Review – The Talking College Card Deck

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.

This time, we’re taking a slightly different approach and reviewing a product, rather than a book, that is a great resource for helping your student make the transition from high school to college. Although we generally stick to books, we think this set of conversation prompts fills many of the same needs.

Be sure to visit our Resources page for suggestions of important books for college parents and their students.

Having the right conversations is an important way to help prepare your student for college. The Talking College Card Deck, created by Dr. Andrea Brenner, is a collection of discussion prompts for parents and students that will help you begin those essential conversations. These pre-college conversations can help parents and students learn from each other and anticipate the college experience.

The Talking College Card Deck contains 108 cards with 250 different conversation prompts, so parents and students can discuss just about every topic they can think of – and probably many they might not think of. Some conversations are started by students and some by parents, and they should remain that – conversations, not lectures. We love that the card deck is divided into themes or topics so families can choose which topics they want to begin with. Topics include family expectations, spirituality, money, safety, health, academics, self-care, drugs and alcohol, getting involved, relationships, and “big questions.”

Using these cards during the summer before college is a great idea, but families might also want to begin earlier. They would be a great help during junior and senior years of high school, and some of the conversations may help students zero in on their choice of colleges, think about college financing, or inspire decisions during their final years of high school.

You won’t want to sit down with your student to try to go through these all at once but having them available – or pulling them out on those car rides to and from college visits – may be just the thing. Students – and their families – will be much better prepared for the transition to college after many of these conversations.

If you’d like to hear more about The Talking College Card Deck, listen in to our podcast episode #065 – Talking College with Transition Expert Dr. Andrea Brenner. We had a wonderful conversation about student transitions and about ideas for using the card deck.

About the creator: 

Andrea Malkin Brenner is a college transition educator and author who speaks frequently with high school students and parents on the challenges related to college transitions. She draws on her 25 years of experience as a college professor of Sociology, as the creator and director of American University’s award-winning first-year experience program, and as the faculty director of the college’s University College program. Andrea has received multiple awards for her teaching and program design and she works with colleges that wish to create their own first-year transition courses.

Andrea is also the co-author, along with Lara Hope Schwartz, of the book How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There), designed to guide high school graduates through their transition to college. (Read our review of this book.)

What the creator has to say about the product:

“The more I talked with high school students and parents and high school faculty, I would get questions asking, ‘Can you just give us a list of all of the prompts, because I as a parent never went to college, or I as a parent went to college 30 years ago, and things are different. Can you just tell me what we need to talk about to help the experience?’ And so I spent about 9 months with focus groups and interviews, with college faculty, college staff, and a lot of sophomore college parents, and I asked them about every conversation they had or wished they had with their student. I asked the faculty and staff every conversation they wished had taken place in the home before they got these kids.

I narrowed down all of this data into a bunch of different themes and instead of putting this in a book I put together a deck of cards with each theme a different color. So it was more tactile.”

What others have to say about these cards:

“I wish the Talking College™ Cards and How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There) were around when my kids were applying and transitioning to college. What a great way for families to prompt and encourage conversations on the expectations and challenges faced by both parents and students as they prepare for college life. Knowing what to expect and what is expected of you as a college student will help students transition to college with the confidence they need to excel not only in the classroom but outside of the classroom as well.”

-Moira McCullough, Founder, College Scoops

“In my work as a coach, I talk to parents & students all the time with vastly different expectations. Talking College™ cards are an excellent tool for families to discuss real and challenging topics. I recommend them during my College Readiness Packages!”

-Beth Felsen, Autism specialist, coach, & founder of Spectrum Transition Coaching

“The college transition can be overwhelming for both students and their caregivers. Dr. Brenner has identified the key conversations to have before students leave for college to ensure student success and well-being.”

-Robert D. Hradsky, EdD, Vice President for the Student Experience and Dean of Students
Syracuse University

“This little deck of Talking College™ cards can open the door to needed communication between parents and their college-bound students. Andrea Malkin Brenner has drawn on years of higher education experience to develop a clever way to deal with the issues of college life that students and parents sometimes find difficult to discuss.  If you have a soon-to-be first-year college student, you will enjoy these prompts and find them valuable in helping your student break away while still maintaining important family connections.”

-Betsy Barefoot & John Gardner, Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Dr. Brenner has made a generous offer for those in the College Parent Central community. If you’d like to purchase The Talking College Card Deck, go to and use the coupon code CPCSAVE for $2.00 off the purchase price.

Enjoy your conversations!

Note: Some links in our post are for affiliate products. If you use our links, College Parent Central receives a small percentage of your purchase price. This does not change the cost to you and helps to support our work.  We think it’s only fair to let you know that.

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