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What to Do If Your Child Is Not Motivated for College Admissions

As a college counselor for the last half of my career, I have seen a wide range of students navigating the college admissions process. Some of them are ready to start visiting colleges during freshman year of high school, while others are not ready to even think about the college process until well into senior year or later.

One of my favorite students of all-time fell into the latter category. Her mom was so anxious about her daughter's lack of interest in looking at colleges, doing things to impress colleges, and applying "early." I would get daily emails from her mom asking me to nudge her this way or that way. I gently responded to the mom that I would keep talking to her daughter on a regular basis, but I knew I couldn't push the student too far. Indeed, I spoke to this student almost daily about everything besides college admissions. And when she was ready, she started bringing up colleges, essays, and applications. That was mid-fall of her senior year.

For those students who need more time to sift through the expectations, pressure, and process, let them. They will come around when they are good and ready.
Here are some things to keep in mind if your child is not responding to your inquiries, plans, and ideas about the college process:

1. It doesn't mean that the student is not going to college.

Every single student I have ever worked with who took longer to get started in the college process ended up applying, getting admitted, and attending college. 

2. There are plenty of opportunities to visit colleges, apply, and get into college during senior year.

Most admissions deadlines are not until January, and many colleges accept students well into the spring and even summer, in some cases.

3. Look for colleges with Rolling Admissions programs, at least at the beginning.

Many times, these programs do not require college essays or recommendation letters. The student can fill out and submit a basic application and receive an admissions decision within a few weeks.

READ MORE: Want an Acceptance Letter Now? Consider Rolling Admissions

4. Parents can identify an older student, family friend, or role model in the community that attends college and is thriving there.

Students who are not ready to talk to their parents about the college process are more likely to initially respond positively to a peer or someone close in age to them that they look up to.

5. Learn more about the gap year experience.

More students than ever before are taking a year off in between high school graduation and college to work, volunteer, pursue an interest, or travel. The students who take a gap year are strikingly mature when they start college. 

Read More: My Inside Scoop on the Latest Common App Changes

As I get older and wiser, I am more open to alternative paths for myself, my kids, and the students I work with. I can see how letting young people navigate this process on their own time can decrease tension between them and their parents and allow them to lead the way. I think back about that young woman who needed more time to get excited about the prospects of college. She didn't apply "early" anywhere. But she ended up at the most spectacular college for her. Many years later, the mom thanked me for my patience—not only with her daughter but herself.
Patience defines the college admissions process and every major chapter of a person's life. The more patience we have for ourselves and those around us, the more thoughtful we can be. Timing is everything, as long the timing is right for the student.