by Paula Wheeler
As you move through high school, it can seem like “college” is often the dominant topic of conversation. Everywhere you turn, you’re reminded that you should be thinking about where you want to attend, what you want to study, how to prepare yourself and increase your chances of admission, and even what you want to do for a living. Extended family members ask about it at holidays. Neighbors and family friends are curious about your plans. And your parents, it seems, are asking you about something college-related every day! It’s like you are constantly being yanked out of the present moment and asked to focus on your future.
Among your peers, the comparison chatter can be constant, and it’s often with an eye toward who’s going to measure up and get into selective colleges. As students announce and share their grades on the last quiz, their target ACT scores, their latest GPAs and their college lists, you might feel the irritation and anxiety mount. Can’t we just eat lunch and talk about the season finale of “Ginny & Georgia?”
There are some antidotes to all of this vibe-killing, to a point. You can’t control other people, but you can decide what, when and with whom you want to share information about your academics and your college search and admissions journey.
Identify your inner circle. Students often find that if they decide ahead of time on a small circle to communicate with about college, this can help lessen the anxiety and pressure that comes with constant inquiry. The circle can include your parents, a handful of close friends, and your high-school guidance and college counselors. With anyone else, you can come up with a polite way to change the subject.
Schedule a regular check-in. This one requires a little respectful self-advocacy. If your parents are talking about college every time you are together and it’s driving you crazy, set a boundary. Propose to your parents that you set up a weekly time for all things “college talk,” so that it doesn’t dominate every dinner conversation or car chat.(Your counselors at Galin will back you up by also telling your parents that this is a good practice!) You’ll get good at saying, “Let’s save that for Tuesday!” if they slip up and try to ask you how your essay is going. The deal, of course, is that you give them the full update on Tuesday. An informed parent is a happy parent.
Keep it in the family. Speaking of parents, they are often just as prone as teens to obsess and compare when it comes to the topic of college. They, too, would do well to abide by the suggestions above. But sometimes parents do the exact opposite in an effort to relieve their own anxiety, and a few conversations later, your college business is all over town. If you don’t want that, be clear with your parents. Tell them you would appreciate them not sharing your SAT score (even if it’s perfect!) or talking about where you were waitlisted.
While the chatter all around you may continue, you don’t have to participate if it makes you feel anxious. You have the right to remain silent – or to save it for Tuesday.