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!

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.

 

Be A Good Partner

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!   

Here Comes the Sun: A Parent’s Perspective on Deny

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

Rick Clark, I actively AVOIDED your previous two blogs about messages for parents of students applying to college.  This was very hard for me to do, as I am huge fan of your blog and a huge fan of you.  This morning, I grabbed a cup of coffee and, even with 200 applications sitting in my queue, braced myself and sat down to read all about the mistakes I have made.

You see, recently this whole “parent with a child in the college search” thing has become a real drag… and I want to send it and your blog to a place where the sun doesn’t shine!  I say this with the greatest admiration, respect, and love for you Rick, but on Friday my daughter received her first “deny” from a college.  Now I find myself in uncharted waters. The gate was closed on the gatekeeper’s kid…. and it stinks!

Becoming “That Parent”

As much as I hate to admit it, in that instant I became THAT parent.  I am 100% more disappointed than she is. Before you ask, of course I did not let her see my disappointment. I checked my emotions, took a breath, and said, “It’s their loss.”

While we both anticipated this result (my enrollment manager brain crunched the numbers weeks ago), I could not get it out of my head that this college was a great fit for her. The proximity to home was perfect. She could realistically start on day one as an Admission Office tour guide because she knows so much about the history of the institution.  We have a close relative who is recent graduate and has so much in common with my daughter. I LOVED THAT SCHOOL!

We are in the last lap of this search. DANG IT! Remember your PRONOUNS!!!!  My DAUGHTER is in the last lap of the college search process. SHE is waiting to hear from a few more schools. She seems to be dealing with everything well…. even the deny. She is calm and reasonable. After living with a college admission counselor for 18 years, she seems to have absorbed my trade craft.  She recognizes what she can and cannot control in the process. She feels confident that she put forth the best applications that she could. She spent time on her essays and only asked me to look over her final draft.  She has and continues to work hard in high school, though senioritis is starting to creep in. Sounds like a dream, right?

So why do I feel like I have been hit by a Mack truck?

I’ve had hundreds of conversations with students and parents about the reasons behind Tech’s admission decisions.  I have comforted, counseled, and moved on. I get it…  at least, I should get it. “It’s not you, it’s me.” Rick’s blogs make perfect, reasonable sense. This feels personal– but it’s not.

I hurt for my daughter and this first taste of rejection. And selfishly, it stings for me and my ego.  No, I am not planning to follow anyone into a parking lot to ask “why?” and I won’t be calling our Governor (he clearly has his hands full right now).

But there is value in seeing both sides of the same coin.

Another Challenging Year 

It has been an incredibly challenging year for our admission staff.  A fair number of us in the office have kids who are juniors and seniors in high school.  We all read applications from students who remind us of our own: a shared birthday or hobby, similar family dynamics, the same senior schedule, a common class that was especially difficult. When we open these files, we can’t help but think, “I sure hope the admission counselor at XYZ University is REALLY looking at all of my child’s amazing qualities.  I hope they aren’t too tired, and they really READ her essay, recommendations, and activities.”

While we face every year with professionalism and rapt attention, this year, we senior parents have been laser focused on ALL those holistic points, searching for answers, double checking our work, and willing our colleagues at other schools to do the same for our kids.

Add to this seeing so many young people being put through the absolute wringer during Covid.  I have read more essays about trauma, grief, depression, and anxiety in the past four months than I have in my entire 29-year career.  It has been heart breaking. The respect I have always had for my colleagues in school and college counseling offices across the nation has increased 1,000-fold. If we are seeing this volume of stress in applications, I can only imagine how it must impact their daily lives.  Then we add having to deny applicants during an already really challenging time.

But we do it. We must. We have over 50,000 applications. We will deny more than half of them. And by the way, that half is amazing, like my daughter, which makes it all the harder. Supply and demand. Mission driving admission. All valid and logical, but this year especially, it is a part of the job that just sucks.

It WILL Be Okay

If you know me, you know I am a positive person, and there is no way that I can write a blog that starts with me being insubordinate to my incredible boss and ends with me almost swearing. So, let me end on a high note: to the parents reading this, it will be okay.  Whether your child was denied at YOUR first-choice college, or THEIR first choice, it will be okay.  It has been a joyful, emotional, and eye-opening ride and I have newfound perspective and patience.

As the end of this amazing college search is in sight for my family, I’d like to recognize and give gratitude to the following.

