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College Talk Blog

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Do you have a holy eye-roller at your house?

Posted on September 16, 2017 at 4:28 PM Comments comments (34)
Parents sometimes tell me "you have your work cut out for you" when they sign their teen up for college consulting. Often they suggest that I will be working with a difficult student. Sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I see an eye-roll from the teen who is the subject of that parent observation.

I have rarely worked with a "difficult" student. Students I have had the pleasure of helping are very concerned about being successful in college. They are serious about finding the best fit major and college and candid about their current academic status. They apparently save their eye-rolls for parent interaction.

Parents often say to teens as we meet, "see I told you so." Exasperated teen eye-rolls usually follow that comment. Listening to parents about teens and then working individually with the same teen is a Jekyll and Hyde experience. The terrible teen turns out to be a thoughtful, reasonable person.

Making college decisions can be the most emotion-packed and stressful activity that parents and students experience. The teen is sure the parent knows nothing current and accurate about colleges and processes. The parent is worried about student success and a host of safety and cost factors. They are often at odds with each other because their perspectives are so polarized.

Adding neutral support to both parent and prospective college student tamps down the stress and conflict and helps the parent relax and the student feel more confident.

This is really happening

Posted on August 29, 2016 at 11:28 PM Comments comments (37)
One of my favorite experiences while working with high school seniors in August and September each year is being present when they start their first college application.

The most frequent comment is: "this is really happening!" That excited comment is confirmation that the college process does not seem real at first to many teens.

Part of the reason college seems so far away to teens is that the time perceptions of teens and adults are so different. Teens are more focused on the present while parents take a longer view.

Time perception differences can cause parents to feel anxious when teens put college applications off until "later". Because students have to apply to colleges as much as a year before they actually start college classes, it is difficult for students to grasp the reality of college...until they start that first application.

Difficult teenager or bad timing?

Posted on September 25, 2013 at 10:04 PM Comments comments (0)
Some of the families who visit me for help are arguing among themselves. The parents tell me that their teen is being uncooperative and difficult. The teen tells me that their parents don't understand that it is their life and they should get to make decisions.
After a few visits, it is often clear that the problem lies in timing more than anything else. Often students and parents have similar goals. Both want the best fit for the student. What is different is that parents are on one time table and students are on another.
The important thing for families to consider is that teens mature at different rates and have different needs. Parents need to resist the temptation to compare what their teens are doing to what teens in other families are up to.
Help your teen move in the best direction for their unique needs and circumstances. Don't demand that they go to a specific college or major in a specific area. Each teen is unique and designed for a mission unique to their gifts and personality. Love them for their uniqueness and help them get to their mission. 

Dueling Parents = Conflicted Student

Posted on September 23, 2013 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (110)
College bound high school students whose parents are separated or divorced can feel conflicted and discouraged when the parents fail to agree about where the student should attend college and how to pay for it. A frequent reaction is for the student to give up his own desires to satisfy the parent who makes the most noise or demands. When a student gives up during the college process, his chances of success in college diminish because his enthusiasm and confidence have taken a big hit from his arguing parents.
Separated and divorced parents want the best for their children and often don't realize the pressure their disagreements place on their high school senior. The senior year of high school is a time high school seniors need united parent support. Parents who can come to an agreement about what is best and how to proceed will do much to insure the success of their college-bound child.

Talk the talk before they walk

Posted on July 1, 2013 at 7:49 PM Comments comments (163)
The world is rapidly changing and getting more complex. Education is more important than ever and the best education outcomes happen when students and parents are on the same sheet of music and work together.
Rising high school juniors are considering their college options right now. Have you had The Talk with them? Do they know how much you as a parent are prepared to contribute toward college costs? Have you jointly arrived at an agreement about who is going to do what money-wise?
Leaving your high school junior in the dark about money as they walk toward high school graduation and college will lead to frustration if you wait until next year to tell them your contribution will be limited.  Each week that passes is another week that they invest emotionally in schools they are considering. If you let them know what to expect now, you are giving them the time needed to find scholarships for which they can apply and to look at other schools. We live in challenging economic times in which student loan interest rates have doubled and college competition has increased. The rising seniors in your house need all the information and support they can get.

