“Communities are built like Legos, one brick at a time. There is no hack.”
~Jenny Anderson, Beyond Mindfulness
A friend posted the most beautiful piece on community in March. It was written by Jenny Anderson and it resonated with me. I have been the recipient of support from my community in ways that are too numerous to mention. I have benefited from the small things, like a class mom organizing a holiday event at school and I have literally been picked up and carried by my community when the unthinkable has happened. When I reflect on community, my first thought goes to the town where I live, but really, I have had the fortune to be a member of many communities. I have my SLU community from college, a professional community that I work with every day, a community of moms that I raised my kids alongside, that love my kids like their own, as I do theirs and I have my ADK/ski community, a group like no other. The essence of the article that touched me spoke about how we have to give to really be part of a community. And it made me question if I have given enough. I know I have received, in ways large and small, but have I really given?
I worked hard this past month to open my new office on May 1st, which is a significant date in the college planning world. May 1st is National Decision Day when seniors must decide where they are going to college. I thought it would be a meaningful day to open my doors. And the beautiful article about community gave me an idea for how I can give to my own community.
The whole month of May, I am available to meet with anyone who would like to talk about the college admissions process, free of charge. I am dead serious. Come talk to me for an hour and bring your questions, no strings attached. My real hope is that after an hour, you have enough information that you don’t need any more help. If this sounds unlikely, keep reading.
Several years ago, when I was in the middle of my certificate program at the University of California, Irvine, I heard a local mom lamenting about college admissions. I offered to come over and speak with her children. I met them on a Sunday morning and spent an hour walking them through the steps of finding a good fit for college. Last month, when I posted the news about my office, this parent reached out to me to thank me and update me on where all of their children ended up. Each one of these kids chose a great school, all quite different from each other, but the right fit for the individual student. So, take it from experience, an hour can go a long way.
So if you are stressed or confused, or overwhelmed, or maybe you know someone who is, come talk to me. You can send your child, you can come with your child, or maybe you would like to come alone. Or just come see my office and have a Perrier. My seniors are all settled on their schools and my juniors aren’t in application mode yet, so I have time. Consider it a thank you for all of the times that my community has taken care of and supported me and my family. The article about community is here. I look forward to hearing from you!
I posted earlier this month about the office lease that I secured in late March. I got access to my space early April and I set a goal to be up and running by May 1st. This is a significant day in the college admissions world because it is National Decision Day, the deadline for all seniors to place a deposit at the college that they plan to attend next fall. I thought it would be a neat idea to have my office ready to go on the same day.
It has been a whirlwind of online orders, trips to Homegoods and Target, painting and sanding, hammering and drilling (special thanks to my better half for all his game in this department) to make all of this happen. Some pictures are below to document our work!
“Double dipping” has different connotations. In some places, it means a generous portion of ice cream. I remember years ago, a sweet little friend of one of my children telling me at an ice cream parlor that he was allowed to “double dip” and get two scoops. And who can forget the Seinfeld episode where George double dips at a party. But in college admissions, it has another meaning and you don’t want to get caught doing it.
As I write this, seniors have four more days to make a decision about which school they are going to attend next August. Most of my clients are settled but I have a few that are still visiting schools and trying to decide.
Last week I was speaking to a parent about this issue and I reminded them that they could only deposit at one school and if they “double deposited”, both schools could rescind admission. This parent was wide-eyed because they had no idea that there was such a severe consequence for placing two deposits. They were not planning to accept spots at multiple schools but they were concerned about where or when they should have learned this important piece of information.
If your student applied to a Common App school, this verbiage is in the application that they signed, “I affirm that I will send an enrollment deposit to only one institution; sending multiple deposits may result in the withdrawal of my admission offers from all institutions.” If your student did not apply through the Common App, there is usually a clause that states something similar in the paperwork that you send in to place your deposit. So…I know the clock is ticking and it might seem harmless to take a spot at two schools to buy more time but I strongly recommend that you adhere to the rules of one deposit. If you “double dip”, you may put your acceptances in jeopardy. If you are struggling with a decision, I am happy to take a phone call and offer my perspective on your choices. Good luck!
If you are the parent of a senior, you have exactly two weeks to make a deposit to a college that your student will attend in August. If your son or daughter knows where they are heading at the end of the summer, congratulations! If your child is still deciding, this post is for you. Several years back, I was in this seat with my own biological child. There was one week left to make a decision and there were three choices on the table, all of them quite unique from each other. Here are some suggestions that I learned from my personal experience. I wrote about them at length last year here, but the main points are listed below. Good luck!
