The Role of Parents/Caregivers in College Admission

My daughter’s birthday party was last Friday. Long story short, it involved a frenzied and surprisingly competitive neighborhood- wide scavenger hunt, copious amounts of half- eaten pizza slices, a sugar fueled late-night living room dance party, and periodic tween screaming that hit notes any soprano would commend. Good times were had and only one slight injury occurred. I mainly just supplied food, cleaned up, and sought refuge when the music started.

Somewhere amidst the generally controlled chaos, Elizabeth opened presents from her friends, which I discovered based on the strewn pieces of wrapping paper and gift receipts I found in corners of the living room the next day. “So, what did you get?” She rattled off a few of the gifts and proudly displayed her new “cozy Christmas socks,” which she’d apparently slept in.

“But you know what I’m most excited about, right?!” she asked breaking into a grin.

Yep! When are y’all going?

“TODAY! I can’t wait!” eyes brightening, smile widening.

Me: What are you going to get?

“I HAVE NO IDEA!” a smile seeming to reach full capacity.

Why are you yelling?

Same response. Same exuberance.

Each year after Christmas, my aunt has a tradition of taking Elizabeth out for lunch and shopping for something she wanted but did not get, or later realized she was interested in. This year my mom decided a similar experience would be the best birthday gift she could give.

These two are like peas in a pod. Despite a 60-year age difference, they have a ton in common. They just get each other. “Get each other” as in Elizabeth regularly says, “I want to go live with Oma.” It’s sweet on most days, moderately offensive on others, and tempting to look into occasionally.

What Elizabeth loves about these shopping trips is that she gets to choose the music they play in the car, select the restaurant they go to for lunch, where to shop, and what item she ultimately wants. In the end, neither the meal nor the gift end up being extravagant- Moe’s and a sweatshirt to give you a recent example. But it’s the freedom. The choices. And the time together. She LOVES it!

Shopping!!

When Oma showed up, her first question was, “So, where do you want to go?” She was open and excited about their time together. On that particular day, Elizabeth knew exactly where she wanted to go to lunch, and she had a few stores in mind to check out, but generally she was just looking for “jeans.”

Jeans. Especially right now this is a broad category- “Mom” jeans, skinny jeans, tailored fit, athletic fit, I’m sure Google and Instagram would provide another five categories easily. And then you have length, color, material, buttons, zippers, rips, location of rips, size of rips, and that’s before you talk about cost, brand, etc. Ultimately, they went to two or three stores and Elizabeth scanned the racks, tried on a variety of jeans, and weighed her options. Ultimately, she was torn between a few options and wanted my mom’s opinion to make help her final decision.

I’ll admit I find it moderately disturbing that as they were relaying their day to me the first thing I thought about was this blog, which is clearly a me problem. But it is true. Over the years, on panels or webinars, I’ve heard countless responses from colleagues to the question, “What is the role of parents in the college admission experience?” Inevitably, you’ll hear analogies about driver and passenger or pilot and co-pilot. But the longer I do this work, and the older my own kids get, the more convinced I am that the role of a parent/caregiver is a lot like my mom’s trip to lunch and shopping with my daughter for her birthday. And it all centers around choices and options.

Openness, Excitement, and Curiosity

My daughter knew my mom was excited about the adventure of driving around, seeing what they might discover, giving her opinion but honoring Elizabeth’s unique style and interests, and asking questions so they could ultimately find the jeans that “fit” her best. As a parent, especially while your student is in the sophomore and junior year, my hope is you will commit to a similar posture. Vigilantly ask questions, consistently observe, and really listen to what they are saying they want/need. Help them research and learn about the many schools where they could thrive and be open to visiting a wide variety of campuses. Let go of any stereotypes or dated reputations you may be holding onto. You know them best as a person and a learner, so trust your gut rather than rankings or the opinions of others when it comes to creating a list of schools to visit or apply to.

