Whose Journey Is This Anyway?

College application season is approaching, and many parents are feeling nervous.

Even the most confident moms and dads become uncertain as their children prepare their college applications with the requisite essays, resumes and recommendations. Will they make the right choices? Will they present themselves in the best light?

You’ve raised them well; you’ve prepared them for this next big step. Let your children guide the process; encourage them to take the lead on this journey.

Peter Van Buskirk, former Dean of Admission at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, writes the College Admissions Insider column for US News online and puts it this way: “The best outcomes in college planning occur when the student is vested with ownership. After all, the parents aren’t going to college—it is the student who must compete for admission. And it is the student, who, based on the strength of credentials and preparation, will be given the opportunity to test skills at the next level educationally.”

We meet a lot of nervous moms and dads. As we guide our students through the essay-writing process, we tell those parents again and again, “Your child has a story to tell in her own voice, and in her own words. Step back and let her find her way.”

We remind parents that the application marks the transition between everything the student accomplished in high school and whatever comes next. As risky as it may feel, this is the perfect time to let go.

And we reassure our students that while we know a lot, we don’t have all the answers. It is our job to help them write down what they want to share with admissions committees; the stories already reside within them. That is also why we don’t “fix” essays. Instead, we guide our students through a process; we know from experience that the best writing is a journey of discovery — just like college.