I have been overcommitted in the last few weeks. Apparently, months ago when I agreed to these programs and presentations, I either did not realize they were all bunched together, or I forgot that April in Admissions Land is chaos.
Ironically, while the audience sizes, venue locations, and Zoom formats have varied, the closing question has been ubiquitous: “What is one last thing you would like to say to parents or students?” Or as it was put on a panel last week, “If you had an admission magic wand, what would you change?”
FYI- I do have an admission badge, an admission nametag, plenty of random admission swag from conferences (mousepads, stress balls, buttons, etc.), but a magic wand? Apparently, no Ed Tech vendor has come up with that one…yet.
In the interest of time, I’ll spare you the normal 45-minute presentation and the 37 accompanying slides and cut right to hypothetical ABRACADABRA!
For Students. If I could mind control all college applicants, I’d instill in them an unwavering belief that all of this is going to work out in the end. Maybe not in December or March or even May, but eventually. Anyone who has watched this cycle repeat itself for more than five or so years will attest to this fact: Kids are like cats- they always land on their feet. In many cases they do have nine admission lives, and honestly, have you seen what they eat? Cats, I say.
No, you don’t always get into your first choice. No, the money does not always come through. Sometimes you get deferred or waitlisted or are forced to endure the vicious combo of both, and end up waiting months to know how it’s all going to resolve. So, I’d plant in them an unfathomable amount of patience and confidence.
Forget Beer Goggles. I’d give them Admission Lenses that allows them to see their future self happy, surrounded by friends, and thriving on a college campus (not necessarily the one they currently envision) in a few months. I’d give them special earplugs and blinders to tune out the ridiculous garbage, misinformation, and disinformation that swirls around them online, sometimes from loving but anxious parents, and definitely from opportunistic forces simply trying to fan the flames of stress to get paid.
For Parents/Supporting Adults (waves wand)
PRESTO! Early and honest conversations about money. In April, lots of juniors are visiting campus and seniors are making final college decisions, so there is constant talk about money, finances, loans, and scholarships. In an attempt to cut through the noise, I interviewed John Leach, the AVP for University Financial Aid at Emory University, and I’m hopeful you will listen to that here. While the entire podcast is about 30 mins, I can boil it down to three words—TALK MONEY EARLY!
Many parents I’ve met over the years have felt their job (and the greatest gift they can give their kids is to pay for any college). That is misguided and patently false. The biggest gift parents can give their kids, when it comes to paying for college, is to be as proactive and honest as possible about what you can and/or are willing to pay. John covers all of this in the podcast and does so in a clear, cogent, and compelling way. Since I don’t actually have a magic wand, I sincerely hope you’ll listen.
Bonus: Don’t talk to parents of other high school students about college admission, and instead consult parents of current college students, or recent college graduates. 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 a local or rival private/public high school here), because they have don’t have (insert grading scale, curriculum, or random nuance here)….like we do.”
My magic would have you walk away, dismiss, change the subject, delete/block social media accounts, and be fully impenetrable to those comments which bring inevitable and unnecessary stress.
In contrast, parents who are one chapter ahead invariably provide perspective, levity, insight, and sanity. They are far less prone to exaggeration, and can be incredibly raw and honest in their evaluation. “She was crushed when she did not get into Stanvard, but went to QSU instead. This spring she’s graduating and has a great job lined up.”
In the end, there are no admission magic wands or quick fixes or panaceas. The admission experience can be challenging, stressful, and humbling. That’s not all bad. And it can also teach valuable lessons about communication, patience, self-confidence, and resilience that will last into college and life well beyond. I don’t have any tricks, but I do have hope. And that’s what I leave you with.