Don’t miss the final part of the story. Ultimately, Elizabeth wanted my mom’s opinion because she had been given the freedom to choose. As parents, of course we want to be consulted and weigh in. But the ability to provide that final input starts by holding back and in the beginning.

Your Presence is the Gift

Does that section heading sound a little cheesy? In this season of gift giving, hope, and thankfulness, I’m good with that because it is true. As I’ve said directly and have proven through my errant predictions on this blog over the years, there are many things I don’t know or understand. But what two decades of working in education and having two kids of my own has taught me is that parents and caregivers love their kids. We want to provide for them and see them happy. Often, we convince ourselves that revolves around a particular outcome, i.e., something they need to get/do/be, so we attempt to control the outcome or steer things in a particular direction.

On the shopping trip, in contrast, the adventure together was as much of the gift as the jeans they ultimately purchased. When Elizabeth and my mom came home that day, they were giddy—laughing, talking about what they had done and seen, and as excited about their time as they were about the purchase.

All metaphors break down eventually, and while I thought this one was pretty good, I also acknowledge that college admission can be stressful or tense because it combines money, deadlines, periods of uncertainty, and the inevitable beginning of a new chapter for everyone. But it also provides families an opportunity to grow closer through the shared experience.

Lots of admission decisions have recently come out, or soon will be in the weeks and months ahead. If your student is deferred, denied, or waitlisted, you are not going to have all the answers or be able to guarantee how everything will resolve. But you do have an opportunity to remind them that you love them, you are proud of them, you are for them, and you are there for them. Your presence is the gift. In the end, how they end up going to college, and the way you build your relationship with them this year, is far more important than where they ultimately go to school.

The Role of Parents/Caregivers in College Admission

As a parent, the good news is you have been down this road before. So many of the decisions and sacrifices you have made over time have been to set your child up for having short- and long-term choices and options. The truth is that this is just one more chapter in that relationship story. Stay open, curious, excited, and most importantly- simply present.

So, the next time I’m on a panel or webinar and the question about the role of a parent/caregiver comes up, be assured I’m refencing this blog series. I am convinced that what colleges want, the blueprint for students, and the ultimate focus of parents is the same—Choices and Options.

Time to Shine

This week we welcome Regional Director of Admission for the Mid Atlantic, Kathleen Voss, to the blog. Welcome, Kathleen!

Do you remember the episode of Modern Family when Phil and Claire drop Haley off at college?  They are OVER the top all day, even wearing “Haley Dunphy Moving Company” t-shirts. Haley is mortified and begs her dad to take off the t-shirt lest they be judged by all the other kids and their families moving into the residence hall. Other embarrassing antics happen throughout the episode, and as Phil and Claire sit in silence on their drive home, Haley calls and tells them she loves them and thanks them. The audience sees she is wearing her “Haley Dunphy Moving Company” t-shirt. Not a dry eye in the house.

As you may recall, my daughter starts college this fall. This past weekend her dad, sister, and I traveled 3.5 hours south to her new home.  I should have known when my husband and youngest daughter started getting carsick as we bobbed and weaved over the country and mountain roads that a Century City-produced college drop-off was NOT in the cards for us.

One Last Hoorah

As an attempt to bring us all together for one last hurrah before the big day (think Oliver Stone assembling the cast to experience basic training before he started shooting Platoon).  I organized a family trip to a lovely, local hotel near the university.  It had been the site of a famous movie, starring an 80’s heartthrob, the perfect preamble to our College Drop-Off Spectacular!

Unfortunately, while a beautiful spot, the first raindrop fell as we unpacked the car, and the torrents began soon after. The scenes of family hikes to waterfalls and loving, heartfelt conversations sitting poolside would have to be reshot. EASY! We would just move the location into the hotel room.

