Advice about Applying to College

Parent Q&A

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  • College Application Process: I Don't Get It

    (18 replies)

    When I applied to colleges (admittedly quite some time ago) the process was far more arduous than now when kids can just fill out one online application for the entire CA State system. My siblings and I had to research colleges in the library, send away (by mail!) for the application materials, collect transcripts in person, handwrite essays, ask teachers for recommendations, and track the whole process according to each school's individual requirements. We did literally ALL of this without any help whatsoever from parents or school guidance counselors. It never even occurred to any of us that parents would or could be involved.

    When I talked with my mom about how this is done now—parents taking on the whole process themselves, hiring a coach or counselor to walk them through every step, as well as a tutor to basically write the essays for the kids, she said to me:   "College applications are a really good test. If your 18 year old cannot manage the whole thing on their own they're not ready for college and you're wasting your money sending them there."

    I think this is a very good point. By the time my kid has graduated his Junior year in high school he should be perfectly capable of navigating the application process on his own. If he can't, why would I be sending him away to manage his education and life independently just a year later? 

    So this is my plan for my son but I did want to at least check in with the good people at BPN. Has something incredibly complicated happened with college applications that I'm not aware of? If you did manage the process for your kid, was it because your kid wanted it or because it helped you with the letting go in some way? Other drawbacks or benefits I'm not thinking of??

    I know very few families (one? maybe two?) who hire coaches or tutors for college applications—curious to know where you live that this is common! At any rate, yes, the application process itself is far more streamlined than it was 30 years ago, even for private colleges. It is also higher stakes because while the number of prospective college students has grown considerably in the last several decades, the number of college seats has not, so some of what you're seeing may be driven by anxiety (on the part of either/both parents and students) around acceptance rates. But yes, I think it's fine to have your child manage the process if you're confident that they are able to do so. Some kids are, and others aren't. We are fortunate in California to have a strong community college system so kids have many options even if they aren't ready for or interested in a four-year college. However, I do think another significant change in the past generation has been the importance of having a college degree, wherever it's attained. It was a nice-to-have 30 years ago, but today it's a must-have for the vast majority of job opportunities that pay a living wage. So from that perspective, I'd be inclined to provide supports as needed to get a child enrolled—but that could easily look like enrolling in the local community college or a gap year if your child isn't yet ready to live independently.

    I applied to TWO UCs and got into both. I think my mom read my essays because she was a high school English teacher. But other than that, all my parents did was write the check for the applications.

    So on one hand, I agree with you. But as the parent of an 11th grader, times have changed!! Acceptance rates have plummeted. UCLA now is 11%. It was about 40% when my husband went. Now, there are different application processes to navigate, and kids apply to many more schools. I’m not writing my kid’s essays or doing her research, but will I ask her to handle the entire daunting process alone? No. Not sure what district you’re in, but I know many kids at BHS who do pay college counselors to help. BHS also has the CCC which is a great free resource. The process is simply not like it was when you applied to college. This last round of college applications - kids with absolutely incredible stats didn’t get into any school they applied to. Maybe no one helped them with their expectations. Maybe their essays were terrible. Maybe they had no extracurriculars. Someone who understands the process needed to help them. I don’t plan to hold my kid’s hand, but I also don’t expect her to navigate it alone. 

    You raise some very good points. I let my three kids manage their own college applications, but I’ve always been relaxed about the process. Finding the right fit is much more important than the selectivity of the school. I think it’s mainly the anxious parents who want their kids going to ivies, who are the ones spending money on college counselors. I let my kids know that I was available if they had questions. They wrote their own essays, but they asked me to help brainstorm ideas and then to edit them. The main aspect I wanted to know about was the money part. Of the universities they were considering, I researched which offered scholarships, etc. so I could get a grasp on how much money would be needed. Yes, there are lots of options in California. One of my kids got into a selective UC, but opted to attend community college first for the sports, which was fine with me. 
    The applications are so streamlined now, and kids operate quite efficiently online, so they should be quite capable of handling it all. Back in the day, I mailed my application to Cal and choose a 2nd and 3rd choice, and I had to gather everything together myself. Parents should relax and give their kids more credit than they sometimes get for their ability to manage things like college applications. Good luck!

    No! Nothing incredibly complicated has happened. This is 100% one of those things that collective anxiety has turned into a far bigger deal than it is. Getting into some colleges may be much more difficult than it used to be, but the applications are simple (and there are plenty of good schools that aren't too hard to get into). The application process is straight forward and there are tons of free resources out there to help a kid through it. If your kid goes to Berkeley High, they will be totally walked through it by the College and Career Center (and if they don't--you can still check out the resources offered by the CCC on the BHS website).

    When my kid applied this year, I thought they were doing something wrong because it was so easy for them (and things don't always come easy to them). They weren't. They got into plenty of schools. Helping them create a good list of schools to apply to was my most valuable contribution (suggesting places to look at, talking through what they wanted in a school).

    Like you, I did college myself but I wish I’d had parents who would have been more engaged with what I wanted or what I was thinking. 

    For our daughter, We hired a college counselor summer before her junior year for a few reasons. 1st we wanted to stay OUT of the anxious, helicoptering of the college application process,2nd we felt websites didn’t convey the real information she needed to figure out what schools would be a good fit for her personally or which schools she was likely to get into (reach, target and easy schools for her) and 3rd she was going abroad for second semester of junior year. It was totally worth the money! She consulted with us about tuitions, locations and sometimes shared an essay.

