For well over a decade I have seen adolescents able to consider post-secondary options that would have not been possible in the past. We are fortunate to have made great strides within the mental health world, although we still have a long way to go! With increased awareness of mental health issues (early intervention, pharmacology, and counseling) paths and doors are now open for many students who would never have been able to succeed in this direction before. While in high school, under the watchful eye of their parents, many adolescents seem to be able to handle the academic and emotional rigors of college. Some parents, worried that cutting the umbilical cord will cause the child to fail, become codependent rather than instilling the confidence and engaging the support of others at the college to do what they perceived as their job.
The constant level of communication between parents and their children with cell phones, texting and emails was baffling to me in my last position in college admissions. In various workshops and conferences I attended, I was stunned how despite the increasing selective admissions process at colleges, more and more students were not able to function independently. In many cases, there were students who did not disclose to the colleges their history of depression, substance abuse or anxiety. Many parents were fearful their son or daughter would not be accepted if they disclosed these struggles. Even more shocking was how many students and their parents had somehow convinced themselves that the start of college was a new beginning and the struggles of the past would somehow disappear. Unfortunately, this wishful thinking rarely worked out in the end. More often than not the inability of the students to handle college was an enormous setback for the entire family and the letter, typically arriving around Christmas, would ask the student to pack up before the next semester began.
When I was working in higher education I was never privy to what these students did after their sudden and premature departure from college. It wasn’t until I became an educational consultant that I found myself once again working with these troubled young adults but in very different circumstances, many of them living at home with their parents with absolutely zero prospects for the future.
The sad truth of the matter is that many of these young adults were set up to fail. The idea that a college will relieve the emotional and temperamental setbacks these young adults have had in the past is wildly unrealistic. If anything college can exacerbate these issues and I can’t help wonder how much pain they would have been spared if they had been set on a more realistic path from the beginning.
Many colleges now have support systems in place to help students with a variety of struggles. Families need to take to take advantage of these opportunities in the selection process. It is imperative that a school know if the students have any special needs (academically and/or therapeutically). Knowing this will only help the school help the student stay afloat. The idea of not disclosing this information during admission process will only hurt the young adult in the end.