While well appointed, the room was small and since my husband had forgotten his CPAP machine at home (queue sound effects), none of us had gotten much sleep the night before (nor did we the entire time). Tensions on the set were running high and the constant questions I peppered my college-bound daughter with (“Did you get your room pin?” “Do you know where we need to park?” “How long do we have to actually move in?”  “Do they have carts or dollies?”) were soon met with an 18-year old’s wrath, which includes rolling eyes and deep exasperated breaths that started in her toes and rumbled through her rib cage … Stanislavski would be proud!

The supporting cast was just as motivated! Not to be outperformed, the 13-year-old commentary, (“GAAAAWDDD Mom! Can’t you talk about something else?” “I’m BORED” “The Wi-Fi sucks here” and “Can we get ice cream?” for the 200th time) was just as impactful. My script writer really deserves a raise.

Move-In Day

At last, the time came for move-in.  The costumes were chosen with care (seriously, my husband chose a “move in” costume. “It must be lightweight, breathable, easy to get around in. Maybe coveralls? I should also wear closed-toe shoes… did I bring my Carhartts?”). We made our way into the crowd of fellow thespians to the 10th floor of a tower that was built the year I was born.  And believe me, no hair and make-up team were going to make IT or I, look any younger.

We got to the door and waited and waited some more. Someone, who prefers to remain nameless, never got their pin (I know, I can’t believe it either). So, a trip down the elevator, a visit to the RA desk and back up we went.  As we entered the prop closet… I mean dorm room; the REAL fun began. It immediately became a race to the Academy Awards, each actor outdoing the next in testing exactly how HIGH emotions could get. Crying? Check. Swearing? Check. Check. Shouting? Check. Luckily, the four fans that my husband had set up across the room “to maximize airflow” DID help drain out the volume of our dialogue. At least we hope it did.

Time to Say “So Long”

After three hours of lofting and un-lofting beds, moving bookcases and desks, dusting, unpacking far too many clothes, storing luggage, and cutting open vacuum-packed rugs and mattress pads (a must by the way) we had successfully dressed the set. And it was time to say goodbye.

The Director had envisioned this final scene in her mind in the weeks leading up to our departure. I would hold it together, share a sage word or two of final wisdom, pull out a starched, lace handkerchief (or Kleenex, probably easier) to dab at that tear on my cheek, hug the main character close, wish her well, offer a loving goodbye and then drive off down the tree-lined, college lane.

The Kleenex part will probably make it into the final episode, but the ugly crying, weeping, sobbing, and seemingly never-ending nose blowing that followed, will be left on the cutting room floor. I pulled it together about an hour from our house.

I was thinking about that Modern Family episode. Phil had left Haley a book with advice and “dad-isms.” My favorite was, “never be afraid to reach for the stars, because even if you fall, you’ll always be wearing your parent chute.” There was nothing left for me to do. My sweet, energetic, athletic, bright Star was ready to shine. On her own. I had seen the excitement in her eyes as we walked the campus and again as we said goodbye. I had felt the independence, like the pull of the sun, as she directed her dad where to put the unlofted/lofted/unlofted bed and suggested a spot for us to eat lunch.

And while I may not be ready, she is.  And the stage is hers.

Kathleen Voss has worked in college admission for over 25 years. She joined the Georgia Tech Office of Undergraduate Admission in 2013 as the Institute’s first Regional Director of Admission. Prior to Tech, Kathleen worked regionally for Manhattan College and as the Associate Director of Admission for Regis College in Massachusetts. She is a member of PCACAC and serves on the Admission Practices Committee. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters and volunteering in her community.

What are your admission requirements? Part II 

Our last blog was geared toward helping students applying to college keep an open mind about their choices and options, and ensure they have a solid support system around them. I am hopeful students actually read the piece and will take my advice to heart, because the only emails I received afterward were from parents. 

Their messages centered around the response I used to give students when I first started at Tech in the early 2000s when asked, “What are your admission requirements?” READ: Please just tell me clearly and plainly what I need to do/have to get in?  

My response was simple, honest, and easy, “Sure. Get a 3.7 GPA, 1300 SAT, write a few lines on your essay, do some stuff outside the classroom, and we’ll see you in the fall.” 