    She felt great about it-she did the work- the counselor kept her on track. ALOT of development occurs between junior year and graduation so a junior who can’t quite keep organized won’t necessarily not be ready for the independence of college.

    The difference between college admissions in the 1980s and college admissions in 2021 is admission rates.  For example in 1988, UCLA admitted 42% of applicants. In 2020, it admitted 12.3%.  (The admission rate for the engineering school was an even lower 9.7% in 2019.)

    In the early 1980s, I was admitted to UCLA with an SAT score of 1320 and a high school GPA of 3.75.  I had taken only two AP classes and did some minor extracurricular activities. I did no SAT prep and did not have help with my application. Recently, UCLA rejected both of my children.  Their SAT scores were higher (1390, 1530). Their GPAs were higher (3.8, 3.9).  They took many more AP classes and spent much time on their extracurricular activities.  They studied hard in their SAT prep course (and it did raise their scores) and slaved over their essays (which I edited), and still weren't considered good enough. (We did not hire an admissions counselor.)

    So the question is: what college is your child aiming for and how can they acquire the qualifications necessary for admission and present them in the best light?   Your child will probably have to apply to many more schools (because it's harder to get into each individual school, so you need to cast a wider net.)  The applications themselves now generally require more essays.  A high-achieving, very organized student who is a good writer can probably manage the application process on their own, but many benefit from some help.  

    (Both my children attend excellent colleges.  Next month, the oldest will graduate summa cum laude from a college with an even lower admission rate than UCLA's.)

    This is a great question, it touches on so many parenting-transition-to-adulthood issues. I have found that when I get to a point where I’m trying to figure out how much to support (“scaffold”) vs promote independence, it’s important to

    1) know my kid well — where does he excel and where does he struggle? Does he want to go to college and why/why not?


    2) involve my teen in the decision. I would not recommend starting with “in my day...” but instead “I’ve noticed a lot of teens seem to have college counselors to help with the process. What have you noticed, what do you think?”  Try to do it on a drive where you are both alone in the car, in the front seat, if talking with your teen can be fraught. See what they say! It might open a door to a discussion about goals, initiative, motivation, challenges and areas of strength.

    best of luck!

    We just got through college applications with our oldest kid and if anything, I think the college application process is more complicated than when we were teens - it's easier to submit the actual forms, but he had to put a lot more thought and analysis into everything than I ever did, and it's much more competitive. I pretty much let him drive the process - he decided where to apply, kept track of deadlines, filled out the applications, wrote the personal questions answers, filled out the financial aid applications. What I provided was support - I read his essay answers and made suggestions (and it's kind of fun and enlightening to see what they write, btw), I checked in with him when I knew deadlines were approaching, I supplied the financial details he didn't have. He got a tiny bit of guidance from his (large, public) school, but I wouldn't say it was hand-holding in any way - more that there were resources available if he sought them out. To be fair, he's always been a pretty self-sufficient kid, so I felt comfortable trusting him with this process - all kids are different, and some will require more direction and management, but I'd still recommend being as hands-off as possible because it really is a valuable experience for them. Like your mom said, this is a big step in him managing things himself - I certainly don't plan on handling things for him when he's in college. I know some people who have hired coaches, but it doesn't seem universal. Good luck!

    I dont think it;s the norm for most families to hire coaches and all that. There are free resources that are really helpful though including your HS, and UC / CSU themselves. We went to free admissions workshops that really explained the application process for both. For CSU (other than Cal Poly which is more similar to UC), it is very straightforward - they just look at the numbers. If you have the required combo of GPA and test score, you're in. For UC, it is more comprehensive and you need to understand how to use all the spots on the application where you can give additional info beyond what shows on your transcript. In terms of the essay, we live in SF and my son went to a free essay writing session at an org called 826 Valencia that was very helpful. They have a weekend each fall where seniors can work one on one with a trained volunteer (many of whom are English teachers etc.) I'm sure there's something similar in the East Bay. My son made a lot of progress on his essays at that session and also got feedback on them from teachers and adult friends and relatives. No pro coaches.

    My kids applied for colleges in 2005 and 2006 so I cannot speak to the current process. However, they were adamant in managing the process by themselves and were evidently successful. They may have deigned to let me look at an essay but did not ask for further assistance, with the exception of the FAFSA. If your kid has confidence, that bodes well for getting out in the wide world. I'm sure that there are safeguards to the process (save a draft and submit later) if parental review is needed. Good luck!

    I think college applications have become a lot more competitive because it is harder to get into a good college. And to increase chances that their offspring gets into a desirable college, many parents are willing to spend a good amount of money.

    Our son handled the application process on his own (he only applied to several UCs). His high school offered a college essay writing workshop on a Saturday to which he went. Also his AP Language teacher (I think it was that class) had them write an essay to one of the UC essay prompts. And we read his essays and looked over his application and made some suggestions. In addition we drove him to two SAT tests in addition to the one his school offered, bought him an SAT study guide and study guides for some of his AP classes (offered for all but he only wanted one for some).

