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Navigating Back-to-School and College Applications

Navigating Back-to-School and College Applications

Empowering teens amidst global challenges

By Nancy Rowland

As we parents prepare for the back-to-school season and the upcoming college application process, it’s paramount to recognize and respect the unique challenges that today’s teenagers face. From the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to global issues causing added stress, our genuine desire for our teens’ well-being is an unwavering force. In this journey towards higher education, we can provide invaluable support by deeply listening to our teens and refraining from imposing our own version of a “best life,” while also fostering an environment that encourages purpose-driven exploration. Additionally, seeking personalized college counseling within a nurturing school environment can play a pivotal role in guiding teens towards autonomy, confidence, and problem-solving skills.

Acknowledging added stress, deep listening

As you navigate the complexities of your teenager’s life, it’s crucial to acknowledge the stress brought on by worldwide crises broadcast directly to their handheld devices. Instead of imposing expectations or solutions, practice listening. By creating a space for open dialogue, you can empower your teen to voice their concerns and emotions freely. This not only eases the burden of stress but also reinforces the notion that their feelings are valid and respected.

Fostering independence and purpose

While you may envision a certain path for your teen, it’s important to not project your version of that ideal onto them. Instead, encourage them to explore their passions and interests authentically. By doing so, your young adult can develop a profound sense of purpose that aligns with their individuality. This self-discovery process fuels intrinsic motivation and equips them with the tools to chart their own course towards higher education and beyond.

In today’s interconnected world, soft skills such as communication, adaptability, and critical thinking, are essential for success.  Encourage your teen to participate in extracurricular activities, community initiatives, and collaborative projects to develop these vital skills.

The power of a supportive mentor

Having a mentor who genuinely supports and champions a teenager’s journey can make a significant difference. A mentor can be a teacher, a coach, or any trusted adult who takes the time to listen. A mentor is not there to solve problems or make decisions but to provide guidance, encouragement, and a safe space for discussion. This relationship fosters the development of problem-solving skills and decision-making capacity, empowering teens to take ownership of their choices and outcomes.

College Counseling

College preparation has evolved beyond academics and test scores. Admissions officers seek holistic individuals with diverse skill sets and a clear sense of purpose. Encourage your teen to explore various interests and to engage in volunteer work. Gaining practical experience will help stand out in the competitive application process.

High schools that prioritize individualized college counseling within a nurturing environment offer an invaluable advantage. This approach aligns with the principles of social-emotional learning, which equips teens with emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and interpersonal skills. Combined with personalized guidance, teens gain the confidence to navigate the intricacies of the college application process, armed with both academic and emotional resilience.

As parents embark on the back-to-school season and the journey towards college applications, a mindful and empathetic approach is paramount. By deeply listening to their teens, fostering purpose-driven exploration, and providing mentorship without imposing solutions, parents empower their teenagers to be architects of their own future.

This article originally appeared in the The Piedmont Post, Aug. 16, 2023