What colleges and universities do to support students with learning differences changes from K-12, not only because the laws are different but also because the goals for students shift in college. These changes may be bigger than most students and parents expect. In today’s podcast, Lynn and Vicki explore differences in how the laws protect students and how the key responsibilities of both the institution and the student change. The more you understand these differences, the more comfortable you and your student will be, and the better you will be able to support your student in transition.
Making the decision about where to attend college is never easy. There’s a lot riding on that choice. And sometimes, making the decision about whether to head to school right away or to take a gap year can be a tough choice as well. But this year, as we struggle our way through a pandemic, these decisions are harder than ever for many students.
If you and your student are grappling with these important decisions, it may feel as though you are working your way through a fog. You can’t see very far ahead. You may not be sure where you are at the moment. And you aren’t sure what others are doing. You feel alone and not a little lost as you try to find the right path.
What do people think?
As you try to think through your student’s options for fall semester, you may wonder what other parents and students are thinking. What are your options? What way are others leaning?
The college admission process begins earlier and earlier and sometimes seems to go on forever. When those highly anticipated acceptance letters begin to arrive, the process enters a new phase. The ball is now in your student’s court to make a decision. What is your role as a parent at this stage? In this episode Vicki and Lynn unpack some of the emotions and practical steps you and your student can take as your student looks for the school with the best “fit,” perhaps moves to their second choice of school, or copes with being on a Waitlist. As your student makes this final decision, everyone’s roles begin to shift.
What if you think your student may not be ready for college? What if your student feels they just need a break? In this podcast, Lynn and Vicki look at college admission deferral, high school postgrad programs and other gap year options. If you are thinking of a gap year you’ll need to consider the advantages and disadvantages, how to investigate options, and what to expect. This is an excellent opportunity for conversations about readiness, motivation, and specific goals for a possible year out.
The college admissions process is complex, stressful, and often overwhelming. Both students and their parents spend a lot of time and energy thinking, planning, testing, applying, waiting, and then making important decisions. Could it get any more difficult? In some ways, the answer is yes.
Changes to the admission process
In November 2019, the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NCAC), removed three provisions from their Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP). NACAC, an association of more than 15,000 admission professionals from most colleges and universities in the U.S., chose to make these changes in response to an investigation by the Department of Justice.
The organization chose to strike the following provisions from their Code of Ethics and Professional Practices:
- “Colleges must not offer incentives exclusive to students applying or admitted under an early decision application plan.”
- “Once students have committed themselves to a college, other colleges must respect that choice and cease recruiting them.”
- “Colleges must not solicit transfer applications from a previous year’s applicant or prospect pool unless the students have themselves initiated a transfer inquiry or the college has verified prior to contacting the students that they are either enrolled at a college that allows transfer recruitment from other colleges or are not currently enrolled in a college.”
Essentially, these changes mean that 1) colleges can continue to recruit students after they have made their college choice by the May 1 National College Decision Day. In the past, once students made their commitment, other colleges ceased recruiting them. They may now continue to pursue them – perhaps with offers of increased aid. 2) It also means that students may be offered incentives to apply with binding Early Decision, and 3) that once a student begins college in the fall, they may continue to receive communication from other colleges to which they had applied encouraging them to consider transferring.
It isn’t possible to be a college parenting website without addressing the current Admissions Scandal sweeping across our news feeds. Parents have paid enormous sums of money to have their students fraudulently admitted to elite colleges. They have doctored test scores, bribed consultants, coaches and admissions staff. It’s the latest, most outrageous development in the college admissions parental involvement saga.
Parental reputations have progressed from what Laura Hamilton, author of Parenting to a Degree calls “bystander parenting” to helicoptering to snow plow and lawnmower parenting and now to curling and what Dean Julie (Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult) has referred to as drone parenting.
Almost all of us are familiar with helicopter parents who hover over their children to make sure everything is OK – and then swoop in when they need to rescue them. In case you are less familiar with the other terms, snow plow and lawn mower parents push problems and obstacles out of the way or mow down obstacles to clear a path for their students. Curling parents go one step further –warming the ice and reducing any friction to help students slide forward in the direction the “sweeper” chooses. And now, in light of this new scandal, we have drone parents; parents who pick their child up and deposit them where they (the parents) want them to be – sometimes without the student even realizing that it has happened. And for at least one set of parents, that apparently means a trophy school that comes with bragging rights.
