Managing the college application process

Susan Bauerfeld, left, and Victoria Hirsch.

Susan Bauerfeld, left, and Victoria Hirsch.

Licensed clinical psychologist Susan Bauerfeld and college consultant Victoria Hirsch will lead a presentation and discussion on handling the college application process for parents of eighth through 12th graders at Wilton Library on Tuesday, March 14, at 10 a.m.

During their talk, College Frenzy: How to Manage Yourself and Your Family Through the Process, Bauerfeld and Hirsch will offer tips, strategies and suggestions for handling the college process in a way that fosters connection and resilience rather than discord and despair.

“Victoria and I will present an overview of the various factors that contribute to excessive stress during the process leading up to college,” said Bauerfeld, “followed by recommendations for different ways to think about and handle the process that can reduce or mitigate the impact of the stress.”

In doing so, Hirsch said, “we hope to bring the focus back to excitement and curiosity for the future, rather than apprehension or fear.”

Excessive competition, overvalue and misunderstanding of college name recognition and ranking, managing financial considerations, and peer chatter and its associated pressure are some of the struggles and challenges students and their families encounter during the college application process, said Bauerfeld.

As children go through the college application process, Bauerfeld said, it doesn’t help for parents to:

  • Focus the vast majority of their conversations with their college-bound teens on subjects related to the college process.
  • Send messages — both inadvertent and intentional — that link their child’s worth and/or success with the name of the school they will attend.
  • Tie their own view of themselves as successful parents and human beings to the outcome of the college process.
  • Get over-involved emotionally.

Some things students do that make the process harder for themselves, she said, include:

  • Focusing the bulk of their conversations on things related to the college process.
  • Choosing activities primarily because they are “résumé building” and not because they reflect genuine interest or passion.
  • Believing the outcome of the college process — “and not necessarily what they do when they get there” — will make or break their possibilities for the future.
  • Developing “perfectionistic and/or avoidance tendencies in their attempts to manage the process that interferes with family connection.”

As they go through the “college frenzy,” Bauerfeld said, it’s important for families to remember that “the quality of family relationships is far more influential and important for future success than the outcome of the college process.”

“Wherever possible and appropriate, keep the focus on learning rather than performance. College is a match to be made — not a game to be won,” she said.

“What kids do when they get to college matters more than where they go to college. Learning is the goal, and everyone learns best in environments that ‘fit.’”

Hirsch said families also shouldn’t “be taken in by the media hype.”

“We are bombarded by messages discussing the same group of schools over and over,” said Hirsch, who is principal of Hirsch College Consulting LLC in Wilton.

“In reality, successful people across all realms have graduated from a wide variety of undergraduate schools.”

Bauerfeld noted that the skills required to manage the college application process well are “some of the very skills correlated with future success,” such as self-regulation and time management.

“Viewing and accepting the process as a learning or practice opportunity for these skills — complete with to-be-expected mistakes — rather than as a high-stakes performance test of worthiness can make a big difference,” she said.

“Supporting the development of the skills of self-regulation and self-management is one of the best ways to equip children for future success — no matter where they find themselves.”

The hour-and-a-half-long presentation is sponsored by the Wilton Youth Council. Advance registration is strongly encouraged.

Information and registration: www.wiltonlibrary.org, 203-762-6334.

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