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The waiting comes to an end on May 1: National College Decision Day. For most schools, this is the last day high school seniors can submit their initial payments in order to enroll in the upcoming fall semester.
Are your students ready? We all hope so, but many may still be undecided, while others are fretting over not getting into their dream schools. As offices everywhere start counting down the days, here’s how to help your students make their final decisions and help manage their emotions before the start of May.
Helping students choose their school
The college decision is a big one, and many students rightfully want to give this choice the attention it deserves. Unfortunately, this can lead to some spinning their wheels and getting stuck in an endless cycle of pros and cons.
Instead of considering the positives and negatives of every college, students should make a list of deal breakers, then compare each school to the elements on this list. If your student is determined to attend school in an urban setting, then a suburban or rural school would be a deal breaker. Similarly, if your student wants internships or already knows her desired career, then a school without a strong career-services track record is a no-go.
Deal breakers are more effective than pros/con lists at helping students narrow down their school choices, possibly even guiding them to making the final decision.
Helping students cope with the college transition
If and when your students decide which school to attend, the concept of going to college can still cause stress. This is a big life change, after all, and many may lean on the comforting support of their guidance counselors. Mindy Rose, a director of college counseling at a private school in New Jersey, knows this phenomenon well.
“Seniors tend to make appointments without any real need,” she explained to NBC News. “We have to manage emotions. It’s the desire to grab control, when there isn’t much.”
This inclination is understandable, as high school seniors are about to feel less in control than they have in their entire lives. Yet counselors don’t exactly have the resources to hold all of their hands, especially as they encourage juniors to get a head start on the college application process. As such, counselors need an efficient, hands-off way to help their students feel calmer.
One method is to emphasize not the decision itself, but the moments after. Choosing a college should be a moment of pride, and helping students focus on that feeling, rather than the anxiety of making such a choice, will help them feel more in control despite their unchanging circumstances. Even something as simple as buying their first college sweatshirt or sharing their high school diploma or college acceptance letter on social media can encourage excitement rather than anxiety.
May 1 may be a normal day for most people, but college seniors and high school counselors know its significance. This day signals the end of months – possibly even a year – of effort and stress, collecting and sending school transcripts, taking standardized tests and more to help students start on their future paths.
There are just a few more weeks to go, and students can make it with your help.