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Competition and Parental Involvement for the Perfect College Application

What Kind of Backseat Driver Are You?

By Cathy Markey

As your son or daughter settles behind the wheel on the road toward building a high school resume, as parents, it’s our responsibility and nature to guide, grab the dashboard, steer. Does your teenager have a heavy foot? Are they so focused on the destination, they fail to look out the window and enjoy the scenery along the way? Are they putting themselves at risk with unnecessary pressure and expectations?

The road to a college application is dotted with numerous directional signs: Take honor classes; play a sport or two, or three; load up on AP classes; start earning college credit now; beef up your resume with a mentorship or internship; get a job; don’t just join clubs, be an officer; play an instrument; do philanthropic work; start a business; run for student council; keep that GPA up. It’s a lot of mileage to cover in four short years — better drive fast.

As the backseat driver, are you encouraging the speed it may take to pass all these signs in an effort to create the “perfect” high school resume? We appreciate our children put enough pressure on themselves. And let’s not forget the power of peer pressure. Remember, with sustained high speeds come risks. An unexpected curve in the road can be harder to navigate if the driver is not in control, feeling pressured to get “there.”

Your teenager is on a journey that should not be defined by how fast they can travel from Point A to Point B. Instead, we need to remind our driver to slow down. Roll down the windows and take in the smells of the seasons. Pull over to a scenic overlook. Open a book other than a textbook for the pure joy of traveling to another land. Sit down at rather than drive through a restaurant along the way to refuel the body. Stay overnight in a hotel. Rest the soul. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves, and our teenagers, of the beauty experienced and knowledge gained from the journey itself.

Safe travels.

Cathy Markey, the parent of five children aged 14 to 24, is confident she now can handle most of life’s challenges, having survived an accumulated 30 years of raising teenagers (thus far) — and 17 Wisconsin winters. A firm believer in the value of learning from one another, she enjoys sharing tidbits of lessons learned along the way.

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