1) $$$-Take paper to pencil and write down room/board/tuition for each school and add up the cost of attendance. Do not include books or personal expenses. Once you have that princely sum, subtract any scholarships or grants. Do not include loans in this number. If travel to and from this school requires airfare, add what you think the travel costs will be for freshman year. The next step is to take this number and multiply by 4. If you anticipate tuition going up, please factor that into your four-year costs. Do this for each college that your child is considering attending. When your family sees the four-year expenses at each institution, it will provide some important data that could impact the decision.
2) Distance-Revisit the idea of distance. It is easy for a 10th or 11th grader to believe that they want to go to college on the other side of the country. It is an entirely different thing to actually do that. They will be making this move in about four months. As this becomes reality, they might have a change of heart. Evaluate this aspect and make sure that your child is comfortable with going away.
3) Major-If your child thinks they know what they want to study, take a deep look at the program that each school offers. This may impact the final decision.
4) Mum is the word-When your child returns from a visit, or you are traveling home from an accepted students day together, say nothing. I have no doubt that you will have opinions, possibly strong opinions, you might even feel panicked at the prospect of your child at this school. But I beg you to say nothing and be aware of your body language too; just remain neutral. If your student wants to talk, you should listen, otherwise, say nothing. Allow 24-48 hours for the dust to settle and then talk about it.
5) Boundaries-If your child is still deciding where to attend college in late April, it might be all you think about. You might be mulling the choices over in your head 24/7 and have pros and cons lists lying all over your house. Do not bombard them with your thoughts, which are going around your head like a ticker tape. I suggest that you do not talk about this except at designated times. Use this time to take your senior out to dinner and limit your conversations about college to those specific times.
One last word on this phase of the college admissions process; at some point in their college career, your child is likely to have a rough patch. They are going to have a moment when they look in the mirror and think that College A was not the correct choice and that they should have attended College B. It is imperative that your child owns this decision and that is why you need to stay neutral and let them evaluate their choices after a visit, without your input. If you feel like your child is really going down the wrong road, after you have given them time and space to evaluate their options, then you can speak up and offer them guidance. Good luck!
Exactly one month ago, I was driving through the town where I live and I spotted a For Sale sign at a house that offered the option for commercial use. The past year or so I have kept my eye out for office space but I have found the market for what I need to be scarce. The commercial property caught my eye and I texted my friend who is a realtor. Exactly one hour later, we were inside the house, exploring how the layout might accommodate offices. We crunched the numbers but it really did not add up. I texted her later in the evening to thank her and tell her that I was not going to pursue the house. Then she texted me the magic words, “There is an office in my building available starting next month that is 200′ square feet. It might be a better play.” I went to see the office the next day, did all the paperwork and two weeks later, signed a lease. I took possession of my little space last Friday.
I have been busy getting set up and I have a cute handyman that is helping me. The timing is ideal because most of my seniors are making their final decisions and my juniors will be ramping up with their applications in June, so this is a perfect window to create an awesome space to help kids on the road to college. Stay tuned!
If you are the parent of a senior, you are probably aware that your child must submit a deposit to one school by May 1st. This is an exciting time as the last round of acceptances have been released and your student makes a final decision. Here are some things to consider as the May deadline looms:
Distance-I meet many students early in the college admissions process that are comfortable with traveling a great distance to attend college. They are excited about studying in another part of the country and they feel that the flexibility to get home is not a priority. As the college picture starts to come into focus and the reality of leaving home becomes real, some students start to back off the idea of heading to the West Coast. The option to come home is attractive. A student that attends a college that requires air travel to get to and fro needs to sit down at this juncture and make sure that this is still something that makes sense for them, in terms of both logistics and cost (see below).
2. Cost-Now is the time to put pencil to paper and see if there is a difference in the cost of attendance at the colleges that you are considering. I think the best way to do this is to look at room/board/tuition at the schools on your student’s list and subtract any scholarships or grants to accurately compare the costs. Make sure that you are using the 2019-2020 numbers from each school. Sometimes the websites have not been updated and they still have last year’s cost of attendance, which includes travel, personal expenses and books. I suggest that you eliminate those numbers and focus just on room/ board/tuition to compare apples to apples. If your child has a merit scholarship, is there a GPA requirement to keep it? Another factor to look at is how much the school has historically increased tuition. There are some colleges, like the University of Colorado, Boulder, where the tuition that you pay freshman year is the same tuition you pay all four years. Schools in New York are required to provide the cost for all four years. This can have a significant impact on the global cost over four years.