West Virginia University, you were the first school to admit my daughter.  I can still see the excitement on her face when she opened that email. We sang “Country Roads” at the top of our lungs. I am so impressed by your communications. They are warm, welcoming, and positive!  You seem to intuitively know the questions that we have at any given time.

Providence College, you hosted a FANTASTIC open house. I know how much work went into that event and you did it with grace and style…. and SNACKS!  You made my daughter feel welcomed and comfortable from the start.

Barry at Pitt, in the middle of a record-breaking season, you took the time to reach out to me and answer my questions. I am grateful to you and can’t wait to sit on a panel together IN PERSON once again.

University of Rhode Island, thank you for recognizing my child’s talent and success.  I whole heartedly agree with your assessment of her!

Eli Clarke I am grateful to you for your wisdom, friendship, and support and for your amazing Tik Tok @mr.c_collegecounselor, which offered my daughter and so many others exceptional advice throughout the process.

WHS Counseling Staff, I don’t know how you do it. This has been such a wild and intense year for you. Somehow you have managed to balance crisis management, mask wars, and 1,000 other things you do in a day and still make yourselves available to help students with their college search questions. I SEE YOU!

Rick Clark, for your great insight, which, even in the throes of disappointment, is calming and rational and brings us back to earth.  Maybe we could just forget that I wanted to stick your blog in a sunless place?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three (MORE) Messages Parents of High School Students Need to Hear About College Admission

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…and we’re back. As mentioned in Part I, I decided to write these two blogs specifically for my friends, neighbors, and other adults in my life who now have kids in high school or considering college. As such you are welcome to read and consider, read and ignore, or not read but still forward or share.

  1.  The admissions essay. First, not all colleges require students to write an essay or respond to short answer questions on their application. Those who do include writing as an opportunity for students to bring voice and personalization to an otherwise heavily box, number, and line- filled application. In reading essays, admission reviewers simply want to get a sense of students’ ability to express themselves or provide insight into their character, background, motivations, and so on. As a result, essays matter. Nobody adds questions or prompts to their application just to make it longer. We read. We share. We glean insight from student writing.

However, just as much as a comma splice or failure to underline the name of a book in an essay is not going to keep a student from being admitted, the essay in general is not going to be the thing that “gets your kid in.” Anyone who tells you otherwise: a) has never worked on a college campus b) has a vested (usually monetary) interest in convincing you otherwise c) that’s it. There is no C—other than their pulse on college admission. Is it wise to have someone look over an essay for feedback? Absolutely. Should students put thought, effort, and care into their writing for colleges? Undoubtedly. But as a parent or a supporting adult please do not edit out your kids’ voice/style, or pressure them to write about something they don’t genuinely value or believe has been impactful to them, because in doing so you rob the application of the very qualities we are hoping to see in their writing. More here. Bottom line: Essays are not the magic bullet/Hail Mary/death nail/Lazarus factor people believe them to be.

 2. High School/Club Sports vs. College Athletics. Too many conversations leap from “my kid is talented in (insert sport here)” to they’re going to play in college and “get a full ride scholarship.” Consider this: fewer than two- percent of high school athletes receive athletic scholarships, and most of those only cover a percentage of tuition, housing, meals, books, fees, and so on.

As your athlete has success at higher and more competitive levels, it is exciting to imagine them playing in bigger stadiums, in front of more people, or even on TV. My hope is you will focus more on the day to day and week to week of supporting, encouraging, and enjoying watching your athlete play club and high school sports, than speculating about or assuming where it may lead. Keep saving for college. Keep pushing your student to excel in the classroom. Be proud of them for who they are and what they’ve accomplished– and be sure they know it. In other words, don’t convince yourself there is an inverse correlation between the number of trophies or media coverage and the number of dollars you will be spending on college. It may play out that way, but in the overwhelming number of cases, it won’t. Dream killer or friend? You decide. Stay grounded, stay humble, and stay focused on being able to finance a college degree without dependence on a full athletic scholarship.

3. Quality of institution is not correlated with admit rate, ranking, or any other singular number or metric.

Whether it be an effort to simplify, ego, or buying into the false narrative around selectivity and rankings, parents and supporting adults too often reduce a student’s options, limit their perspective, and curb their ability to explore based on numbers.