The blog went on to explain why a 3.7 (or 3.5 or 4.0) of twenty years ago is not uniform anymore, and as a result admission reps from competitive universities are rarely able to provide a single sentence (let alone a single number) when discussing GPAs. Parents who emailed wanted to know if SAT/ACT scores are equivalent to the early 2000s (or before I assume), and how much stock to put in the averages or ranges they hear in presentations or see published online.   

Whether these questions stemmed from innocent curiosity or an attempt to settle a household debate/competition, I am unsure. And while I did not intend to write a Part II it does provide a timely opportunity to identify admission requirements for parents as they coach and partner with their students.  

First, here is an attempt to answer the question. 

Is a 1300 (sticking with the cited example) the same as it was 20 (or 30) years ago?

As with most answers in admissions land, “It depends.” 

The Same Scale. The SAT is still comprised of two sections for a total of 1600 points (though there was a brief time period when it was comprised of three 800-point sections- totaling 2400). 

The Same Percentile. An SAT score of 1300 puts a student in the top 14% of test takers, which is roughly equivalent to where it was 20 years ago. However, there are far more students taking the SAT/ACT now, so the raw number of takers above and below any score is higher. 

Likely Different in that most colleges “super score” tests- meaning during admission review (and ultimately when they publish scores) they are on students’ highest combined total of the two sections from any test administration. Twenty years ago, colleges were generally not publishing super-scored averages or ranges, and students did not have the option of score choice- opting out of sending particular tests to colleges. The combination of these two practices has served to inflate the scores colleges include on publications, websites, etc.    

Particularly Different for anyone who took the SAT prior to 1995- the year the College Board “re-centered” the test.  

Arguably Different in that on average twenty years ago students took the test fewer times and had less access to free/low-cost/or absurdly high-cost test preparation.   

Optionally Different in that data suggests students scoring lower than published institutional averages/ranges are less likely to submit their test scores to colleges with test optional policies, thus increasing averages/ranges on profiles, common data sets, etc.  

Recently Different in that many testing centers have been closed and testing administrations canceled. Over the last few years during the pandemic, students have taken these tests in abnormal circumstances impacted and varying drastically based on their local environment.    

The truth is the testing landscape is vaster and more confusing than ever, and that’s without addressing how factors like Early Decision, financial need, residency, major, or other demographics may impact how a particular student’s SAT/ACT score is viewed in any given college’s admission review process. 

What are your admission requirements? 

Cleary, I cannot speak for every college. And unlike my early days at Tech, I cannot give you two numbers or a formula to guarantee admission. But after two decades of watching this cycle repeat itself, I can still make you a promise. If you are a parent or supporting adult who just loves your kid and wants to see them be successful in their college admission (and college) experience, I can tell you what you need to do and have. Here are your admission requirements.  

DO stay one chapter ahead. I want to urge you to talk less to parents of other high school seniors and more to parents of college students or recent college graduates. When kids are little, we looked to parents a chapter ahead for advice, solace, and perspective. Don’t forget the value they add, particularly during the college admission experience.   

Perhaps your friends and neighbors are different, but often parents of other high school seniors exaggerate, proliferate, propagate, and other ates and gates that are typically unhealthy/unhelpful. Talk to those folks about the upcoming game, play, or school event, but when conversations about where students are applying, or where they either do or do not get in, etc. try subtly changing the subject. In my experience, avoiding the speculation or hearsay and generally keeping your family’s admission process  private is not only good for your personal well-being and mental health, but for your relationship with your student too.  

HAVE early, open, and honest conversations about money. My sincere hope is you will commit to having transparent conversations with your student now- before they submit applications. Being open about how much you either can, or are willing to pay, is a gift because it sets expectations at an appropriate time.  

