Parenting through the College Admission Process

De-stress the College Application Process!

You know how you don’t really remember the pain of childbirth? You won’t remember the stress of the college application process once it’s over, either. Honestly. Though just as we continue to share the blow-by-blow of our delivery room action as we bond with other mothers, we find ourselves trading stories of the trials and triumphs of the college application process, too.

Christine VanDeVelde is guest blogging at UniversityParent with advice about how you can find yourself a year from now with fewer trials and more triumph in the telling. It’s easier than you think. Check out De-Stress The College Application Process and learn more about the "college diet," broccoli talk, and how to win by expecting the best.

A Window into the Psyche of Rising Seniors

Last year, we asked psychologist Michael Thompson, author of The Pressured Child, to weigh in on what parents can do to constructively advise -- and motivate -- their junior students as they begin the application process. Good advice never goes out of style -- and Thompson is the best -- so we wanted to run these posts again for all of those out there who are wondering what to expect when your child applies to college. Please read on to learn how to avoid jumping at the bait of your teenager's negativity and how not to unwittingly crash into a seventeen-year-old psyche, as well as what Monty Python has to do with any of this!

Listen, Listen, Listen: Practical Advice from Psychologist Michael Thompson on Motivating Juniors to Focus on College

Run away! Run away! Michael Thompson on Monty Python and Motivating 11th Graders to Focus on College

College and Life: Is it about the finish line or the road you take to get there?

Mark Moody, Co-Director of College Counseling at Colorado Academy, is back with us today with an excellent discussion of "outcomes" -- a meme in the media and a subject on the minds of some students, parents, educators and other interested parties. Read on to see why becoming "dis-oriented" from outcomes may provide the happiest ending. 


I’ve noticed the term “outcomes-oriented” being used a lot lately. It’s apparently a desirable quality, describing my LinkedIn contacts on their profiles, applicants I encounter on hiring committees, professional services in marketing emails that land in my inbox. When you consider it, “outcomes-oriented” is an interesting pairing of words. It suggests a constant headlong bearing toward a projected future, radar locked on a defined finish line and a specific expectation of what should await there. It feels antsy and impatient. Let’s get to the outcome, people! Who cares how? Full speed ahead!

20/20 Hindsight on Parenting through the College Admission Process


Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of one of the blogs we love -- Grown and Flown -- looks back on her experiences guiding three teenagers through the college admission process in her most recent post, The Good, The Bad and the OMG of College Admissions. From road trips and the random nature of college admission to the revelations that occur as we accompany our children on this journey, Mary Dell's look back from the finish line has something for everyone -- great advice for those starting out and the comfort of the 20/20 hindsight of a fellow traveler on the cusp of the next great adventure with her child. 


April is the Craziest Month for Seniors and their Families

Jane Kulow, aka Dr. StrangeCollege, is back with advice for seniors and their families as application season nears the finish line of decisions. 


April is the craziest month.

T.S. Eliot may have called April the cruelest month, but for high school seniors that label might go to March. After the long autumn months of writing college applications and the cold winter months of awaiting a response (and hoping for the best), March delivers the stark reality of college admission decisions:  yes, no, or would you like to wait for a possible yes later (at very low odds)?

Which brings us to the craziness of April and the decisions seniors and their families face. Even when the student is accepted into his or her favorite school, most families will want to look closely at each of the colleges offering admission.

Closely, and quickly: the May 1 deadline for the student’s decision fast approaches.

Here’s what many senior households may wish to do this month:

Visit the campus

If you haven’t yet visited the campus, now’s the time to take a look, before anyone writes a deposit check. Virtual visits may be great, but they cannot convey the smell of the freshman dorm, the path from one end of campus to another, or the typical style of students at the school.

Or visit again

There are Lots of Ways to Get Where You're Headed

Mark Moody, Co-Director of College Counseling at Colorado Academy, joins us today in our continuing series of reflections, advice and practical guidance for students and parents on all things decisions -- from strategy, decision-making and coping through how to talk about your news with parents, friends and nosy neighbors. Read on to learn about one of the paths through your college decisions that leads to happiness -- and it's scientifically proven!



I remember opening the fat envelope from my first-choice college over twenty years ago. Nobody was home. I got so excited I ran around the living room screaming by myself. True story.

As it turned out, I didn’t go to that college. It was a far more expensive option than the college that offered me a scholarship, and attending that less expensive school was the compromise my parents and I agreed upon. At the time I felt like the universe was really unfair.

Twenty years later, so much of my life’s winding path connects back to seeds planted and passions discovered at my alma mater, which I would describe as having been so perfect for me that it’s laughable I felt so strongly about not attending my “first choice.” I know now that it was a place that probably would have been as good for me, but where I probably wouldn’t have started down pathways that are now essential parts of my identity.

Rejection: "And of course none of it matters very much at all..."

A faithful reader reminded us "It's that time of year again..." and asked us to re-post Joan Didion's essay on being denied admission at Stanford University. So to remind us all there is life after decision season, here you go...


"And of course none of it matters very much at all, none of these early successes, early failures. I wonder if we had better not find some way to let our children know this..."

Making the College Visit a Mini-Vacation and Other Great Advice on this Rite of Passage

We're delighted to welcome Mary Dell Harrington to the blog today! Mary Dell cofounded the wonderful blog, Grown and Flown, with Lisa Endlich Heffernan, which covers all things kids aged 15 to 25. (And we're so lucky to have both of them as regular guests here!) Today, we get to ride along with Mary Dell and her 17-year-old daughter as they travel through one of the wonderful rites of passage in the college admission journey -- the college visit. We personally found these visits to be peak parenting experiences and it sounds like Mary Dell and her daughter did, as well. You can, too -- especially with her excellent advice.


Our youngest child will soon finalize her college list and begin the process of uploading her heart and soul into the Common Application. By winter break, she will be liberated from thinking about SATs and self-reflective essays, never to dwell on them again! The only part of the college hunt that I hope she might recall, perhaps even fondly, are the college trips we took together. It is the singular aspect of the process that parents truly share with their child and the only one with the potential to both inform and entertain.

Based on my experience with our daughter and her older brother, here are ways we tried to make looking at colleges more like mini-vacations and less like drudgery:

1. Act like tourists