I love the juxtaposition of mistakes and reassurance in Brennan Barnard’s latest piece, “Parenting The College Applicant As An Admission Dean.” First, we learn the variety of mistakes that even deans of admission have made with their own children during their families’ college processes. Had the article stopped there (and I’ve seen others like this in the past that did just that), I could see this being a demoralizing message for parents. If the deans of admission can’t even get it right when their own kids are applying to college, how the heck are the rest of us supposed to have any shot at emerging unscathed?
But then the article shifts to the advice portion, which includes such reassuring messages as:
“Chill, it’s going to be fine.”
“It can be a wonderful experience and some of my best conversations with my boys were on road trips to colleges.”
“Let your child pick for themselves and make them do the process on their own.”
“You will survive, your child will be admitted to a fine institution, and if you and your kids keep the appropriate mindset throughout the year, you all will come away from this experience a little wiser, with a few more miles on your odometer, a few more grey hairs, but also with new found respect for your sons’ and daughters’ skills for navigating these waters—with maturity, with sensibility, with thoughtfulness, with perspective and hopefully a wee bit of laughter.”
The overarching message? The college admissions process is like so many other elements of parenting—there is no manual, no single prescribed method that works for every family. But we’d all do well to balance appropriate engagement with enough perspective to remember that life is about more than grades, test scores, and which colleges say yes.
As all parents learn watching their kids growing up, good intentions and earnest effort are everything, for them and for us.