    I just went through this process with my daughter who will be starting college in the fall at an out of state public university. I was prepared for the worst but the process was not that bad. Covid and no SAT/ACT took a lot of the pressure off. My daughter was accepted at 7 out of 9 schools she applied to. She is a B student, no AP or honors classes, some school sports, some outside activities and work experience, again limited because of Covid. My point is that there are so many schools out there all over the country for every kind of student and the pressure is unwarranted. I think that the pressure is due to the anxiety that parents feel that without a degree from a certain level of university a student is economically handicapped for life. And because it is so easy to apply to multiple schools people do so and it messes with the acceptance rates which makes it seem that all schools are harder to get into. To some degree this is true, especially in California where our public university system has not grown to meet the demand of the population. My daughter was so intimidated by the process that she pushed against it for a long time. One day in the late summer before her senior year something just clicked and she got on board. She filled out all of the online applications herself, did the essay herself with minimal feedback, some of which she took and some of which she didn't. I supervised from afar, answering questions when needed. I do think that some supervision from parents is helpful and probably necessary because there is a lot of information coming at them, the process is more involved than it was 30 years ago. But overall I agree that a senior should be able to handle the process with minimal supervision and hiring a counselor probably isn't necessary unless he is trying to get into extremely competitive programs.

    I disagree with your mom. I think most 16-17 year olds (especially boys) are still developing executive function that will be much better by 18. a little scaffolding can make a huge difference to their future. our two kids really benefited by some scaffolding of reminders of deadlines and the importance of starting college essays/applications/thinking about where fits in summer after junior year and help sorting through what types of colleges are best fit (high school counselors usually help with this as well as free resources from college board, etc) for personality, interest, finances, grades, etc. They do need to do their own thinking about who they are and what they want and write their own essays but an adult (or friend) reading the essay and helping them think through it and check for minor edits, is totally fine. We helped my older kid a lot to figure out deadlines and think about/brainstorm and edit essays (not writing them for her) and submitting transcripts etc and she is a fully functional college student who is getting a ton out of college, straight As, and very little help managing paperwork, deadlines etc. the younger one is needing some scaffolding also (so intimidating to start the process) but with each step getting more and more confidence and independence. 

    My application process to college back in the 80s was much like yours, but looking back, I really could have used some input from my parents. I agree that parents shouldn't run the whole show. My kids are 22 and 26, the youngest is set to graduate undergrad next month and the oldest is in grad school. I put them in charge of their application process and getting their letters of rec, but we did check in to be sure stuff was getting done and offered test prep and essay help if they wanted it (son wanted zero of it, daughter did test prep). We did tour schools with them and asked a lot of questions kids might not think to ask. We probed our kids about what they wanted out of a school, both in terms of academics and environment. We related our own experiences and what we would have done differently. Also, finances are an issue. If your kid does it all on their own, what happens if they get into a $60k a year school that offers no merit money and you don't qualify for their financial aid? Parents can help kids see the big picture and I guess I'm advocating for a middle ground. Let the kid drive it and take charge, but be there to consult and help .

    I think the reality for most kids is somewhere in between hand-holding and fending for themselves. My son is a senior in HS now. I was practically uninvolved in the whole College application process (that was a pleasant surprise), but he met with his guidance counselor very frequently. At first once a month, and later once a week. In my opinion, a good guidance counselor is absolutely essential. It’s not so much that the kids can’t manage on their own - after all, they manage their class work and assignments on their own, like they will in college - it’s more that the whole process can be overwhelming and most kids will need intermediate benchmarks/deadlines, as well as some direction on where to apply. As the time draws near, your kid will be bombarded with mail, portals, testing sign ups, and who knows how many other things, all while trying to do their best in school. If the guidance counselor is not good, or is overextended, most kids will need help from a parent or adult or older sibling. Some kids, of course, are fully capable of making their own spreadsheets and checklists, but mine is not nor was I at that age. I still did fine in college, and I expect my son will too. It’s a different type of organizational skill than they are used to. Good luck!

    I think that one reason parents hire writing coaches is that the number of essays required is far greater than when most of us applied to college. Yes, there is just one Common Application essay, but there are now four UC essays instead of the former two, and most of the private schools have their own set of supplemental essays. For many students, the entire process can be overwhelming. Also, because many schools are not requiring the SAT or ACT, the essay plays a bigger part in the evaluation of a candidate's qualification for acceptance. Keep in mind that reputable essay coaches do not write the essays for the students— they show them how to present their unique stories in their own voices, helping them hopefully not only get into their colleges of choice but helping them become better, more confident writers in the process.

    30-ish years ago some of my classmates at Berkeley High paid people to help with college apps, but most didn't. This year some of my daughter's classmates at Alameda High paid people to help with college apps, but most didn't. My daughter did an essay-writing class through the parks and rec department over the summer, but otherwise managed it on her own. She did well, but with completely age-appropriate hiccups for a 17yo (apparently had trouble with a last minute form so didn't get in one application to one of her top choices). She's got a complicated situation in figuring out next steps right now and is getting free help from the school's college and career advisor, which I did push her to seek. I'm far less confident that her 13yo brother with ADHD will be able to do this independently. I'm a pediatrician and see such a wide variety of kids that I'm slow to pass judgement on other parents.

    I'd caution you against extrapolating from "back in my day" to the current college application scene. I got into Harvard, which 30-ish years ago accepted 18% of their applicants. UCLA now accepts 12% of their applicants, Harvard typically takes 5%, and this year Harvard took 3.5%. Some of this is because kids apply to more schools, but it's also just truly harder to get into a lot of schools than it once was. It's worth having some respect for the fact that these kids are playing at a level well beyond what we had to worry about.