Does this mean you are saying they cannot apply to X college? Absolutely not. But it helps your student clearly understand the financial aid package or scholarship level they will need to receive in order to enroll. Delaying this discussion until after a student is admitted is a disservice to everyone involved, because an offer of admission will already be emotional on some level. Parents frequently underestimate their students’ ability to handle transparent conversations about finances, lifestyle, and how paying for colleges enters the equation. If you open the books and explain why you have certain conditions or limitations on paying for college, you’ll likely be surprised and proud at how they approach their applications and ultimate college selection.  

What are YOUR admission requirements? 

In Part 1 for students, I encouraged them to focus on what they need and want from a university experience, rather than on what a college seems to require of them in the admission process. I adamantly believe if they will take some time to write down and really consider this question, it will help as they think through their choices and options at every stage. It will likely also help rule out places that don’t align, and it will give them good questions to ask when they visit, talk to reps, or receive admission offers and are weighing their options.  

I hope you will do the same. For this exercise, forget the names of colleges, their ranking, or any stereotypes, biases, or attachments you may have. Instead, just think of your student. You know them better than anyone else- you’ve watched them grow, change, and learn along the way. What do you think is most important to helping them thrive academically and to be healthy outside of the classroom? Coming up with even a short list of these qualities or characteristics will enrich and balance your conversations, recommendations, questions, and support along the way.  

As parents its easy to feel pressure to have answers and solutions for our kids. But when it comes to college admission, seeking perspective, being honest and open, reflecting, listening, and walking through the experience together is perhaps the biggest gift we can give.

Transition Tips for Parents and Families

This week’s blog is from Georgia Tech’s Director of Parent & Family Programs, Laci Weeden.  She shares helpful tips for parents and supporting adults on how to navigate the transition from home to campus. Welcome, Laci!

Learn more and listen to Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Spreaker | Apple Podcasts | Spotify

As high school graduation approaches, many parents and supporting adults are already thinking about next year with a combination of excitement, trepidation, optimism, and uncertainty. While knowing precisely what the months and year ahead hold, it will unquestionably be a period of adjustment.

Although your role and the dynamics of your relationship will unquestionably shift, you have a unique and important role in partnering with colleges to ensure your student’s success.  We encourage families to stay connected while also allowing space and time for students to develop and grow in their new environment.  Like so much of life, this is a delicate and ever-changing balance.

I like to think of the transition from high school to college like a tandem bicycle. When your student was younger, and their feet didn’t even reach the pedals, you steered, pedaled, and determined the path and destination of the bike. As your student grew, you began to feel them pedal and you listened as they shared their thoughts on the journey.

Now that they are ready to head off to college, it’s time to switch seats. Your student is now on the front of the bike and ready to take the lead, so naturally your roles will begin to switch as they steer their own course, find their own path in life, and pedal hard toward their goals and dreams. But don’t forget, you are right there on the bike, too – pedaling, supporting, and cheering them on!

Here are a few tips to help your student and your family with this transition.

