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Go Ask Mom

Stress and anxiety: College application process can bring both; how consultant can help

Posted August 6

Wendy Briley of Briley College Consulting

Wendy Briley knows the stress and anticipation that can come with the college application process. With two daughters of her own, who both landed at UNC-Wilmington, she's experienced it.

Briley also sees it with the many families she's helping around the Triangle as they attempt to navigate their way through the same decisions and milestones. Briley is an independent educational consultant and owner of Briley College Consulting.

Briley, who lives in Wake Forest and also retired last year as director of St. Mark's United Methodist Church Preschool, shares more about how she helps families and what college-bound students and parents should be thinking about. Stay tuned later this week for another post from Briley about the 10 things high school juniors should be doing now as they prepare to apply to college.

Here's a Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: You are an independent educational consultant and own Briley College Consulting. How did you get involved in this line of work and decide to open up your own business?

Wendy Briley: For the last 13 years, I have worked with families and helped them make the best decisions for their children regarding early education. After having gone through the college application process with my two children and seeing how challenging that process can be, I began to realize that there was a real need for experienced professionals to assist families in this process. I believed that the skills I had developed in working with families in early education would translate to the college application process. I researched programs offered across the country and found the University of California Irvine’s Independent Educational Consultant program was the most comprehensive program. The training I received in that program has allowed me to open and operate a successful practice.

GAM: When should students and parents start thinking about college and the application process? I've heard eighth grade is not too early!?

WB: Eighth grade is probably a little early to worry about the application process, but it is not too early to start anticipating what will be expected of a high school student and how that will reflect on their college application. It is so important to impress upon students to take classes that are challenging and for the student to try and make the best grades possible. This can also be a good time to start having conversations with students about their interests outside of academics. Colleges are looking for well-rounded students who will contribute to their campus. High school is the time to start exploring interests and finding out what a student is passionate about.

GAM: What are the top concerns and questions you get from parents? Are they different from the top concerns you hear from students you work with?

WB: In my experience, parents are usually most concerned with finding a school that will meet their child’s academic needs, is a safe environment for their child and is financially affordable. Parents want to know if their student is going to be adequately prepared for a career that their student will find rewarding.

Students are usually concerned with finding a college that not only gives them a great academic experience, but will meet their social needs as well. Students want to find a campus that is a good fit and allows them to be part of a larger community.

My job is to work with what each of them has in mind and help them to work together as a family and find the college that best meets their academic, social and financial needs.

GAM: This can be a stressful experience - for parents and kids. How can an educational consultant help with this process?

WB: You are right, this can be such a stressful time for both the student and the family. A child’s college education will likely be a family’s second largest expenditure after a home purchase. Many families hire a professional to manage their retirement savings or home purchase. Why leave the college application process to chance?

The college application process can be very labor intensive. It requires a lot of research. As a consultant, I have access to a myriad of resources and the experience to provide that information to students and families in a way that allows them to make informed decisions without doing all the research. I am also a student of colleges and universities. I am constantly visiting colleges and universities and can provide real insight as to what colleges are looking for in a student.

Emotions tend to run high between the student and their family members during this process. Parents often think they know what is best for their student and often the student feels like they aren’t being listened to. It is helpful to have an objective educational consultant work with families to find common ground and approach the application process in a logical and informed way.

By eliminating a lot of the emotional stress that is involved with the application process, the student and parents can enjoy the process and may really discover a lot about each other. I think both the students and the parents appreciate having someone to talk with about their concerns. Ultimately, we want to empower the student to take control of the process and encourage them to embrace this time of self-exploration.

GAM: You're a parent - who has been through this with her own children. How has that informed the way you help the students you work with - and the parents?

WB: I have had the opportunity to watch both of my children work through success and disappointment in the college application process. It has taught me that each child is unique and has individual needs. I had to learn to respond to each child in a way that would encourage them and empower them and help them handle both success and disappointment.

That is how I approach working with my clients. Each student is unique and every family is different. I try to really listen to what a student is saying and give them a voice. I also try to encourage communication between the student and parents. I’ve found that it is usually lack of communication that creates stress.

The college application process can be challenging, but it is also such an exciting time in a student’s life. I feel privileged to be able to work with students and families and help them in their college search. Finding a good fit college for a student is extremely important for undergraduate success.

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.

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