    One more thing about the college admission process. Many schools like Berkeley High have excellent advisors, plus, I don't know whether BHS is unique in this, but there are essay reader volunteers onsite every day of the week during admissions season during lunch and after school. I have volunteered there as a reader for over 10 years, and all of the essay readers are excellent at helping students focus their essays and showing them how to best tell their own unique stories.

  • Our senior has been accepted at 3 of the colleges he applied to but he is still waiting to hear back from 3 others -- we assume that will happen later in March. In addition we still need to visit two of the 3 colleges he has been accepted to, and we're doing that on Spring Break first week of April. So he hasn't decided yet which college he wants to attend, and probably won't until after the April visits. In the meantime he has been getting emails from the colleges that have accepted him, telling him to apply for student housing now!  I've heard that one of the schools, Humboldt State, has a shortage of student housing, and the other colleges stress that early birds get better choices.  I'm worried we should be reserving housing now, even though he hasn't decided yet if he wants to go there. But I don't even know if we can do that if he hasn't accepted the admission offer yet. Or is the student housing thing generally OK to put off until late April when he decides which college? Or do people accept at more than one college so you can apply for housing early? I am not sure how this works!

    Why not ask the colleges?

    At Humboldt I think he's guaranteed housing if he's in one of the PBLCs (small learning communities for freshmen in STEM majors). If not I still think applying for housing in April should be fine. Note, the Canyon dorms may be better than the Hill dorms (Sunset and Redwood) which are crowded and lack common area. Don't request a triple in the Hill dorms even though it's cheaper - the rooms are really small.

  • Surviving college acceptance season

    (13 replies)

    Hey everybody. I'm dreading this upcoming March-April season of college decisions. I feel fairly sure that my kid will get admitted to at least one school and I need to just be happy with that outcome, or with the outcome that maybe my kid doesn't get accepted anyplace. I want to avoid feeling jealous about all these amazing schools where some of the other high school kids will get accepted. I know it's not cool to be jealous, so please -- no judgments. Please give your thoughts about effective parenting through this season and how to move through it.

    My best advice, having gone through this twice, is find an ally. Fine ONE parent either inside or outside (better if possible) your school community  who you trust who is also going through this. Talk ONLY to that person about this process. Ignore all social media!! It's really, really hard. These kids go through years of feeling like every misstep, mistake, less-than-perfect grade has doomed them. The perceived consequences of everything - especially their college acceptances  - seem monumental. So find your one trusted person and only share, talk, celebrate, commiserate with them. Ignore everyone else.

    The other bit of advice I have is to understand that you just never know. I've gone through this from 2 very different high schools. I've seen some kids who were not exceptional students and felt bad about their one choice who went on to blossom and find their voice/purpose/love their school's opportunities. I've seen kids who are brilliant academically, went to their first choice, prestigious schools only to decide they hated it, left after a year and charted a different course: work for a year and transfer to a different school or take classes at a community college close to home and go on to transfer to a prestigious UC. These kids work so hard to get to the "finish line" of college acceptance and then realize that it's just the beginning of a new journey that might not turn out how they planned at all. Good luck!

    It is awful. Truly awful. I have a college sophomore boy and a college frosh girl. It's usually not even about where your friends' kids are's about whether your kid gets into their top choice. There are so many options now for fallback that many of your kid's friends will be doing - I guarantee it. Community college isn't the pariah it once was in the over-achieving bay area anymore. In fact it's regarded as downright smart (it's always been a great option....perception has fortunately changed to recognize that). So for my son, whose grades were okay but ACT was terrific, we started having that conversation. He wasn't thrilled with the convo but ultimately recognized that the path to the UC he wanted was there. He did end up being accepted at the UC he wanted, but I'm not going to lie - it was a nail biter for me. Also - if your kid gets waitlisted somewhere that they really want to go, be sure to find out how they can "better their application." Some schools will absolutely give you the opportunity at that point to do, get a teacher's recommendation sent in, or include new grades that look better, or write a new essay, etc. EVERYTHING YOU READ will tell you that they won't get off the waitlist. I'm here to tell you that my girl did - by doing what I just told you. And finally, they're just gonna be moody through this time period. Everyone in your house is gonna be moody. It.truly.does.suck. Just recognize it but don't won't help. Hard to do...but you've got this!

    Where you go is not who you'll be!" (to steal a line from Frank Bruni). Regardless of the outcome of the decisions that are coming soon, know that student success is what each student makes of their experience.

    The following article by Frank Bruni can help put things in perspective.

    It's perfectly natural to feel a pang of envy when other kids get into amazing schools -- or a pang of regret when kids who worked just as hard aren't admitted. However, the end goal is to have your child grow into a confident, self-motivated, independent adult, and there are a lot of ways to reach that goal. Getting admitted to an amazing school is an excellent first step. Four years from now, I guarantee you will know kids who thrived in great schools, kids who thrived in schools they weren't initially thrilled about, and kids who are taking a more circuitous path. That will continue as kids get out in the working world. I would encourage you to take the long view, and to let your kid know that you support them in their successes AND in their setbacks.

