Self zero-sums

The zero-sum approach dictates that for one side to win, the other must lose. There’s no win-win, no version of an agreement where both sides get some of what they want and still feel whole at the end. It’s all or nothing, one winner, one loser. If you sit down at the lunch table ahead […]

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The effort to save

While financial aid officers use formulas to determine a family’s financial need, they also retain a lot of latitude to make decisions that might go against their calculations. And one potentially important and often overlooked way to influence that decision is the degree to which a family has made an honest effort to save, regardless […]

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Do them anyway

Students and their parents often lament the qualities, talents, and contributions that colleges won’t see during the application process. If only the college could see how nice you are to your younger siblings, the way people respond to you at the counter of your part-time job, the relationships you build or focus you maintain or […]

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What are your ideas worth?

If you’re in a club, organization, or company, you’ve probably come across people who have lots of ideas. They’ve always got a suggestion about what the group should change, initiate, or roll out. And they often express those ideas with some version of, “We should…” “We should do a different fundraiser this year—nobody likes selling […]

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Distraction out, focus in

Imagine you’re struggling in a class, so you ask your teacher if you can get some extra help at lunch. Your teacher agrees, but when you arrive, ready to explain where you’re struggling, they say, “I’m just going to grade these papers. But keep talking.” You sit down with your college interviewer who says, “Tell […]

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You see what you look for

Families tend to see what they look for as they move their way through a student’s college preparation process. If you look for perceived advantages others received that somehow hurt you, you’ll find them. If you look for experiences that left you smarter, more mature, or otherwise better prepared for college, you’ll find them. If […]

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Giving kids agency

It’s a difficult balancing act for parents to help their kids develop the skills to be successful while simultaneously letting go enough to allow them to develop the agency to become capable young adults. If you’re a parent struggling with this challenge, give this 40-minute interview with author and former Stanford dean of freshmen Julie […]

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You know the list

At my first job out of college, a colleague gave me an invaluable tip. Our boss ended each day by writing a list of things he wanted to check in with us about the following day to make sure we were on track with our work. He’d leave that list on his desk as he […]

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Just one more thing

My four-year-old has discovered the stall tactic–some version of which many kids embrace growing up—“Just one more thing.” Whatever undesirable task we lay in front of him, from putting on shoes, to heading to bed, to cleaning his room, there’s always “just one more thing” he instantly has decided must be accomplished before addressing the task at […]

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If you have a micromanaging parent

I write often here about the risks and effects of overparenting. When a parent assumes a role that’s part manager, part agent, and part personal assistant on behalf of their kid, the student loses all opportunities to learn by doing and to assume agency for their own life and education. Naturally, most of those posts […]

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