Wednesday’s Parent: SOS over application stress

Emergency call button - Public Information Symbol

Emergency call button – Public Information Symbol

Are you and your child ready to send out a distress signal from application stress overload? If so, you are not alone. Between the pressures from the mid-semester crunch and the additional chore of filling out applications, parents and students can feel overwhelmed.

There are hard questions to answer, time-consuming virtual and real paperwork, deadlines looming and your child’s college future at stake. “Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way,” according to It can cause forgetfulness, anxiety, unhappiness, trouble concentrating, bad attitudes, short tempers and a host of physical and behavioral symptoms.

I have gone through the process as a student, parent and writer/lecturer to parents of the college-bound. You will get through it like me and others before you. Colleges are chock full of current students and alumni to prove it. Perhaps the most difficult question to answer is how can you and your student reduce your application stress and prevent a stress-induced catastrophe like submission of an incomplete application, one peppered with errors or one that couldn’t be submitted because of a missed deadline?

Here are some answers and ways to reduce application stress:

Follow the leader In most college prep activities, the student does the work and drives the process. He takes the classes, studies for tests, and participates in extracurriculars. When it comes to college choice, the student must be on board or else there is little incentive for her to make the most out of the higher education opportunity. Although there are specific ways parents can help such as joining in researching schools and discussing geographic and financial parameters, for future stress prevention which ones to apply to must be those the student wants to attend.

Teamwork Form a parent-student team to help your child tackle the application task. There is much to do and parents can help. As a team member, ditch parental nagging for “business-like” meetings. Together, create a to do list, schedule each activity on a calendar, and follow-up on progress. Push-up deadlines to give some leeway. Organization and time management are life skills families can work on together. Breaking each job into small manageable steps is a recipe for success. As goals are reached, stress is reduced. Celebrate accomplishments together to further conquer the stress.

Assignments Parents may be surprised that college admission, scholarship and financial aid (finaid) applications may be due around the same time. Although most applications are about the child not the parent, parent information is required on finaid apps for financially dependent students. Here, parents directly contribute to the college application process, not just help their student through it. (Many parents are also directly involved in college visits. Combine a family vacation and you have the makings of a great collegecation). Knowing who does what when is a big stress-reliever.

Downtime Parents and children can give each other emotional support, too. Dole out compliments when appropriate and encouragement when needed. Giving each other space and making sure the calendar includes downtime (alone, with family, with friends) provides a much needed stress-relieving break.

Attitude There is nothing as stress-relieving as the successful completion of a difficult task but a positive “can do” attitude can ease the burden until the goal is reached. Life is full of challenges ready to be conquered. Injecting fun and laughter can help put things into perspective and reduce stress. So watch a comedy, tell each other jokes, look through family photo albums. What’s your family fun ideas?

Support system There are other resources parents and students can reach out to for help. School counselors and college staff are super sources. Colleges decide which applications they require and most applications are submitted online. Private outside scholarships have their own applications, too. There are times when application instructions/questions are confusing or sites have operating problems. Don’t waste time stressing out (especially if you are near a deadline); call and find out what to do next.

On my website, I talk about knowledge and reduced stress. The answers may not always be what you want to hear, but the abilities to plan, reach out, re-evaluate, adjust and move forward, make it so much easier is to cope.

Read on for Suzanne’s blog about application stress.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

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