  • Establish and agree upon a time to catch up and check in with your student before they leave for college.
  • Be happy and excited about the new college experience. If your student knows or can sense that you are worried, they are likely to be less confident.
  • Send care packages and cards from home, they love cookies!
  • Listen closely- sometimes beyond the words they say.
  • Encourage them to work on time management and create good study habits.
  • If they struggle, remind them that they have your support, but encourage them to find solutions on their own when possible.
  • Offer advice, not demands. Remember that your student is an emerging adult who will need guidance, but not commands.
  • Remind them to utilize all the resources around them. (And you feel free to reach out to campus resources yourself, if you need support.)
  • Encourage them to take advantage of campus and local opportunities.
  • Encourage your student to get exercise, eat healthy, and sleep. Health and wellness are critical to satisfaction and success.
  • Remind your student that you are proud of them, you trust them, and you love them. They really do need to hear this from you as some days are just hard.
  • Know that both of you will change and grow. You will probably find that a rewarding new adult friendship will emerge as they get into their second and third year of college and beyond.
  • Help any family members at home with the transitions, too. For some younger siblings, the transition can be confusing and a bit lonely. For parents and guardians, you will need to make some adjustments to a variety of things such as household chores, grocery shopping, and computer maintenance.
  • You have a new role as a parent and family member of a college student; you are becoming a mentor. Seemiller and Grace (2019) stated that Generation Z views their parents as trusted mentors and “eighty-eight percent say they are extremely close with their parents” (p.94). This is a shift from when Generation X went to college due technology and the ways we communicate, differing parenting styles, and the rising cost of college (Sax & Wartman, 2010). Your student will be dealing with adult responsibilities and challenges, and you can serve as a trusted advisor in this process.
  • College is a time to let your student take all the good advice you have shared with them over the years and put it to the test. When your student succeeds, celebrate with them! When your student struggles or is in pain, listen and offer support. Asking open ended questions will encourage dialogue and assist in their adjustment to campus life.
  • Your student will be developing critical thinking skills, learning from people who are different from them, and learning to be a global citizen, all while their brains are still developing. Provide your best care and support when needed for those challenging times and use the campus support resources available to help your student develop a plan of action and to develop resiliency.

As you well know, parenting is not an easy role. But you have done an outstanding job helping your student get to this point. Ultimately, as they transition to college, try not to worry too much. Trust the advice, values, and support you have provided. They’re going to do great- and so are you!

Sources

Sax, L. & Wartman, K. (2010). Studying the impact of parent involvement on college student development: A review and agenda for research. In: Smart, J. (eds) Higher education: Handbook of Theory and Research. (25) Springer.

Seemiller, C. & Grace, M. (2019). Generation Z: A century in the making. Routledge.

Learn more and listen to Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Spreaker | Apple Podcasts | Spotify

 

Be A Good Partner

Learn more and listen to Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Spreaker | Apple Podcasts | Spotify

Last week my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, so the parallels between love and admission have been on my mind lately.  

Do I acknowledge some portion of readers will be bewildered by the first part of the last sentence? I do (What can I say? I married a patient woman). 

Do I appreciate another portion of readers will be moderately disconcerted by the latter part of that last sentence? I do (What can I say? I’m a romantic).  

Do I understand the ring on my finger is older than the final portion of readers? I do (What can I say? Oh… I’ll tell you. There should absolutely be an award or club at the 20-year mark for people still wearing their original wedding band).  

Anyway, we had a great trip, good weather, amazing food, and precious time together to look back– and forward.  

When I really think about where I have succeeded and fallen short over the last two decades, and when I consider what I want to focus on in the years ahead, it is extremely simple- BE A GOOD PARTNER. Easy to say, but often challenging to live (and love) out.

After watching the admission cycle repeat itself for those same twenty years, and speaking with hundreds (thousands?) of families during that time period, BE A GOOD PARTNER is also my hope for parents/supporting adults of high school juniors who are looking toward their admission experience in the year ahead. 

BE A GOOD PARTNER 

  1. Stay Curious. While Hollywood may portray relationships as full of passionate professions or grandiose statements, real love is often most sincerely expressed through asking questions. As your family receives mail from schools, visits colleges, or as your student talks about particular universities, one of the ways you can best engage, support, and partner is by persistently seeking to understand.

The families I’ve seen most enjoy their experience- and those who have grown closer not further apart through college search and selection- are those who let go of thinking they need to have all the answers, control the process, or attempt to steer things in a particular direction. Instead, they embrace this as an opportunity for discovery and exploration—and a journey together. Be vigilant about asking questions and really listening to answers.  

Will all of their responses satisfy you in the moment? No. Just like any marriage or other partnership/relationship in your life, you should expect gaps, delays, awkward silences, or even incoherent/illogical/indecipherable utterances.  

Easy? Definitely not. You know from experience this will demand energy, persistence, tenacity, and patience. But you also know unity, growth, and ultimately understanding is realized through a fierce commitment to learning- and learning comes from staying curious. 

