Hello fellow parents, and welcome!
Whether you’re going through the college admissions process with a teenager right this very moment; you’ve just been through it and are having feelings about that; or you want to know what you’re in for down the road; I’m so happy you’ve joined us in this safe space where we aim to support, inform, and maintain our sense of humor as we muddle through college admissions together.
Parents of rising high school juniors…
As your child completes sophomore year, you may feel your teeth clenching and a sneaking suspicion rising into your throat (like a little bit of reflux) that it’s your turn now to enter the polluted sea of college admissions, with its scandals, competition, mysteries, and all of that money at stake.
We are your Tums.
Come, take my hand, and let me show you something. I am leading you into the auditorium at your child’s high school graduation. His tassel swings from his mortarboard as he walks across the stage, diploma in hand, secure in his college choice, which has already happened, and swaddled with your love as he steps into the next stage of his life. This just happened to me when my son graduated from high school a week ago, and this is how it will turn out for you. No matter how you approach the college admissions process, your baby will be okay, and so will you (after you fumble around in your bag for a tissue).
Now that we’ve gotten that settled, try to tune out all the noise of the college admissions frenzy surrounding you. It will be difficult. Some of the clamor will seep in, but skip the vitriolic news stories about the teensy fraction of misguided parents involved in the college admissions scandal. While other parents act as if admission into “the best” college is the pinnacle of their success in parenting, this article will remind you that where to attend college is only the first big decision your child will make in her life.
Know that there is nothing you are supposed to be doing this summer. The most productive thing you can do is educate yourself, so you can truly support your child through junior year, which can be a whirlwind. Needless to say, you can pre-order College Admissions Cracked, and it will appear in your mailbox at the perfect time for you to feel on top of things going into junior year. Or you can buy or borrow a college guidebook—I like the Fiske guide. I also like the book Colleges That Change Lives, by Loren Pope. A word of warning: When you turn to the “best college” rankings to educate yourself, it’s like turning to the Internet to self-diagnose a rash on your elbow, entering a rabbit hole you might want to avoid.
Parents of rising high school seniors…
I’m sorry about the AP summer work some of your kids will have—there’s nothing I can provide that will help with that except sympathy. But I can suggest that you help your child budget time for potential college visits, essay writing, and standardized test prep before the flurry of fall of senior year activity begins.
If you plan college visits this summer, you’ll need to remind your teenager that a) the sprinkling of students on campus for summer programs will not be the same students present during the school year, and b) that gorgeous, verdant campus up north will be hidden under a blanket of snow in the middle of February.
About that personal essay…I know some of you will ignore me, and that’s okay, but I’d be remiss not to say that you are not the best person to help your child with this exercise. I cover options for free essay help in College Admissions Cracked (which will arrive as if by magic in your mailbox if you pre-ordered it, only a few days after the Common Application becomes available).
If you can afford and plan on hiring an essay coach, or your child is working with a consultant, run the other way if that person is writing that essay for your kid, for these reasons:
- It’s not ethical.
- Adult contributions will often sterilize and sabotage a seventeen-year-old’s vibrant voice.
- Your child will miss out on the self-reflection and revision process integral to writing her essay that are invaluable for preparing your kid for college.
Note that the vast majority of coaches are ethical and helpful. If you cannot or don’t want to spend money on this, your child will not be at a disadvantage. You have us to keep you on track (and the margarita recipes I’ve included below).
Test prep is a thing your kid can spend a lot of time on this summer… or not. If your child wants to study and take standardized tests in July or August, to get it done before the whirlwind of fall of senior year begins, I can see his point. If so, sit down with your teenager and a calendar to plan study time, and then let your kid deal with the actual studying on his own.
On that note, margaritas on the porch, with or without alcohol, are far preferable to nagging your child to study for ACTs or SATs.
My friend Naomi swears by this ginger margarita recipe.
And this virgin margarita recipe is so easy and delish.