A New Blog on College Planning for Parents

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.

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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.

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11 Responses to A New Blog on College Planning for Parents

  1. Jeannie Iantorno says:

    Love, love, love this idea! I think you should write a book. I’m glad to know that so far I have begun the right process. We often talk about college in casual conversations and like you I ask a ton of questions to anyone and everyone. Looking forward to reading and learning more from you. Thanks so much, Anne!

  2. Gail Rothweiler says:

    So true Anne! Although I have to say I wasn’t as overwhelmed as I thought. In hind sight Ashley wishes she had buckled down sooner with her studies because she did not get in to her top two schools – in one case it was just a matter of 50 points on her SAT’s. Take advantage of the SAT course they offer at the High School also. And the guidance counselor’s at the High School were a HUGE help! Attend all the sessions they have too!

  3. Donna Greto says:

    Thanks Anne is this is so great! The process is super stressful, but in the end as long as they are happy on the decisions they make that’s all the counts! Time certainly does fly!

  4. Les Holcomb says:

    I look forward to the discussion. Thanks for starting it.

  5. Barbara Lorys says:

    Anne,
    This is So great that you are doing this. Stressful is an understatement. I wish we had this for our kids. This will be a HUGE help to many families.

  6. Carrie says:

    Anne this is fantastic! A navigator through this process is exactly what people need. Your wisdom and reassuring common sense approach will help many families not only survive, but thrive.

  7. Agnes Orr says:

    yes,yes very important to start early talking to your child about college and looking informally while on vacation is great idea. agree your child will best where they choose the school found a very helpful option for decision making on student’s part was a 3day workshop at potential school, staying in dorm/going to classes and meeting dean of school one on one basis.
    and ask questions of everyone!!!

  8. Maureen Celestino says:

    Anne,
    I just returned from College and Career Night for Juniors at the High School. I will be checking out your blog! You are always so willing to offer guidance and share information. Your help is truly appreciated!
    Thanks!

  9. Jenny says:

    This is just terrific; am a parent who has just gone through the process and am a professional [licensed clinical social worker] who helps parents with special needs teens going through the process around post secondary choices. Many of the young adults I work with are college bound but the added component is the supports at each college. I have personally visited many colleges already with more in the works.
    If you think there is a need/interest, perhaps you could add a section to your blog for those who need academic supports [of which there is huge variability]. |Feel free to reach out if I can of help. Jenny F.
    am reachable at clfran22@gmail.com.

  10. Les Holcomb says:

    Our two kids have been self-sufficient adults for years both were English Majors with very different college journeys. One put himself through a second Bachelors in Digital media, film-making and communications., so they’re a bit unusual.

    But now my younger friends are going through what you guys are or went through recently. Some of them have very low incomes and some don’t. So far none have kids who are really are targeted academically or professionally with any great drive. Every parent wants them to have a 4-year degree as if that will mean something magical (which it probably won’t unless they get an education that finally can teach them to write, speak, listen, and think somewhat systematically with some breadth of cultural literacy). Their parents’ motivation in all of this is to make sure that they get some sort of training that will get them a great job. That’s perfectly understandable.

    I recommend that if the kids are not little Einsteins they start at the local community college and spend one or two semester knocking out gen eds and exploring courses in fields close to those in which they might have an interest, assuring them that if they do really well they will have no problem getting into 4 year colleges with more financial assistance even after one or two semesters to fill the slots of those freshmen in the 4-year schools who drank like fish and didn’t go to classes as freshmen and got tossed out or disappeared.

    The biggest impediment to this seems a kind of teen snobbery, especially when the kids have the prestige of having one or two “AP” courses while in high school even though they had no strong interest in pursuing those fields. I know that sounds contradictory– but it’s real and it would seem that they need time to sort things out and become a bit focused before their parents slap $47,000 for a freshman year in a private 4 year college, possibly on a journey to nowhere.

    Is college about education or training? Is college about education or college lifestyle? More specifically, after a non-Einstein high school kid has wasted a senior year with the usual watered down academic offering, what mini-steps can encourage them to pursue to get them from “Ready! Fire! Aim!” to “Ready! Aim Fire !” or at least help with some damage control?

  11. Les Holcomb says:

    One of the things that I have always encouraged kids to take in college is Linguistics in case they decide to participate in the larger world in life and eventually learn a foreign language that will reflect the fastest growing bi-lingual populations in the US or in one of the BRIC Nations (fortunately most people from India speak English so Hindi isn’t necessary for that nation).

    For people who hate Science in college: in many schools Linguistics counts for a Science (Science of Language). I found that most of the kids who actually took it on advice during their freshman, got amazing jobs and are quite well-paid. Some majored in one or two foreign languages, and one ended up getting certified after graduation as an ESL teacher and is now a principal in a multi-site system.
    Of course, our kids resisted it and, took French.

    The other course, I suggest is Cognitive Science or Cognitive Psychology since it is being used on most of us daily by marketers, communications experts, in schools especially with Special Ed kids, psychiatric hospitals, prisons, and as actual therapy for ADHD, OCD, Depression– which is a big hunk of America.

    I don’t have a good pitch yet that works. That’s not one of my skills, but i keep bumping into teens and their parents. I don’t really seek out teens and parents of teens — but they pop up usually looking at the huge investment in college.

    I’m serious. I don’t know what would be useful or appealing. I just say– hey, if you’re going to live and work in the US for the next 50 years then learn Spanish. If you want to be part of the world and not just Waterbury– take linguistics and then look at one foreign language from one of the BRIC nations. If you want to understand the major techniques for communications, 21st century psychology and promoting consumerism take cognitive psychology or cognitive science.

    What techniques would you use from getting down from the usual “get some training for a good job”, or the doctor, lawyer, dentist, investment banker- thing to something that will prepare them for new jobs that exist but are hidden ?

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