3. Academics-This is a logical time to look at the course of study your child is considering and look at the program at each college and what they offer. Do they have to apply to the major or are they already admitted? If they have to apply to the program, is there a GPA requirement? Is one of the programs more attractive or offer more specifically what your student wants to pursue? Is there flexibility to change majors or schools if they want to switch after they begin?
4. Housing-What type of housing guarantees does the school provide? What kind of housing requirements are in place? Some schools promise four years of housing, others offer one. Some colleges require four years of residence with a meal plan on campus. Take a look at what you are agreeing to as you make your decision.
5. Accepted Students Days-Colleges roll out the red rug for their Accepted Student Days. Even if you have visited a college already, it is a different experience stepping on to campus as an admitted student. If you are choosing between several schools, carve out the time to go back and visit so you can gather as much information as you can.
For the socially and economically hopeful, I would explain, raising a child in America is an eighteen-year process of investing in the college-admissions system.
~Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, March 13th, 2019
I have spent the weekend bingeing on articles about the recent college admissions scandal. They are too numerous to mention by name. As usual, Frank Bruni had a superb piece in the New York Times, here.
Last Thursday I had a class with my seniors the last period of the day. We spend our classes fully immersed in Spanish. These kids are a high-achieving group and I would bet that they all have at least one application in at an ultra-selective school with a sub-10% admit rate. And those schools are starting to release their decisions. Between now and April 1st, applicants should have their answers (MIT released on Pi Day, 3/14) I knew I was going to see a group of kids that are on the very front lines of the admissions process and I wanted to incorporate the recent story that had broke in the news. I decided to print out a Spanish version of the initial article that The New York Times published about the scandal and use it for our warm up activity. Then I had them work in pairs to discuss the article. The final part of the activity had each duo write three of their thoughts on the board. The overriding consensus was that they were not surprised about the cheating, they think legacy admissions should be eliminated and they think the college admissions process is incredibly unfair. So there are some thoughts from the soldiers on the front lines of college admissions.
If you are a parent, what can you do to make sure that you are not dealing with an Independent Educational Consultant with a dubious nature? Make sure that they have professional memberships with the National Association of College Admissions Counselors and the Independent Educational Consultants Association. These associations hold their professional members to a set of ethical standards.
One of the things that I have asked myself in the wake of the news last week is this; where else might these people have cheated to enable their children to get where they are? Did they cheat to get admitted to their private school? I saw at least one student was listed as a student in a public performing arts school. If these parents were willing to go to the lengths that they did for college admissions, have there been other places in their lives where they have cut corners?
I work with all sorts of families, both paid and pro bono. One thing that I can tell you hands down is that everyone wants to do the very best that they can for their children. Even when a family has modest resources, they seek out free test prep options, try to visit colleges and make their student’s academics a priority. The families that cheated do not get a pass because they simply wanted “the best” for their children. Everyone wants that.
This brings me to my next point. The picture at the bottom of this post is the California residence of the Macy/Huffman family. Now I do not want to appear that I am bullying or harassing this one particular family and their alleged fraud. My last blog was about their Colorado house but I only stumbled on that when I was attempting to find an image online of their house in California to start writing this piece. When the story broke, images of Lori Loughlin’s home were posted. I looked at it and thought that it looked like the type of home that I would expect her family to live in, palatial and perfect, with two pools. But when I saw the Macy/Huffman residence, my jaw dropped. All I could think was, why did these people have to cheat? These kids will never want for anything. What difference could it have possibly made where they went to college? Take a look at the house and let me know what you think.
So how does this mess get cleaned up? I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I think that any parents that are convicted of fraud should go to jail. And the colleges will have to meticulously review who is on their campus and if they submitted fraudulent applications, they should be removed from campus. If they determine that degrees were awarded to students that applied with a fraudulent application, those degrees need to be revoked. Anything less will give people a reason to keep cheating.
Every cloud has it’s silver lining. We learned a good idiomatic expression in Spanish when we discussed the cheating scandal, tener cara. The literal translation is “to have face” but what it means in English is to have a lot of nerve or gall. It was the perfect way to describe the actions of the people enmeshed in this scandal.