    First, remember that college selection is up to your kid on which school(s) she/he wants to apply to.  Half the kids that apply to the top 10 schools won't get accepted and many will drop out even before the first year is up.  I let my kid make the decisions on which schools she wanted to apply to, as it is her life and her future career.  She applied to two (2) schools and was accepted at both.  She then decided where she wanted to attend and from there is a very happy camper.  I get the who being jealous thing, I was a first, but after having a long conversation with my kid about what would make her happy, I got over it very quickly.  Just remember, this is all about your child and what they want, not you.  Be proud of the fact that your kid is able to qualify for college, be part of the fun in the whole application process.  Get into the fun about their decision.  I know that my kid is in the best school for her chosen future profession and she is most happy where she it.  She attends SF State and its a great school.  She is a Jr there and having the best time.  Have fun with it.  But remember, its your kids decision and about what will make your kid happy.  Not what some other kid going to some fancy school that they may end up dropping out of or getting a degree in something that means nothing at the end.  I know too many of my kids former classmates who either dropped out of the fancy schools, did not get accepted to them or are working on a degree that has no application to the real world, meaning they will never make any money with that degree.  Good luck!

    My son should be a senior this year. However, despite being smart and having friends in school, traditional school was not a good fit for him. At the end of his junior year, he passed the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Exam) and we unenrolled him from school. He's now thriving in a full time job. He says he may or may not go to college. I did well in high school, graduating at the top of my class. I was accepted to every college I applied to and never considered not attending college after high school. At first it was very difficult for me to accept that my son chose a different path than I did. I was worried for him. I was disappointed. My own ego was bruised a little and I'll admit that I worried what other people might say. It was an unhappy place to be. Rather than continue feeling badly, I reframed how I thought about the situation. Instead of being disappointed that my son didn't graduate in the way I experienced school, I looked at in a different way. Interestingly, I then found myself feeling very proud of him. Rather than shuffle through a school system he didn't connect with, he finished early and is now really happy with his life. He is setting goals for his future and working hard. He's a joy to spend time with and has a strong network of friends. So many wonderful things to celebrate! (Rather than feel disappointed that he isn't going to college next year). My other realization is that my wants for him are MINE. However, it's not my life. What's truly important is what he wants and hopes for - not what I want and hope for him. I let go of my vision for his future and started talking to my son about what he wants his life to look like. I listened to what was important to him. As a result, he regularly engages with me when he's thinking about his future, including where he wants to live as an adult, what kind of jobs he wants, even if he wants to get married and have kids. He talks to me about his future and he seems to welcome my opinions. When I think about his future, I no longer imagine my hopes and dreams for him. They have been replaced by his actual hopes and dreams. So my advice is to make these next few months about your son - not you. If he gets accepted, ask him how he feels. If he gets rejected, ask him how he feels. If other students get accepted to great schools while he doesn't, ask him how he feels about it. You may find his feelings differ from yours. While you might feel envious of other's success, he may not. Maybe he might even feel excited for his friends. He might feel sad about seeing his friends go to different schools, while not caring at all about possible rejection. Once you better understand what's important to him, then you can support him. My other advice to all parents of teens is to give lots and lots of LOVE. Tell your son often what you like about him. Celebrate his success, no matter how small. These next few months, rather than worrying about what your son doesn't get, put your energy into showing your son how much you love him and discovering more about what he wants for his future. Good luck!

    Hi, there! I so appreciate your thoughtful post; it is a very rough time, for sure - so many feelings of inadequacy, anticipation, elation, disappointment - and those are just for the parents! 

    Last year we were riding the same rollercoaster - on both the giving and receiving end; our daughter didn't get in to her first pick - heartache! And did get into places which sent others into some very unattractive and inappropriate directions in their behavior. I want to share some wisdom that several parents shared with me, and which I was not fully able to appreciate until later: the "sorting hat" really knows what it's doing. Your kid (and you) may have your hearts set on one particular school, and it doesn't happen, and it's hard. What we don't know in the moment is that the "backup" school may turn out to offer things you never dreamed of, and actually be a better fit. One parent told me how their kid went to her dream school - but it didn't work out the way she planned; she didn't actually like it. She transferred, found a pathway and major that suited her better, and met her future husband to boot! Another set of parents told me about their son and his heartbreak over not getting into his top pick - but wound up loving life at #2; they think it was probably a better fit for him, too. He's now at graduate school at the same place; it clearly worked out really well. My own child had her heart set on a school which didn't happen for her, but she did get "#2" on her list; she's into her second semester now, and she LOVES it - she's so happy! We are in agreement that the #1 pick probably wouldn't have been as good a fit. The truth is, no matter how much homework we do on it, we really don't know past the surface what educational life would really be like there.

    So, my advice to you is to share these things with your child, reassure them that they'll get in some place that will most likely make them very happy - maybe happier! and that if they don't like it they can transfer. Also, that in the long run, it won't make that big a difference. And know that this will be the same for you, too. There will be other people who likely feel envious of your kid and their choices. And hopefully everyone will try hard to be gracious to everyone else....

    Hi there! Know you will get lots of responses. Been through this three times and Please, Please, Please be happy with whichever school your child gets accepted to/chooses. I am ashamed of how badly I handled the entire process. I was convinced my son had to go to a "name" school. He was class president, good grades, captain of sports team, lead in senior musical -- he didn't get in anywhere "competitive".  I was devastated. It was about "me" when it all should have been about him. I should have been positive, upbeat, "let's look at the alternatives!", etc. He did get in to a great school that could have been perfect for him. He transferred to that "name" school  (with prodding from me) and likely had a far less enjoyable college experience. Bottom line - all the schools are great, not going to school is great, taking a gap year is great.  Life is an adventure and being young is a gift.

