Helping Your High School Junior With Stress: 5 Tips for Parents

It’s not uncommon at this time of year as a parent of a high school junior to think “What is going on?  Is this year ever going to get any easier?”  It sometimes feels endless:  the number of tests students need to take on top of their most intense academic demands thus far in high school, trying  to research and visit colleges, juggling what are probably multiple after-school activities, and of course, Driver’s Education!  Phew!  Well, maybe it helps to know you are not alone.  When parents who have survived junior year commiserate with you, most of them will very likely let you know that, though the college application process isn’t a walk-in-the-park and the stress of waiting for decisions can be a nail-biter, somehow, senior year is actually easier.

So, how do you deal now?  Beyond running away to a different country or pulling the covers over your head, we recommend trying to infuse as much down time and balance into your family’s life as possible.  Here are a few quick suggestions.

  1. Simplify.  Perhaps rather than plan a super busy school vacation, you might want to choose, instead, to spend a few quiet days at home, going to the movies, cooking comfort foods, sleeping late, exercising, and just getting caught up.
  2. Do Less.  Even if you feel compelled to visit fifteen different colleges during a school vacation, you might do better to visit two during a long weekend or take a day off of school for visits.  Try using most of your vacation for relaxing and recharging.
  3. Slow Down.  Though you might have “heard” from other parents that your student should be completely done with visiting colleges and taking all standardized tests before junior year is over, that is not necessarily true.  You have to do what works for your family.  Many students might do better spreading things out so that they’re doing test prep over the summer after junior year, gearing up for their second run at the SAT in October, or even visiting some colleges in the summer. And if you feel you then need to see colleges when schools are active and in session, you can return for an interview (if it’s offered) or wait to see if your son or daughter is admitted first.
  4. Get Organized.  The first step to feeling “in control” is to have a well thought out college plan.  Plotting out the “must DOs” and the “nice to DOs” on your family and school calendar for the next six months provides a visual road map that can help you to actually “see” how you can get it all done (remember the school calendar for next year is already laid out and may be available to you online). Check out College Coach’s college admissions timetable for parents for some pointers. There is plenty of time, but now is the time to figure out how to maximize it.
  5. Have Fun.  Try not to lose sight of the joy of what’s happening amidst the challenges and the exciting journey ahead. As often as you can, try to maintain balance with what you and your family values doing together, whether it’s fishing, playing games, traveling (outside of college visits!) cooking, or walking your dog.  Don’t forget to enjoy the time you have with your kids while they’re home (all under one roof)!

Junior year is admittedly the toughest year of a high school student’s life, but in every part of life there is need for balance.  Aim to enjoy the process as much as the outcome!

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Written by Kara Courtois
Kara Courtois is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Kara holds degrees from University of Notre Dame and University of Portland; she completed her graduate coursework at Teachers College, Columbia University and Steinhardt School of Education. Prior to joining College Coach, Kara was a senior admissions officer at Barnard College. Visit our website to learn more about Kara Courtois.