The admissions system is flawed, to be sure. It may even be broken. Hopefully, a lot of people will now be looking long and hard at how students are coached, tested, and admitted to schools. This scandal has shone a light on a host of problems, some illegal and many unethical or at least unfair.
But even as we cast blame on the system and its participants, we need to hold the mirror up to ourselves.
Senior year is a stressful and tricky year for high school students. They face the final stages of the college application process, then the w-a-i-t-i-n-g that seems interminable, and there’s the final decision to be made. All the while, students are told to keep their grades up so colleges won’t change their mind and so students will be ready for the academic work of college.
But if your senior wants to be successful in college, there’s more work to be done than meets the eye – and many students and their parents may not realize all that they should be doing. Academic preparation is essential, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Many students come to college well prepared academically yet they struggle through the first year, not because the coursework is too hard, but because they suddenly need to cope with all of life. They may have taken for granted all that is involved in managing their day-to-day life; never considered, or never mastered those skills.
How do parents fit in?
Many high schools don’t address the life skills that students need to succeed. Parents can help students use the senior year to learn to manage their lives well – leaving them energy and time to focus on their academic work. It’s a gradual process, of course. Don’t present your student with a list at the beginning of senior year – remember that they’re probably already feeling overwhelmed. But slip some of these skills in as the year goes along – and then take time at the end of the year to remind your student how prepared they now are to manage not only their schoolwork, but their life.
Graduation is a special season for your student – and for you! Whether your student is graduating from high school or from college, the event marks a milestone. Your student is proud, you are proud, and everyone should celebrate. This is an achievement worthy of praise and of celebrating accomplishments – and the future.
For many families, graduation also means gifts, and many parents stress over finding just the right gift for this big occasion. We’d like to share a few thoughts – and then offer some help to get your creative juices flowing as you try to think of the perfect gift.
What should you think about as you decide on a gift?
- Of course, gifts of money are always appreciated. This is especially true if you know there is something that your student would like that might be a big expense, or something that you know your student would like to pick out himself. Cash is always welcome.
- As you think about a gift, think about everything that you know about your student. What does she love? What are her interests? What kinds of things excite her or are especially meaningful to her? You know your student better than anyone. Build on that knowledge to make your gift especially personal.
- Think about the transition that your student is making. What’s next? If your student is finishing high school, will he go on to college, living on his own, a new job, technical school? If your student is graduating from college, is he going on to graduate school, career, a first apartment? Find a gift that speaks to that new phase in his life.
- Perhaps you’d like to focus on something commemorative and lasting. Something that your student will cherish and that will always show your pride in him.
- You might like to aim for something sentimental. Perhaps there is something from childhood or a gift that represents earlier generations of the family. You might share a piece of family jewelry or a treasured family heirloom.
- And nothing can be more personal than a handwritten letter from you expressing your pride, your dreams for your student’s future, and your love.
Making a decision about the right college is a difficult and stressful task for many high school students. You and your student have been gathering information about the schools on your student’s “short list.” You’ve looked at the college website, checked ratings, talked to friends and high school counselors, looked at the catalog and informational material, and probably visited campus – perhaps more than once.
One additional way to gather some different information is for your student to spend an overnight on campus. This is an excellent way for your student to get a closer look at student life on campus as well as to have an opportunity to experience college life and to ask students some of the questions that may not come up during a formal campus tour.
Many colleges offer campus overnight visits, either individually or as part of a larger program. . At some schools, your student may need to be accepted first, but others may offer visits to those who plan to apply. If the Admission office hasn’t offered the opportunity, your student should ask whether the option is available.
One of the most important steps in the college admissions process is the campus visit. Your student should see and get a feeling for a campus before making a final decision about whether a school is right for them. Although the decision ultimately belongs to your student, as a parent, you also need to feel comfortable about the school. Asking questions during the admission visit is a great way to gather some of the information that you need to feel comfortable. However, just as with so many other considerations in the college process, parents walk a find line between being helpful and becoming intrusive.
Remember that the admission process really does belong to your student. It is important that you be involved, and provide support, but it is crucial that you remind yourself that this is not your process. While it is important that you go along on a campus visit if possible, your student is the person who will make the final decision. What seems like the absolutely ideal school or environment to you may just not feel right to your student. There is a chemistry that happens when a certain campus just plain “feels right.”
However, even though you may be peripheral to this visit, there are some important ways in which you can be involved.