Wednesday’s Parent: Self-esteem, college-bound style


Raise your hand if you want to feel good about yourself. My hand is held high and I bet yours is, too. We can also expect a similar response from our children. A healthy dose of self-esteem is what we all want.

So what exactly is self-esteem?

I looked up the definition in a pocketbook I rescued from my daughter’s give-away pile. I also researched the term online (which she does and is probably why she tossed the book in the first place). I found these adjectives: self-assurance, self-confidence, self-respect, and self-value.

PsychCentral explains there are two kinds of self-esteem:

1. Global self-esteem: about who we are

2. Situational self-esteem: about what we do

The former is constant and the latter “fluctuates, depending on circumstances, roles, and events. Situational self-esteem can be high at one moment (e.g., at work) and low the next (e.g., at home).”

Why is self-esteem so important?

Psychology Today says it best,

Possessing little self-regard can lead people to become depressed, to fall short of their potential, or to tolerate abusive situations and relationships. Too much self-love, on the other hand, results in an off-putting sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures. (It can also be a sign of clinical narcissism.)

How can the college process affect self-esteem?

Too much or too little self-esteem can negatively impact your and your child’s future success. We all have seen examples of self-esteem gone wrong. For the college-bound, self-esteem issues can lead to costly mistakes. Unrealistic college choices and ill-fitting major picks can result in a huge waste of time and money.

From start to finish, the college process can influence self-esteem. The length of a college-bound to-do list may be intimidating to the point of doubting self-confidence to get it all done. Checking a college’s admission requirements and chances for admission may cause a reevaluation of self-assurance. Receiving a rejection letter can be ego crushing and influence self-value. Getting an offer of admission can be ego boosting but doing poorly after enrollment can be devastating to self-respect.

How can parents help their children develop healthy self-esteem?

Here are five fast ways to build self-esteem, college-bound style:

Be objective Your child has many abilities, skills and talents so help him develop those he is good at and enjoys. Listen to what he says and watch what he does. You can provide suggestions and encouragement but ultimately, it’s his resume colleges and employers will review to determine “a good fit.”

Be realistic Don’t encourage attainment of goals your child steadily refuses are not her own. This includes urging colleges where admission requirements don’t match or careers don’t appeal to your child’s interests, accomplishments and talents.

Be genuine Give meaningful compliments when appropriate but don’t exaggerate. Teens can see through false praise which can backfire especially if other authority sources such as his teachers, who will be writing teacher recommendation letters for college, don’t similarly react.

Be focused Keep in mind that you and your offspring want the same thing: for your student to thrive and succeed. Give her the tools needed to be independent, like values and decision-making skills. Then allow her to practice before she is away at college.

Be supportive Rejection is always hard to take but it is common in the college process. Colleges do not admit all qualified applicants if they have more applying than there are spots in the classroom. That’s why the college list is so important. It should consist of 6-8 colleges any one of which your child will be happy to attend. Turn lemons into lemonade and celebrate accomplishments.

The above are my 5 ways for developing healthy self-esteem, college-bound style. Now take a look at Suzanne’s 8 Tips for building self-esteem.


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!

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