Helping Teens Calm College Fears - FamilyEducation

College Fears: How to Help Your Teen

Read what frightens teens most about college, and how you can help.

Applying to college can set off a lot of emotional alarms for your teen. The reality of growing up and probably going away to school is daunting to some; others worry about measuring up. Here are some specific concerns kids air over and over:

  • “I won't get in anywhere.” There's a school for everyone, but you have to be realistic. Encourage your child to apply to the reach schools (schools that may be tough for your teen to get into), but to have some safeties as well.
  • “I have to know what I'm going to be before I apply to college.” Nothing could be further from the truth. While having a general field of interest doesn't hurt, it isn't necessary. (For example, only 30 percent of kids who start out in engineering stay with it all the way through.)
  • “I won't be able to handle the work.” Tell your teen that if she gets in, she'll be able to handle it—that's what the application process screens for.

What you worry about:

  • “If only his test scores were higher…” No matter what his academic ability, there is a school that's right for your teen.
  • “Connections will help.” Applying as a “legacy” (to be a second- or third-generation family member to attend a school) definitely helps for admissions; ask for statistics on how many legacies are admitted each year.

Worrying can lead to procrastination, which can just make things worse (applications may be filed late, or, in rolling admission schools, the classes may fill up). Talk to your teen about what is bothering him, and see if the two of you can come up with a solution.