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How to Motivate the Reluctant College Applicant

College/Career Expert Advice from Carol Carter

Q: My daughter will be a senior in high school this year. She has not taken the ACT or SAT. Her circle of friends have taken the tests and are all actively searching for the right college. When do I step in? How do I make the best decisions I can so that we don't fall behind? Do I continue nagging at the risk of the relationship? I want the best for her, but I can't help feeling that I'm failing the parenting task. What should I do? Please advise!

A: First of all, if you ask gentle questions without giving advice, you won't be perceived as nagging. Your goal is to raise as many issues for your child to think about as possible without putting her under any pressure. Kids want to be guided, not told what to do. Second, change your parenting perspective. You are obviously a loving, caring, concerned, and involved parent. Imagine your daughter responding well to a luncheon discussion about the future. Ask the big questions. Offer to set her up with a college or career coach. Those folks can often get further than parents on goal-setting because they are objective and there is no emotional element to the relationship. Third, try it out! I think your daughter will begin to see you as an advocate helping her to ask the right questions and being supportive of the answers she develops to those questions.

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Carol Carter is the author of many books on college and career planning. She is the cofounder of Lifeskills, Inc., a nonprofit organization that encourages high-school students to explore their goals, career options, and the real world through part-time work and internships. She also gives workshops around the country on career exploration and other issues directly related to helping students succeed in college, career, and life.


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