In Georgia, our local schools finish in May. Because of all the end of year plays, celebrations, ceremonies and tournaments, parents (not-so-affectionately) call it “MAYhem” or “MAYcember” (all the busyness but no gifts).
During the frenzy of this time, it’s tough to sit down for family dinners, so we have not had many (ok…zero) nights spent casually sitting around the dining room table conversing wistfully about the year. Nope. We have disproportionately used the word “microwave” and “take-out” in recent weeks. The dining room (not just the table) is a chaotic assortment of school projects, credit card and lawn care solicitations, random food wrappers, and a few slowly deflating helium balloons from our son’s birthday party three weeks ago. Needless to say, most meals have been consumed far too quickly while hovering around the kitchen bar.
However, in hopes of generating some semblance of conversation and even temporarily calming the noise of these days, we have made it a point to each share: the best part of our day, the worst part of our day, and “an opportunity” (a moment when we were able to encourage, celebrate, forgive without being prompted, or really listen to a friend, neighbor, co-worker, classmate, etc.).
There have been a couple absolutely hilarious impersonations (one of my wife’s hidden talents), real revelations, some completely disingenuous and perfunctory answers (not going to pretend every night is magical here- we’re dealing with a 2nd and 4th grader), but also a few acts of kindness and moments of true empathy and generosity that have been incredibly heart-warming and inspiring.
So in the spirit of best part/worst part/opportunity, the wisdom in crowd-sourcing insight, and immediately following another year of reading files, hosting students on campus, and traveling extensively around the state and nation, I asked our team to contribute the one thing they would want parents to consider and embrace in the year ahead.
Best Thing/Worst Thing
Alma Mater: Salve Regina University
Important fact: Father was a long-time dean of admission in New England.
“Sometimes what a student considers to be a ‘good fit’ is not always what the parent considers a ‘good fit.’ It is important for the student to be confident in their choice. As parents we are looking at the college through a different lens. Also, if you have not had a conversation about cost with your child, now is the time to do that…not after your student falls in love with a school that is not affordable.”
Alma Mater: Florida State University
Important Fact: Huge Atlanta United fan. Oh… and father is the president of college in Florida.
“Be supportive, but also be real about your situation. Let your student lead the process. You should be involved in a secondary manner. Students should contact schools, admission counselors, and their school counselors. You are there as a support system. Unfortunately, you will not be able to follow them to college, so this is one of your first chances to help them become independent!”
Katie Mattli, aka K. Mat, aka Matie Kattli
Alma Mater: Auburn University
Important Fact: Most dogs don’t live as long as she’s been in college admission. Also, cannot be held responsible for comments made when “hangry.”
“When a parent calls or emails me because their student does not have time, I immediately question if the student is truly interested in our institution or just the parent. Students make time for their priorities and it is telling that we are not one of them. I welcome questions from parents, but a student should be able to communicate and advocate effectively on their own.”
Alma Mater: UNC-Asheville
Important fact: Spent five years working as a television news producer. First generation college student, joy/ infectious laugh undiminished by length of commute.
“Listen to your school counselor! They have a wealth of knowledge to guide your family through the process. Listen to them and consider the schools they recommend. Lean on their experience–they do this every year! Also, be transparent about money with your student. If there is no limit to what you will pay, let them know that. If there is a limit, talk about it now, rather than waiting until the first offer of admission comes in.”
Alma Mater: Furman University
Important fact (s): Parent of two current college students and married to a AP History teacher.
“Let your student drive this process. Like driving a car, they cannot do it with you behind the wheel.”
Alma Mater: Wofford College
Important Fact: Met husband through college admission (to clarify- they were both working professionals at the time).
“Don’t try to bribe anyone. It is not that serious. And you’ll probably end up in jail which is totally not worth it. Where your student goes to school matters much less than what they do with their college experience.”
Mary Tipton Woolley
Alma Mater: Mississippi State University
Important fact: Hails from Union City, TN, which boasts the amazing Discovery Park of America museum.
“Remember what it was like to help your child explore the world – your backyard, the park, etc. – when they were a child. Then and today, there’s a good chance your child is nervous (even if he/she won’t admit it!). They still need your support and encouragement but also the freedom to explore, make choices within bounds and make their own mistakes (picking up a piece of dog poo anyone!).”
Alma Mater: Georgia Tech
Important fact- inexplicable fear of mascots (yet is regularly around the Chick-fil-A cow)
“In a year’s time, your student will be immersed in a new college environment. Use their senior year as an opportunity to build the soft-skill set required to become the adult that they’re expected to be in college. Once they’re a college student, they will need to register for classes without your direct intervention, approach faculty with questions on their own, and overall act as a self-advocate. The college search process can serve as an intentional time to allow your student to take ownership, while still having the luxury of your close proximity as a sounding board.”
Alma Mater: UNC- Chapel Hill
Important fact: Greatly enjoys the random solicitations (particularly the odd combinations) on the Marta train. A few recent gems include- three cigarettes for $1 (literally had people grabbing cigs from the box and paying with change), Mini Snickers bars and incense, ear buds and socks, and a personal fave, glow sticks and chewing gum.
“Talk to parents who have kids in college. Ask them to reflect on their experience. Inevitably, you will hear them say they wish they had not stressed as much. They will tell you about their daughter who was not admitted to her first choice school, ended up elsewhere, and is thriving now. They will go into great detail about how their son did not receive the merit scholarship he had been hoping for, selected another option from his choices, and now has an incredible internship and a girlfriend (who they actually like) that he never would have met otherwise.”
If you are not intentional, the college admission process can feel like the frenzy and stress of May. As a result, too many families miss the opportunity that the college admission experience presents. If you will really listen to your student’s hopes and dreams; if you will be willing to trust that this will all work out; if you will focus more on staying together than simply “getting in” to a particular school; if you will check your ego and be more concerned with your child’s goals than the name of a college on a list or its order in a ranking, the college admission experience can be a unique time to explore, learn, discover, and grow closer.
You can find my extended thoughts in Hope For The New Year, so I’ll simply close with this– My biggest hope is that no matter where the college admission journey leads your family, you’ll keep telling your kids three things: I love you. I trust you. I am proud of you.