A new site to learn about college admissions parent-to-parent.
by Anne Vaccaro Brady
Helping your teenager find the right college is daunting and stressful, but ultimately rewarding. By “right” I mean the school where your son or daughter will be successful and happy and able to mature, which may not be the one that impresses your neighbors. College is just as much about growing as a person as it is about receiving an education.
On this blog I hope to help you through the admissions process, parent-to-parent. As someone who graduated from college over 25 years ago, I learned early on that applying to college is different now. But I survived the experience and so will you.
What you’ll find here is a realistic approach from a parent who understands what you’re going through. My husband and I didn’t hire professional college coaches. Our kids told us upfront that they weren’t interested in attending an Ivy League school, and as parents, we tried to go into the process with an open mind. We didn’t place any restrictions on the colleges our kids could choose from.
My daughter is now a sophomore at a large public university out-of state (my son a high school senior with acceptances in hand). When she began high school, college and potential careers became a more frequent topic of casual conversation—like during dinner and car rides to dance class or from track practice.
We also started touring colleges informally, something I highly recommend. Our family vacations usually included a walk around a campus in the area. The idea was to get our kids comfortable with the differences in scale and scope of college compared to their current school. They also saw that no two colleges look alike. When it was time to take a real tour, we hoped they wouldn’t be too overwhelmed by the experience and could actually focus on some of the information the tour guide was sharing.
By the time my daughter’s sophomore year came around, I felt a new level of anxiety. Scary stories about low acceptance rates, expensive tuition, complicated applications, etc. began to creep up on me. At the time, I worked in public relations at a nearby state college where this information was too easily accessible—online, through newspapers, professional journals, college guides and special issue magazines. I needed another approach.
That’s when I started asking questions. I talked to my friend Laurie, whose daughter was pre-med at Harvard. I picked the brain of my friend Debbie, whose daughter is a year older than mine and was in the midst of college tours. I spoke with anyone I knew who had a kid in college. At work, I asked the students I met about their majors and how they picked our college. Later on in the process, I went downstairs to the Admissions Director and asked a bunch more questions.
So in this blog I’d like to share what I’ve learned. Everything from when to start looking to how to create a list of colleges; from picking a topic for that elusive essay to what to expect on a college tour. I’ll also cover what happens after your student has been accepted to college and how to deal with the empty bedroom. I worried and stressed more than I needed to, but I hope to help you avoid some of that same anxiety.
As you prepare for this journey, I offer this advice: listen to your teen, develop your motivational skills and understand that this is an experience best taken together. Don’t worry, I’ll be along for the ride, too, if you need me.