7 Things to Say After Your Teen Submits a College Application

College applications are the towering wall between high school seniors and the next stage in their lives. The applications reflect years of hard work, and pushing the “send” button is truly an accomplishment.

The day high school seniors submit a college application is not just another day. It is a frightening and exhilarating moment, no matter how long they have spent in preparation. One last look? Are you sure? You double-checked that it’s all there? Go ahead; you have done the work, you are ready.

Yet, as we watch our teens submit an application and then close the laptop and wander off in search of a snack, I can’t help but think there are a few words that might mark this stage of their lives.

happy teen boy
What to tell your teen after they have finished their college applications. (Twenty20 @jakubbarcik)

What to say to your teen after they submit a college application

1. We are proud of you.

It is important to tell our kids long before they receive a response from a single college that we are proud of the effort and persistence that brought them to this moment. Applying to college is hard. It takes organization, maturity, and effort. We must remind them how proud we are that they have shown all three. They need to know that, regardless of the outcome, we are already proud of how they got to this point.

2. Senior year in high school is a special year, don’t let the pursuit of college overwhelm it.

Senior year in high school is life at the top of the social food chain. It is the victory lap for the 12 years that preceded it. Yet, it is all too easy for the pressure of college admissions to overwhelm (and frankly ruin) this once-in-a-lifetime year. It is worth reminding our kids that life is about the here and now and not just about the next four years.

3. You inspire us and are a wonderful example to your siblings.

Kids see us as their inspiration, but as my kids applied to college, I found myself inspired by them. Their passion and excitement about the next stage in their lives was a shot in the arm to this mom ambling through middle age. When high school seniors step up and battle through this trying process, they are showing younger siblings (and perhaps older ones) how to work hard for the things you really want in life.

4. You are going to write your thank you notes now.

No teen gets to college alone. Along the way are parents, grandparents, teachers, and coaches providing guidance and inspiration. Some of these people have had a direct hand in the application through recommendation letters or advice on essays. Long before the outcome of the applications is known, they need to be thanked.

5. You are on the road to adulthood.

This is the year much will change. More and more, you will act like an adult, and less and less, I will treat you like a child. But here is the hitch. Though we both agree on the destination, I know the journey will be challenging. There will be times when I should treat you as more of a grown-up, but I won’t. Sometimes, you should act more grown up, and you won’t. The best we can offer each other is patience, understanding, compassion, and love.

6. For this year, you may see some tears.

Some will be dabbed away, and others might be big, ugly sobs. Do not be alarmed. These are tears of pride and pain in equal measure. They are the hallmark of a life where you have been loved beyond reason.

7. Even after the applications are in, your thoughts may change.

Your first choice school might slip to third; the major you were so sure you wanted last fall may seem less interesting by the spring. Don’t hold tight to notions you once had just because your applications are in or because you stated your positions, perhaps emphatically, to the adults in your life. The teen years are a time of much change. Let old ideas slip away and make room for the new.

You have taken the first and one of the challenging steps towards creating your own life. We are here for advice and counsel, but the next step is yours.

You Might Also Want to Read: 

For the Class of 2021: 21 Ways to Make Senior Year Great 

About Lisa Endlich Heffernan

Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author.
She started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and is co-author of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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