It’s November 21st..are you ready for college?

As a first time mom to a high school senior, this time of year is fraught with challenges.  Our kids are consumed, not only with a heavy workload from school, but also facing a critical question of” what’s next”?  Where they go to college and what programs they choose can potentially affect their future, if not affect it completely it will influence them for years to come.

It’s a time of anxiety, a time of keeping secrets and an unbelievable amount of” in your face” college marketing.   Technology has certainly made some things easier (online common application) while at the same time can consume you to over research your choices. 

Having spent my college years in Canada prior to moving to the US, I realize times have changed but I wonder if its better?  Kids workload and the need to maintain that first half GPA  along with completing the process on time for early action, early decision and regular admission is enough to drive you a little crazy.  With  college efforts to “diversify” the geographical student population, mums the word on where you are applying.  At a time when kids need their friends, they all see m to be hush on certain topics until everything is filed.

In a recent New York Times article, authored by Eric Hoover, Application Inflation: when Is Enough Enough?
Do colleges really need 30,000 applications to find 1,500 great students?  

 Mr Hoover examines the marketing efforts by colleges to play the numbers game, hoping to get the brightest and best students.  Some of their efforts may be informative, others interpreted as misleading  and “un” eco-friendly for others.  At my home alone, we have been recipients of large frequent  mailings over the past year.  The on-line version of this is even greater.

I offer 4 pieces of advice.

1)  Stay calm.  Your role modeling at this juncture is key.  They will reflect what they see. They see enough anxiety at school, don’t let it get into the house. 

2) Keep your college choice  a secret if that’s what your kids want.  As difficult as this may be sometimes, try to honor their wish.  I’ve been interrogated several times to divulge the list and strategy.  Without being rude, you need to let people know its a work in progress and move on.   What Is interesting is the people who ask are not always the people you know best.

3)  Sift through the mail as I do and remove materials that are not even on the radar.  Why paper them to death.  They need to focus on their work and you need to help them.  The shear weight of what you receive will do anything to get you in anywhere.

4)  Have fun.  As much as possible, enjoy this journey.  After all, it’s their last year at home and you have limited time with them moving forward.


  1. Pam Alabaster says:

    I too am a first time mom of a high school senior and I have the same angst, although now that we are in a holding pattern waiting to hear back on the ED to X, the anxiety has morphed into helplessness. Waiting..tick tock.. until 12/ Santa himself is coming to deliver the big present..admission to your first choice institution and the culmination of what has been a long and very stressful fall.
    I too have some thoughts on what to do to make the process easier:
    1. Start early. Most schools’ college counseling offices don’t see juniors until after the Christmas holiday, when the seniors have all been settled into their choices. Unfortunately you miss out on some good fall opportunities to visit colleges with your child (Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Jewish Holidays- if you don’t observe). If you start early you can avoid the summer cram when visiting college campuses in the July heat can be tough.
    2. Listen to your children and they will tell you what they think they would like (big, small, middle size, near a big city, rural location, div 1 sports and tons of school spirit, conservative, liberal). Remember you already went to college and it’s not your decision anymore.
    3. Find the fine line between driving the process and merely guiding it. A lot of HS Juniors need more support than we would have hoped. If you wait for them to own the process chances are you’ll be frustrated because many HS Juniors don’t have the maturity, experience or organizational skills to lead the charge. Ask how you might be able to help…it can range from developing a periodic to do list, making airline reservations and scheduling the info sessions and tours or editing the essay and short answers.
    4. Enjoy one-on-one time together, seeing new cities and discovering more about your blossoming young adult.

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