    4 year college is not a must.  Many successful adults did 2 years of community college before transferring to a top university and proceeding to higher education.  Find the right path for your family and don't worry about the Yees keeping up with the Smiths or Singhs.

    Horrible time. Absolutely agree that we need other parents to talk to. Yet some (most?) will be so happy and relieved that their own kids got in somewhere that they won't be empathetic with others who are struggling! Especially agree with the suggestion to find one ally to talk to. Maybe better if they have already gone through it.

    I wasn't an effective parent during this time for either one of my daughters. Hoping that my mistakes will help you somehow. 

    First daughter: I thought her first choice school was not good enough for her and took her on a tour to experience lots of others. She identified a new first choice and then didn't get in. Thank God, she did get into her original top choice and has been very happy there. But she still has the disappointment about the other school, which I created unnecessarily. Why couldn't I have just let it alone? 

    Second daughter: had no specific top choice but developed a strong favorite after visiting. Again I thought it wasn't good enough for her and pushed her to apply to others. After sending in her apps, she switched to early decision for the top choice and ended up withdrawing from all the others. My disappointment that we'll never know if she could have gotten in is finally what made me realize that I wasn't really ranking the best schools for *them* at all.  I just wanted bragging rights for myself!! How self-centered and ridiculous. Hats off to the younger daughter for bypassing all of that, whether she realized it or not. She is also happy, now. She had a too-easy first year and I again tried to push her to transfer, but thanks to advice from a much smarter mom, realized I needed to let go. Navigating the course levels and professors has been an excellent life experience for her. 

    Lots of great articles out there on how the name brand of the school really doesn't do anything for the future of the individual kid. What really matters is how they handle the bureaucracy and the setbacks that inevitably show up. The challenges they experience and overcome ARE the education we want them to have!!

    Maybe some larger perspective might help?  There are those of us out here whose children have disabilities that may well rule out any kind of college.  We parents had hopes and dreams too that our kids would achieve at least as much as we did in adulthood, then maybe adjusted our expectations to community college along the way. Then maybe had to adjust our expectations further to just hope for our kids to achieve some kind of independent living.  The advice of this high achieving, multiple degree (from the "top" schools) mother is:  count your blessings and be proud of what your kids achieve wherever they end up.  

    I'm just echoing the message that college acceptance after HS is not the end of the road. My oldest never applied to 4 year colleges at all, struggled with cc on and off in an unmotivated fashion, then started working in construction and decided that's for him - he's now in a trades pre-apprenticeship program and will soon be a paid union apprentice, after which he will be making much more $ than me (I went to an Ivy and graduate school.) Son #2 didn't get in to the UC of his dreams, but is now guaranteed admission as a CC transfer and will be able to graduate from UC debt free because of the savings of attending CC.

    I know some schools are encouraging students and parents not to post about college acceptances on social media until after it's all over (May 1?). I think this is a great move! You could talk to your kid's school about it, though I realize it may be too late. Also, you could just choose to stay off social media. And maybe you want to come up with a one-liner that you can repeat whenever you run into an acquaintance who tells you Ted got into Harvard, "Congratulations! I'm sure all the students are going to end up somewhere they can thrive." I think this is true too :) Or true to the extent that it is not about the school...

    I went through this when my son would have been a senior in high school (except he had dropped out and was in a very dangerous spot with drugs). It was like salt in the wounds when I heard about all the successful students heading off to their first-choice colleges. Sadly, quite a few of them ended up having nervous breakdowns or just realizing they had made the wrong choice. So try to hold on to the long view.

  • Calendar of college information sessions?

    (3 replies)

    I am a parent of a high school junior. I seem to hear about college information sessions kind of randomly, sometimes when it's too late to sign up. Is there some online calendar that shows upcoming info sessions in the Berkeley area? I tried googling but didn't find anything useful.

    The college counselor at your child’s high school should have information about that. I don’t know where your child goes to high school, but Berkeley High has a bunch of resources online, including a Google calendar listing all the dates and times of college admissions visits to the College and Career Center. BHS also hosts a college fair specifically for BHS juniors annually in spring. Here's the BHS College and Career Center Website:


    In our experience (3 different high schools), it is the high school and especially its college counselor(s) that put on the information sessions.  This is true for both public and private high schools.  We have attended both.  Private high schools provide far more personal attention, more workshops for groups of students and more individual meetings with each student, as a general matter.  Our current public high school though does a good job -- although there is only one college counselor for the entire senior class.

    Some very good information sessions I have been to in recent years:

    Tilden Prep in Walnut Creek.  Very nice, small private high school.  Their evening college information session was great, involved Q&A too, and was open to all parents.  A seasoned college counselor presents information about the California college system, private colleges, etc., and there are always a couple college counselors in the room as well.  They put it on in October or November, and it's well worth the trip.