When to have the college talk with your child

Posted on April 7, 2011 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (184)
There are all kinds of articles about when to have "the talk" with your child in parent magazines.  That talk is about their bodies.  But there is another talk that is of primary importance between parent and child that receives little press.  That talk is The College Talk.  A talk about their minds.
The College Talk is a conversation that starts before a child starts first grade and continues throughout their childhood.  The substance of that talk is introducing a child to the idea of their special interests and gifts and what options they will have after high school to pursue advanced training toward applying their gifts to their career.  This talk is critical because it puts three key ideas in front of the child early in their educational journey:
  1. they have interests and special skills as individuals that should be part of their thinking in relation to their education and future
  2. they have a wide array of options to develop their skills before and after high school graduation within their field of interests
  3. because there is study beyond k-12, they must do their best to learn and achieve
A key element of this continuing conversation with your child is your personal expereince as a young person.  What type of path you took.  Training you received and your career path.  As a parent, you are a role model.  Your experience is interesting to children and a part of their history.  Even your failures are very instructive to your child.  This is definitely information to pass on in small doses at appropriate opportunities as your child matures toward the time that their decisions must be made.
Interviewing 17-19 year olds for over 20 years, I have been surprised at the number of them who are unaware of their interests and skills and unaware of appropriate options they have for training and careers.  Because of this lack of knowledge some of them did not do as well as they could have in school. Lack of knowledge also comes into play in preparing for college entrance exams.  Students who are unaware of their importance and how to prepare for them are not able to represent their skills as well as students who are better prepared but who may not be as gifted. This seriously handicaps a student.
People who do not know their skills and interests and do not know anything about careers or places to train or college entrance requirements might end up anywhere.  They could enter a field totally opposite to their skills and interests and be unhappy and unsuccessful.  They could begin and fail to successfully complete an educational or training program and end up with little more than student loan debt and a sense of personal failure.
Now you may feel that The College Talk can wait until the sophomore or junior year of high school.  But the problem with waiting is that there are media and other influences that bombard your child throughout their educational career.  Without a foundation about who they are and the choices they have, they may begin to form an attachment to a postsecondary institution that will not meet their needs. 
I recently worked with a family of a high school senior who decided she liked a specific college as a 9th grader.  This college had a wonderful marketing program and gave great tours.  The problem was that this college was extremely expensive and very specialized with coursework that does not transfer to other colleges and involves a method of study that is not suited for the child. Worse because the college is "open admission", this aspiring student had not worried about doing her best in high school or on college entrance exams. And the family was not in a position to afford the tuition.  Because the student was so invested in a dream that began in 9th grade, she was reluctant to consider other options.  This was a source of significant stress between the parents and child.
Don't be that family.  Start discussions early about your experiences.  Introduce your children to opportunities, types of programs, apprenticeships, training and colleges. Take them to fun events on nearby campuses.  When opportunites exist, let them visit you where you work.  Help them understand college costs. Establish the idea that the best approach is to look at alot of options and shop for the best college opportunities prior to making a final choice. Share what level of financial support you can give.  Let your child's postsecondary dream begin in an informed way that you will be able to nurture and support.

Parents and the college process

Posted on March 7, 2011 at 4:46 PM Comments comments (0)
Dr. Rambo provides individual college advising to Lindsey Babcock, Jamestown HS Class of 2011The college process is a source of frustration and stress for parents and students not only because it is complicated and ever-changing but also because the role of the parent and the student and their relationship is changing at the same time.
The student and parent both want good outcomes for the student but may not agree on the definition of a good outcome.  This requires some discussion and research.  Both of them are facing unfamiliar territory in terms of decisions about which college to choose and how to navigate the admission application process. 
The student is keely aware that he is 18 or very close to that and often feels pressure to make all the major decisions on his own.  The parent is concerned about finances and is trying to help his budding college student get the best education value without scrambling the family nest egg.
The best approach to the college process as a family is for the parent to sit down with the student and listen to what the student would like to accomplish, ask thoughtful questions and encourage the student.  When students do not feel pressured by parents and feel that they have some autonomy in the process, they are more likely to want to work with their parent as a team.
In a team environment, parents can candidly explain to students what they are able to contribute to educational costs.  In the current economy, sometimes that amount is zero.  Parents and students can compare what they can contribute with actual costs and potential financal aid and scholarship assistance.  The earlier this discussion takes place, the more lead time students have to realize the need to consider college costs in college choice and to begin early to look for scholarships.
Early discussions about the process, costs and family assistance can also give the student time to earn money (or at least spend less of what they will earn) to help with costs. It also allows time for them to enter contests and otherwise take a key role in making sure there is enough money available to pay college costs.
Parent involvement in the college process is critical to student success.  Parents know students best and can be their best ally in the process.  Parents know whether their children are ready to leave home or should begin college near home.  Parents are aware of the level of maturity of their children with regard to time management and financial literacy.
It is critical however that the student sit in the driver's seat for this process.  Students are more likely to be successful if they are not waiting on parents to take care of all the details of applying to college and for scholarship assistance.  Keep in mind that when they get to college, students will be facing decisions and will do a better job if decision making is not new to them.
Parents can add support, encouragement and gently remind their children, but the process itself is a growth opportunity for teens about to go off to college.  And once students are in college, it is very helpful to them to have already shouldered responsibility for their success and to know how to advocate for themselves.