2. Money matters. April is money month in college admission. No, it’s not “Hallmark official,” so nobody is celebrating with cards, .gifs, or hashtags, but since financial packages are on the table and deposits are due at many schools in early May, families of seniors are currently weighing options, comparing scholarship offers, and considering return on investment between various colleges.

Let me say from both recent and annual experience: April of the senior year is not the time to have this conversation for the first time!! (Yes, that warranted two exclamation marks).  

Being a good partner means opening the books and talking honestly and openly with your student about paying for college BEFORE they ever apply. Communicating clearly and transparently about how much you can pay, will pay, or are able to pay in the context of your other goals, pressures, and priorities is essential. Some of the most awkward and painful family dynamics I’ve witnessed (and gently excused myself from), have come when parents/supporting adults have not been clear about their financial limits and rationale, until after a student has been admitted/bought the hoodie/posted on social media that they are in and think they are all set to attend to their “top choice.”  

My hope is you will understand it’s not only ok, but absolutely critical to establish conditions or limitations, and expectations about finances. Setting these ranges with clear explanations provides clarity– and as you well know as a parent, love often necessitates setting boundaries. More on all of that here.    

  1. Celebrate. Look for opportunities and creative/unique ways to celebrate your student in the months and year ahead. First college visit, first application submission, and every acceptance!

The world spins too fast. It takes intention, discipline (and yes, love) to be a good partner. So hit pause and be consistent about lifting up the successes, milestones, and opportunities your family will experience.  

You know your student the best, so consider how they most feel appreciated, supported, and seen, and lean into their love language. If you create a pattern of celebration, they will be confident that your pride in them is not about an outcome, but rather engagement, effort, and shared experiences.    

  1. Schedule and Protect Time. We all live busy lives filled with obligations and distractions. And all of us have seen in other relationships that if we are not intentional about how we invest our time, the tyranny of the urgent takes over, important conversations are rushed or severely delayed, and we lose sight of priorities.

As a result, too often parents/supporting adults unconsciously default to broaching college at unexpected and inconvenient moments (car rides, breakfast, on their way up the stairs) that lead to students shutting down or seeming/being unconcerned, annoyed, or frustrated.  

College should be a conversation. And like any meaningful and healthy conversation, it is best when it’s intentionally scheduled, and everyone is prepared and focused. I’m encouraging you to protect, prioritize, and facilitate this by setting aside time each week to discuss college, including details, deadlines, choices, etc. Perhaps that is an hour each Sunday or the one night each week nobody has practice or another obligation. This is your time to plan, evaluate, research, or weight options and decisions.  

Outside of that time, my hope is you will not let college talk dominate or dilute your time, conversations, and bigger relationship. More on all of this here.   

  1. CHECK your ego.  If you are married, have been married, or are in any kind of lifelong partnership/committed relationship, I am guessing I really don’t need to keep writing. We all know how critical this is, as well as the damage that can be done when we are unwilling to adjust, shift position, compromise, listen, and—in the case of college admission- remember who is actually going to college.

As adults we have hopes/dreams and desires for our children. That’s natural, and in fact a manifestation of love. But being a good partner means consistently checking in on our motivations, ensuring our words and actions are sincere and earnest, and keeping perspective. Too often adults fool themselves into thinking where their student goes to college reflects on their parenting acumen. The truth is how they go, and the condition of your relationship when they go, is the real indicator of success.  

Here’s to you 

The morning after our anniversary, we woke up and toasted (coffee) to the next twenty years. Inevitably, we’ll continue to make plenty of mistakes in our relationship, but we are committed to continuing to learn, work, grow, and love each other uniquely. The fact that you read this and considering how you can be a good partner in the college admission experience is a gift.  So, cheers! Thanks for being committed not to perfection but to progress. Thanks for being a good partner!   

Learn more and listen to Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Spreaker | Apple Podcasts | Spotify