What do you think of when you think of fall? Halloween? Pumpkins? Thanksgiving? Changing leaves? Football? High School applications? That’s right, it is high school application time for many middle school students in the Chicago area. The high school application process can be akin to the college application process, and can be very stressful for students, parents, and schools.
Imagine you are a parent at your child’s soccer game and are talking with the other parents. The topic of high school is brought up and the other parents start talking about the best high schools in Chicago, how well their student is performing in school, and how great they did on the standardized tests and entrance exams. You want your own child to attend a good high school and worry sets in. Which high school will my child attend? How is my child doing in school now? Will they do well on the entrance exams? How will we pay for high school? And the stress begins.
Chicago parents are faced with a stressful and competitive educational system for high school. Their children can attend neighborhood public schools, selective enrollment public schools, Catholic/religious high schools, private schools, boarding schools, or charter schools. Selective enrollment public schools can provide students with excellent education and they are free; however, they are highly competitive. Parochial, private, boarding, and charter schools also provide students with an excellent education but they can be very expensive, and some are very difficult to be accepted into. Also, if your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, these schools are not required by law to provide these services. This leaves parents wondering where will the best fit for their child be, what schools would their child most likely be accepted to, and which schools will they be able to afford or receive financial assistance from.
As a result of the stressful process, parents may feel pressure for their child to have excellent performance in all areas of school throughout the school year and on the standardized tests. This stress trickles down to the student who may be struggling in one area, or had a bad testing day. Children face the stress of performing well in school, as well as on the standardized tests. Many students are also concerned about where they apply to and how their friends or other classmates may view their choice in school. They may be experiencing concern about the transition to high school and the possibility that they may not know many of the students at their high school. Some students may experience anxiety throughout the school day, which can affect their performance in the classroom, their social interactions, and their overall mood and wellbeing.
It is important to remember that every child is different and that the best school for your student may not be the school that best fits another student. Also, it is important to come up with a game plan for the application process and organize materials needed for each school that your student is applying to with due dates. Then, set up small goals throughout the process so that it feels less overwhelming. Don’t sweat a few bad grades on a few assignments. If there are areas where your child is struggling, find ways for them to get extra assistance. Encourage them to ask the teacher questions when they do not understand so that they have that knowledge for the future. See if the teacher will allow the student to make corrections on some tests for some extra credit. Show your child that you are proud of them and highlight areas where they succeed. Take time to relax with your student and enjoy activities that you like to do together.
Written By: Elizabeth Salland, M.A.
Cashman, Brigid (10,October 2013). Interview with Brigid Cashman High School Guidance Counselor at Frances Xavier Warde School. Chicago, IL
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