Admit rate: When I arrived at Tech, we were admitting well over 60% of applicants. Just a few years ago we sat around 40%. This year’s class will see an admit rate below 20%. Are the students significantly smarter, more talented, or more destined for future success? Absolutely not. Students we admitted at 60% are running companies now and sitting on boards of major organizations. I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole of how different colleges count differently on apps received or admits issued, but the bottom line is selectivity level is not a proxy for academic quality. Most colleges in the country admit more students than they deny. If the best match for your student has an admit rate that is 20 points higher than another one they are admitted to, don’t let your ego or a false narrative cloud your judgment.

Ranking: The students at Tech who are currently sophomores applied here when we were ranked number five in the nation for public universities. Within a month of enrolling here, we’d dropped to number eight, and this year we are number 10. I’ve yet to see a student transfer because of this change—because nothing has changed. Same great students, important research, and valuable network/job opportunities. I  urge you to not draw firm (arguably arbitrary) lines, whether it be at number 10, 50, or 100. College is a big decision. College is expensive. College cannot be reduced to one number. Don’t fall into that trap. And for the love of all things holy, friends, if you are going to ascribe any value to a singular number or deem it an authoritative signpost, examine the methodology and ask yourself if your values are in line with their calculations.

In most cases, leading or pushing your student to limit or dictate their choice of where to apply or attend based on one number (or even small set of numbers) is short-sighted bordering on irresponsible.

Since there won’t be a part three to this series, let’s conclude this way. I know it’s challenging supporting your student through high school, and particularly through the college experience. So, while I do hope you will legitimately consider everything I have shared in this blog and the one prior, I also want to sincerely thank you.

First day of school
editorial cartoon

Thank you for loving your kids.

Thank you for advocating for them.

Thank you for wanting them to have a better life and more opportunities and experiences than you have had.

Thank you for encouraging them and supporting them, even when they drive you nuts, roll their eyes, mumble one-syllable responses, or keep you up late at night worrying.

Thank you for washing the same dishes and clothes a thousand times.

Thank you for driving to and from practice and sitting through hours of swim meets or dance or music performances (just to hear or see your child perform for a fraction of that time).

Do I wish you wouldn’t disguise your voice in order to procure your daughter’s admission portal password? Sure.

Would admission officers prefer to come in the morning after releasing admission decisions, get a cup of coffee, and check the scores from the night before, rather than having parents outside (or in the parking lot) wanting to appeal or provide 13 additional recommendation letters? Yep.

Do I enjoy having my competence, intelligence, or soul brought into question based on an admission decision? Not particularly.

Nevertheless, as the parent of two kids, I get it. The truth is you are doing what you always have–loving them, protecting them, and providing for them. And since you absolutely do not hear this enough– THANK YOU!

Got friends who won’t read 1200 words on this topic, but still may benefit from hearing these messages– pass them this Twitter thread.

Three Messages Parents of High School Students Need to Hear About College Admission

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I am getting older. I know this because I now bring a mini-massage gun with me when I travel; my pant legs neither tightly hug my calves nor end an inch above my ankle; and when I buy wine at the grocery store the cashier either does not card me or goes back to scanning items when I confidently reach for my wallet (plus, hey, I’m regularly buying wine at the grocery store).

I’m not sure if you are also experiencing this, but my kids are getting older too, as are their parents. So, with each passing year, I’m getting more texts, emails, and calls from friends about college and college admission, and over-hearing both discussed frequently at games or other events.

While I did write an entire book on this subject, I feel like I owe my friends more than simply texting them an Amazon link. Plus, I understand not everyone is up for reading 200+ pages. But after watching this cycle repeat itself for over two decades (use of “decades” being another “getting older” give-away), I’m convinced there are a few messages most parents of high school students need to hear-and hopefully will listen to also.

Pronouns Matter. As your kids enter and move through high school, and especially as they are applying to college, I hope you will be cognizant of your pronouns. If you find yourself commonly saying things like, “We have a 3.8,”Pre-Calc is really killing us this year,” or “Our first choice is ___________,” it may be time to take a long walk, a deep breath, or a stiff drink. Ask yourself if those pronouns are just a reflection of your love and years of intimately intertwined lives, or if they are a subtle prodding to step back and let your student demonstrate what you know they are capable of handling.

As you well know, parenting is a delicate dance that becomes increasingly complicated as kids get older. Be honest with yourself and pay attention to when its time to take the lead or step back. Interestingly, it was current Atlanta Mayor (and former Georgia Tech staff member) Andre Dickens who introduced me to the concept of moving from parent to partner with a presentation he used to give at new student-parent orientation. And that should be your focus as your kids move closer toward graduation from high school.

