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Shifting from Stress to Gratitude

Welcome Fellow Parents to a world where we ignore smack talk (more on that momentarily) and share the real scoop about the college admissions process.

What to say in response to “the question”…

The Thanksgiving table is the epicenter of relatives and friends who will not hesitate to ask, “Where are you applying to college?” (“the question”) or “Where is your kid applying to college?” (“the question” variation directed at you).

I cover many strategies for answering in College Admissions Cracked, but here’s something else you can say: NOTHING.


You are under no obligation to answer anyone about your child’s future. You can say, “Can we please talk about something else?” Or as Dr. Katherine Appy, Psy.D. suggests, “That’s not my information to share.” Or “Could you please pass the cranberry sauce?”

This information is of consequence to your kid but of no consequence to Aunt Irma. She’s just making small talk, so be polite. And if you want to be especially kind to Aunt Irma, or your sister, or your friend who nervously rants about  how she’s behind in the college admissions process with her high school sophomore, I know a great holiday gift that will inform her, calm her, and make her laugh. Just sayin’.

But enough about Aunt Irma and the trials you could face at Thanksgiving.

Let’s talk about gratitude…

My friend Judy received a gratitude jar from a friend a couple of years ago, which she thought was hokey as all get-out, but Judy started writing down moments she felt grateful on slips of paper, just the same. Whenever Judy opened that jar, a rush of warm feelings toppled out onto her marble countertop (Judy has a really nice kitchen) along with the notes. If you start now, write down one grateful moment per day, and pop it into a jar, by the end of the holidays, you’ll have a record of 42 grateful moments to replace the stressors that sometimes overwhelm us all.

Do you remember when our kids were little, and saying something good that happened or that we were grateful for at the dinner table each night (or as an exercise at preschool) was trending? What would happen if instead of saying “How was your day?” you asked your teenager to tell you about something good that happened? Yes, an eye roll is always a danger. But perhaps it will remind your child that despite the tension of studying for standardized tests, or writing college applications, or exams looming, or whatever horrific headline haunts the news cycle, all is not bad in the world.

If gratitude jars and peppy dinner table talk all sounds too sappy for you, I think it’s worth counting your blessing in a way that you can tolerate, so you can enjoy the feeling of your blood pressure lowering.


For parents of seniors…

As your fiercest ally, I feel compelled to provide this next bit of advice: If your child applied early to a college, she should expect to be deferred or denied.

I do not mean to sound unduly harsh. I’ve been through the admissions cycle year after year, so I know that while waiting for notifications to roll in, this attitude helps a) keep expectations realistic and b) gear up the student to focus on other applications because if deferred or denied, she’ll only have about two weeks to submit them while reeling from disappointment, studying for exams, shopping for holiday gifts, maybe travelling to a championship sporting event, and (hopefully) attending holiday parties instead of scurrying to complete supplemental essays.

If a deferral or denial should come to pass, the next day, your child will wake up disheartened but still have a bright, shimmering future ahead of him with a wide array of possibilities. I’ll go into this more in my December newsletter, but for now, please keep in mind that I hope you don’t need my help, but if you do, you can still contact me in December for a consultation call to help your child make his application sparkly.

For everyone…

Dismiss other parents’ smack talk that surges to a feverish pitch this time of year. I’ve been corresponding with a number of dear parents in this group, and there seems to be a theme: “I’ve heard colleges have a quota for West coast applicants” or “students from my child’s high school” or “Asians” or fill in the blank.

Please plug your ears!

Just because “no one from my child’s high school was admitted last year” doesn’t mean that your child, his best friend, and two other students won’t be admitted this year. It all depends on the applicant pool, not the mythical quotas parents will gossip about, and you will ignore them but also be kind. They have not been overtaken by the devil. Smack talk is just fear expressed out loud.

Speaking of fear, I hope that the perspective shift described In my recent interview with Julie Muneno of the Williams MagazineWriting From the Heart, will help you and your child throughout the college admissions process.

I found the comfort-in-a-bowl Panera broccoli cheese soup recipe! (You’re welcome.)



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