    St. Mary's East Bay College Connection ("EBCC")  Fair.  This event happens every May and for some reason is hard to find out about, but it is very good.  It is a large college fair (public and private, regional and national) with college booths packed over two buildings.  For parents, there are optional seminars for admissions, financial aid, recruited athletes, etc.  Their Dean of Admissions gave a fantastic presentation on admissions and how it works!!  Q&A welcome too.  My kid and her friend did the fair with their list of schools to check out, and I went to a couple useful seminars. You can register ahead of time. You'll find it by googling the terms above.  Many public schools, including our school less than 5 miles away, do not even mention this wonderful fair.

    Colleges That Change Lives ("CTCL").  This is a group of liberal arts colleges, some quite well known, around the country.  They have a fair in our area a couple times a year, locations change from SF to Santa Clara to East Bay.  This year I think the fair was in August and we missed it.  They usually have info for parents too.  They have a good website and even a book I believe. For a liberal arts or progressive-minded kid, there are some great schools here. Again, it is not well publicized and you have to google it.  

    Those are the free sessions that stuck out in my mind, outside of the high school itself!  Look for events in the Bay Area, not Berkeley specifically.  We live in Oakland, but none of these events were in Berkeley/Oakland.

    Best of luck, been there and not done yet

    The college counselor at our high school told us about Western Association for College Admission Counseling (WACAC) which organizes big college fairs all over the state every year in the spring. We went to one in April at St. Mary's College in Moraga.  It was a huge event with tables set up in multiple gyms/meeting rooms. Every imaginable school in the western states had a rep there, as well as many east coast schools and as far away as Europe. All the UCs and CSUs were represented. There were also workshops about applying to college. There were a lot of people but it was fairly well organized. Our son was a sophomore when we went and it was a good introduction to getting him thinking about college. 

    The WACAC college fairs are free but your kid has to register in advance on their website -  There is not much there right now but check back in a few months to see if they have scheduled the fairs for Spring 2018 yet. 

  • Our son is a junior at El Cerrito HIgh. He's in pretty good shape for college applications -- setting sights on UCLA -- gets As, is prepping well for the SAT, is taking advanced and AP classes, gets tutoring where needed, etc.

    One thing our son is really missing though is "demonstration of leadership", which we understand is a big part of college applications. He's not into joining a club or starting some kind of do-good initiative, much as we wish he would. When not studying, he likes to hang out with friends, make music and play basketball or ride his skateboard, but he isn't super competitive about what he does. He likes to travel and is interested in the world; he's very mature and capable and likes to help others. And he likes to meet new people, though he's not a self-promoter.

    So we heard about teen travel/service programs and we're first of all wondering if this is a way to cover the "demonstration of leadership" thing. Any feedback on that?

    We got a catalog for "Global Leadership Adventures and it looks interesting. But a little pricey for us. Any recommendations? Is it worth it? Are there better ones, cheaper ones -- better AND cheaper ones?

    Also -- as far as what the students are doing ... we'd love to find something that wouldn't break our bank account and that would genuinely provide our son with meaningful service opportunities? (Something that colleges like too ... !)

    Most ideal would be something where he shares the experience with other students from a very diverse range of experiences, demographics, cultural/ethnic backgrounds -- we don't really want to give money to a program that is really just a vacation for rich white kids, cloaked as a "service opportunity", where "we" (privileged Americans) go in and help "them" (the "underdeveloped") learn how to live like we do; that's not the model of service/leadership we want to support.

    Are there any local programs/companies/nonprofits who do this work -- we'd like to support our local community!

    Thanks so much for any recommendations!

    I am responding to this question as a college admissions essay coach just finishing up the first season of the UCs' eight new prompts (four required) including Prompt #1 on leadership: ​Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time. 

    First, I groan when I see a service/study abroad trip on a student's resume. Rather than enumerate the reasons for my dismay, let me refer you to this excellent article on same by Frank Bruni in The New York Times:

    Second, such a program rarely involves leadership. A program is by definition programmed. Kids frequently travel afar, build "like some kind of hut," and sing songs with local kids. Yes, some require more initiative but not the kind of solid leadership experience referred to in the prompt.  

    My young clients have been writing about leadership for years, well before a specific prompt asked them to. Most commonly they learn and demonstrate leadership skills through school, sport, church, volunteer, or community activities. Despite your son's aversion to clubs, he still has a brief window to throw himself into some kind of activity where he could LEAD, not just help, others. It's important that you keep your eyes on LEADERSHIP, if you want to check off this box. Or, and I'm reaching here, does he demonstrate leadership in his music making or basketball? Or, you say he likes to help others. How does he demonstrate that? Any leadership involved?

    Finally, while leadership is always excellent for college applications, well-rounded is also. If your son simply isn't a leader and doesn't want to be, make sure, in terms of both applications and life, that he can still demonstrate several tools in his toolbox. Since the UC application is your focus, look at the eight prompts online at the UC Admissions website. Sit down with your son and talk about them, and if he can't imagine writing about four of them, develop an action/activity plan for the next six-nine months to enable him to do so. He needs to begin writing his essays by the end of Summer 2017. 

    Sarah Shankman

    I can't speak to the UC system specifically, but my understanding is that most college admissions officers do not view a summer service or leadership program as anything of consequence. They're really looking for a longer term and in depth commitment. So if you're thinking that type of program will give your kid a leg up, you're probably wasting your money. If "leadership" isn't your kid's thing, that's certainly not a deal breaker. But at most selective schools, your kid will be expected to show "passion" or commitment to something. In his case, that could be his music or something else. If you have the resources to let your kid do something/go somewhere this summer, you would be far better off sending him to a program that will show his interest in his "passion." So you could send him to a music program. Look at California State Summer school for the Arts. Or you could try to help him find opportunities to lead/teach younger kids at a basketball or skateboarding camp. Admissions officers will likely be far more impressed by that than some contrived summer leadership program. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


How many schools to apply to? How many safe schools?

