Coach, Counselor, and CEO: Parental Roles during the Admissions Process
If anything is more stressful and exciting than embarking on a new adventure and challenge, it is to be the person left behind and hoping for the best. In the admissions process at any level – prep school, college, graduate school – the student is in a world of studying, essay writing, and interviewing and parents are left in a position of observation and support. The work must be done completely by the student, but parents play a crucial role for students who are applying to schools. While every family has its own way of interacting, there are three main roles parents usually fill: coach, counselor, and CEO.
Coaches know the rules, teach the game, and help with practice – but in the middle of competition help their team from the sidelines and let players struggle and achieve on their own. This doesn’t mean leaving players (or students) to wallow in confusion if something goes awry; on the contrary, coaches play crucial roles in times of distress. They can see the goal and the necessary steps to reach the goal, and then they communicate those steps to their players. Parents with students in the admissions process can play a similar role. Setting up a “game plan” or talking about strategy and steps necessary to reaching the goal of admissions is an important part of this role. Figuring out practice times – for tests, interviews, and essay writing – and putting those steps into effect is also essential for getting the work done and working toward success.
As a counselor, the parents’ role is largely to listen and try to help students by posing questions. The main goal of a counselor is to help facilitate a person’s decision making, without making the decisions for the person. Sometimes this means listening to the client’s (or student’s) perspective and repeating it back in different words to show active listening. This does not mean listening to the student think through a decision about colleges, and then flatly saying, “You are wrong,” or even, “You are definitely right.” The admissions process is, above all, a process. Helping the student grow through the process will, inevitably, involve some questioning, decision making, more decision making, and – yes – some advice. As a counselor, parents can keep communication a two-way, active process, while allowing students their own agency.
Of course, the CEO is the boss. And unless a student left home and is financially independent, in reality parents are, in fact, the boss. Logistics, financial planning, and legal paperwork are generally the responsibility of CEOs, and in the admissions process, these duties fall to the parents. CEOs have encompassing, broad visions and see how projects fit into long-term goals. CEOs are also the main organizers and authority. Parents have these visions and organizational roles, too. While students can do some of the logistical work, an active parent will not only be a supportive role model, but also a final check in case something comes into question. Being the “boss” does not necessarily mean being strict; it just means having responsibility and authority.
Every parent will find their own way to fill these roles. These are just three common types of roles that parents find themselves in during the admission process. Above all else, it is most important for students to know that parents are interested, concerned, and taking part in some way. They might be in their own worlds temporarily, but students are still children, no matter how old they are.
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