of graduation, senior weeks, going away parties and move-in day?
Start by focusing on short-term goals such as finishing the semester out strong and battling “senioritis.” Maintain old or creating new after-school or weekend memories which give our children the time and space to express their anxieties and ask important questions before leaving the nest. Within the next few months, there will be many times to mark the end and to say goodbye, but the most memorable lessons will come in the middle — before the craziness.
So don’t overlook February.