As a parent, I understand this is not easy. But don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal. “College Prep” is not simply about academics, and we should be focused on ensuring our kids are socially, emotionally, and practically prepared, regardless of where they end up going to college. Watching your pronouns is a great place to start.

College admission is not fair. However, in contrast to what most people think, it is easy to understand. Admission is driven by two fundamental rules:

  1. Supply and demand. The Applicant to Class Size ratio drives admit rate. If applications go up and enrollment does not, the admit rate drops.

This is why you hear about Younger Sibling not getting into University of X (Home of the Fighting X’s) with the same, or even better high school grades and classes, than Older Sibling (a current junior at X with a 3.4 GPA). Three years have passed, U of X’s new first-year class size is the same, but this year they receive 5000 more applications than the year Older applied. Could Younger do the work? 100%. Is Younger talented, ambitious, and very interested in going to University of X? Without question. Is this fair? Nope, but it is logical.

  1. Mission drives admission. As we just established, Older is a good student and a good person (3.4 GPA in college and very active on campus). But three years ago, when she applied as a high school senior, there was another candidate vying for admission—Applaquint. “App” had better grades, better classes, better writing, and more community involvement (all the things U of X says it values) than Older. App, however, was denied.

Why? Well, it happens that App is from Y (the state just to the east of X). Because University of X is a public school, students from the state are admitted at 5 times (would have been too confusing to say 5x) the rate of non-Xers. Fair? No! Again, App is smarter, nicer, and better looking than Older. But again, totally logical.

College brochures may make all campuses look the same, but the goals for the composition of their classes vary widely in number, geography, major, gender, and so on. So when admission committees discuss candidates, they are reviewing and considering GPA, essays, and letters of recommendation,  but ultimately institutional mission and priorities are the lens and filter through which admission decisions are made.

As a parent, my sincere hope is you hear, believe, and prepare yourself for this truth- neither an admit nor deny decision is a value judgment or evaluation of your job as a parent. My friend Pam Ambler from Pace Academy puts it perfectly: “Admission decisions feel deeply personal, but that is not how they are made.” As a result, many parents react when their student receives disappointing admission news. They see that hurt and think they need to call the admission office (or the president or the governor), appeal the decision, “come down there,” or pull strings. After watching this cycle repeat itself over and over, and particularly as my own kids grow up, I’ve come to appreciate ALL of that comes from a place of deep and genuine love. But ultimately, in these moments what kids need from you is very simple—love, concern, empathy, belief, and encouragement, or sometimes just a heartfelt hug.

College Parents > HS Parents. When your kids were little and you were struggling with potty training or getting your baby to sleep through the night, did you seek advice and insight from other parents in the same chapter? No! Because they were either a: just as clueless or frustrated as you were b: maddeningly oblivious c: prone to lie, exaggerate, or hide the reality of their situation.

The same is true when it comes to college admission. Other parents with kids in high school often have just enough information to sound informed but frequently serve to proliferate inaccuracy and consternation– “You know the valedictorian three years ago did not get into….” and “It’s easier to get in from (insert high school three miles away), because they don’t have IB like we do.” Generous generalizations and liberal rounding phrases like, “he has mostly As and Bs” or her SAT is “around a 1400″ should send your BS radar way up in cases like this. Walk away, my friends. Dismiss, change the subject, and don’t let those comments stress you out. 

The bottom line is parents of high school students should talk to fewer parents of high school students about college admission, and more parents of current college students, or recent college graduates. These folks, who are one chapter ahead, invariably provide perspective, levity, insight, and sanity. They are far less prone to exaggeration, and in fact often incredibly raw and honest in their evaluation. “She was crushed when she did not get into Stanvard. But now she’s at Reese’s U and is not sorry.” Or “We didn’t get the financial aid package we needed for him to go to Enidreppep University, so he ended up at QSU. He graduates this spring and already has a great job lined up with the company where he’s been interning.” Again, seek perspective, levity, insight, and sanity from parents of current college students, and spend your time talking to parents of other high school students about the upcoming game or recently opened restaurant in your area.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. And stay tuned for upcoming podcasts and blogs with a few more key messages for high school parents coming soon…

If you have friends who not won’t read 200+ pages, but are likely not even ready 1000+ words, you can send them to my original Twitter thread with these messages for parents.