When October rolls around, students start to think about, and make plans to complete, their college or university applications. This is a time where many of them start being thoughtful, as they have their first conscious reality check of “I’m growing up.” They are now contemplating taking on higher education, which is often the expectation of parents and the other adults in their lives.
What if they want to go out to work? What if they want to make themselves more competitive, and qualified for what they want to do as a career? Sometimes, as parents and support members, we are unaware, and miss the signs and manifestations of stress and anxiety as these students have to seriously think about what their next step is after leaving high school.
The onset of puberty brings with it various physiological, physical, and emotional changes that herald the beginning of adolescence. Sometimes the chronological age, social age, and personality do not match up, and this can sometimes lead to anxiety. Looking to make new friends is uncomfortable for many students. The anxiety can negatively influence the student, and may become escalated.
We call out behaviours when teenagers act like children. When it suits us, we treat these teenagers as mature adults, and then sometimes turn around and discredit them and their immaturity. It sometimes seems to be more about what makes the adults comfortable.
Students may not show that they are feeling anxious, and may not be able to put feelings into words, especially if we, the adults, have very high expectations of them, and keep voicing them. Self-doubt starts to kick in, along with the complexity of the adolescent developmental issues. Maybe now is the time to find that delicate balance between encouraging them and telling them what to do with their careers.
Sometimes our idea of what is best for them might not always match what their ideas might be. Let’s have the conversation again to see where they are at.
What are their desires and their fears? How can we understand their thoughts and feelings about the next big decision? What do they think are their strengths? Getting to know ones’ own interests, strengths, and areas of challenge is key to determining whether higher education is the next step, or which institutions are good matches.
We also have to give thought to social location. Depending on where we live, our students may not have immediate choices of local colleges or universities, and this may determine if our students can remain in the community with family. It is an important economical issue, and they might have to go away from the security of family and friends who would look out for them.
For us adults, now that reality is kicking in we must ask ourselves if we have the finances to send our students to university. If not, what are the alternatives? Student loans, scholarships, and bursaries have various application deadlines, and it’s best to plan way ahead for them.
It seems that both parents and students must ask themselves what sacrifices they are willing to make to meet their career goals. We motivate our kids and should remind them that they are smart enough to do this. Encourage them as they get to know their own interests, strengths, and areas of challenge, which are key to helping them decide whether college is their best choice, or what other options are open to them. Perhaps an apprenticeship would be ideal.
Our students need our support, and can benefit from community support as well. If they truly feel that they’re not ready, it’s okay to say they can go at a later time. It’s far easier to build on a solid foundation. Many students who delay going on to higher education do so in the service of their families until it feels like a better time. This may benefit both the student and family.
The most important point is to keep the lines of communication open, and to tell our children that we care about their future plans. Say to our students, “Let’s plan together.”