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The Inaugural Issue

Hi Fellow Parent! 

First things first: We need to address the Operation Varsity Blues scandal. I think we all know the implicated parents went way over the top. Here’s some stuff I said publicly about that at CNN.com and in the Los Angeles Times.

But enough about them. Let’s talk about you.

If you’re the parent of a high school senior, college admissions announcements are happening right now. I deeply hope your child is hearing great news and has some wonderful college options. But that’s not what I want to address here. We want to celebrate with you, we really do, but we also want to help you through the disappointing notifications.

Even if your child knew a college was a long shot, rejection hurts. As my friend Eve said last year at this time, “My daughter told me rejections sucked for her (surprisingly more than expected), so the idea of applying to places that are reaches for everyone (MIT, Harvard, etc.) turned out to be a bad idea.” Parents of juniors, take heed.

The ivies will do their big reveal in about a week. If your child applied to any of them, she (and you) need to be prepared, in theory, for disappointment because about 95% of applicants to any of those universities will be denied admission. I do not mean to be a Debbie Downer, but as your ally, I must bear news of this sort sometimes.

Every year when notifications come in, I begin to hear all the excuses shared by loving, well-meaning parents about why their child didn’t get in. He would’ve gotten in if he’d spent more time on his essays, or studied for his SAT, or hadn’t gotten that one C freshman year, or if Lulu from his school hadn’t also applied, or if he’d applied last year instead of this year, or because he’s male and white. Do any of these excuses sound familiar to you? The excuses du jour: My kid never had a chance because the whole system’s rigged, or because bribes and lies are what it takes to get into college these days.

Here’s your public service announcement: Any reason you can conjure for a denial is a self-esteem killer for your kid. You’ll think you’re cheering her up by blaming outside forces, while your child is thinking, “I’ve failed, and now my parents are disappointed in me.”

If you’ve already vocalized excuses for the disappointment, it’s okay. Really. You have not permanently damaged your child. You can start chanting a healthier mantra right now, such as, Okay, that happened. What’s next? Or I love you, and I’m so proud of you regardless of where you end up going to college. Yes, you may receive an eye roll from your teenager for sounding so sappy, but he is listening. It’s time to focus on those college acceptances. Congratulations to your child! And congratulations to you, who have nurtured this kid of yours for eighteen years, and now look what she’s accomplished. Props to you both.

Parents of high school juniors about to take those spring break college tours or in the thick of them now, here’s my PSA for you: Don’t let your child fall in love with one college.

At the end of the tour, your charming tour guide might say, I fell in love with the college the minute I saw it or I just knew this school was perfect for me when I stepped foot on campus, or something similar. Cup your hands over your child’s ears. Finding the “perfect fit” school during a college tour is not the goal. A custom-designed Shangri-La of a college is not awaiting your child’s discovery when he places a toe on campus grounds. Even if your kid does feel smitten, that love could end up unrequited when it’s time to apply. Lots of the colleges you’ll visit could work well for your kid. It is your child’s job to arrive at the college he chooses with a great attitude and make it his perfect fit once he enrolls there. The big job of the college search is to find one or more colleges where it’s likely your child will be admitted, and where she’d be thrilled to go. You can call them safety, foundation, backup, or probable schools. I call them the key to your kid’s sanity, and yours, throughout the college admissions adventure.

Gratitude to Subrat, one of our own, who asked if I knew of any research to suggest that what you do at college matters more than which college you attend.

Frank Bruni’s book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, is a well-reported resource I include in one of my downloads (Additional Helpful Links). Subrat turned me on to a sympatico organization called Challenge Success. These are our people! Here’s their white paper that includes studies debunking some of the myths fueling the college admissions frenzy.

Let me know what you think, if you read through Challenge Success’s compelling research, and please contact me here if you have a question, resource, or sanity saver to share with our group. All for one and one for all!

These chili recipes (one meat, one veggie, both delectable) from the Silver Palate cookbook could make you chill-er because cooking up a big batch of anything takes care of dinner for the whole busy week.

For the meat chili, cut the recipe in half unless you have a pot much bigger than I own. It will still feed your family indefinitely. 

This vegetable chili recipe has been my go-to for years. I add extra vegetables and use half the chili powder recommended (it still has a kick and you can always add more).

IN CONCLUSION Enjoy any family time your teenager will grant you, and encourage your child to allocate some time to enjoying childhood instead of stressing about college twenty-four/seven. Soon, seniors will have to make some decisions and juniors will be waist deep in standardized testing, but that’s for the next newsletter. 


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