April 2011

Hi - we are embarking on the college application journey with our junior - for anyone who has just been through this, the following would be so helpful: how many colleges did your son/daughter ultimately apply to? How many of these were ''safe'' schools? How many were ''reach''? Where (in general terms) did your child get in? What went right with the whole thing and what went wrong? Would you do anything differently if you were to shepard the whole process through again? Thanks for sharing your insights

Our daughter applied to five liberal arts colleges. Three were reaches, two were schools more likely to accept her, but she only applied to schools she really wanted to attend. She got into the latter two. Looking back, we all feel she should have applied to a couple more, but she's very happy with her final choice. This was a banner year, with many good schools receiving record numbers of applications. Even her ''safety'' schools turned away more kids than usual. She was swept up in the excitement of applying to excellent liberal arts colleges: Oberlin, Macalester, Kenyon, all of whom accepted very few BHS students. Fortunately for us, she saw the wisdom of looking at smaller, less well-known schools as well. She investigated a number of the Colleges that Change Lives (book by Pope), which I highly recommend. As a result, she got into two very good liberal arts colleges and probably would have gotten into several more if she'd focused her attention on those. Mom of a happy senior

This is a very helpful and free service:

We had one ''safety school system'' and one ''reach school''. My student was offered admission at all the schools except the ''reach'' school. Eight schools in total were applied to. When you apply to the University of California you can specify up to 3 campuses. So that was our ''fallback'' and where my student eventually decided to go.

We visited all the schools and our student spent the night at two of the schools in California. I think that was the most important thing we did, because on paper we had one set of priorities but after visiting, meeting the current students, spending time, and looking at the living conditions, we came up with a different set. Almost inverse in fact.

On paper the schools without requirements and open curriculums and generous ''reciprocal'' class agreements with sister colleges seemed almost too good to be true. But after looking at the data: graduation ratios and spending time on campus, we found that it took a very focused student to make the most out of these opportunities and often far too many distractions added stress rather than advantage.

We also looked at student services, academic support, health care, and housing options. We found the University of California system even in the face of cuts was still a great place. It has served our student well.

I hope you have a high school counselor but if not it might make sense to consult a private one - make use of your time by narrowing your search.

Your student's grades, test scores, geographical location, minority status, and family income will cast some of the choices for you. If you have the money likely you will not receive substantial financial aide - merit scholarships are few unless your student has already landed one. We found it limited to $3,000 per year, which did not make much of a dent in $35,000-$50,000 per year private school costs. I have had friends who have shouldered $100,000+ college debt for themselves or their children but it is a very confining burden come graduation. Athletic scholarships are also narrow generally confined to popular male sports like football or basketball at the competitive sports colleges and universities, though there are exceptions. Also remember to include travel costs if your student wants to come home on holidays and will need to come home on breaks. You may also need to visit - things come up. Good Luck

Today we sent in our deposit for the college our daughter has chosen - what a relief! So now that we're at the lighter end of the long dark tunnel, my advice?

1) Start early with visits to a few colleges on spring/summer vacations so that your kid gets a feel for what different campuses are like. Local day trip options: take the train to UC Davis, visit UC Santa Cruz, see Stanford, Mills, SF State and USF. Take the tours that get you into dorms and classrooms. Have your kid take pictures and take notes (we made a little checklist for them to use and take notes so they could remember afterward what they thought of the students, campus, etc.) Pick up a school newspaper to get a feel for daily life.

- Don't let books/guides drive your decisions, but do take a look at several. We liked Princeton Review, SparkNotes, Ruggs, Fiske, & Colleges that Changes Lives, as well as College Prowler, Princeton Review, Unigo and RateMyProfessor websites.

- You'll probably start with a long list. I think my daughter had 30 or so at first. She joined mailing lists, ''liked'' them on Facebook, and set up a special gmail account for emailing colleges. It was fun at first, but got to be a bit overwhelming. By spring of junior year she'd visited some on the west coast, some on the east coast, and had a better sense of what she liked, so narrowed her list to 3 UC's and 9 privates.

- Of the 12 schools:
3 were ''safety'' (acceptance rates over 60%),
3 were ''match'' (SATs/GPAs like hers, acceptance over 30%),
6 were ''reach'' (SATs like hers or maybe slightly higher, acceptance rates under 30%).

And guess what? She got into all six of her safety & match schools, and none of her six reach schools. We're really happy that she chose her safety and match schools carefully...they were all schools that she would have been happy to attend.

And her friends who only went for the big name schools? Despite perfect GPAs and strong test scores, the majority of them got ''no'' for an answer, or were wait-listed. So while our daughter was disappointed not to get into a couple of ''reach'' schools she really liked, it helped her to know that she was not alone in these rejections, and it also really helped to have some enthusiastic acceptances. Some great schools that are not on everyone's radar are offering generous merit scholarships, pay for flights for accepted students to visit, and offer a warm welcome, which is a refreshing and exciting way to go off to college...

Wait, she's going to college? Suddenly it seems all too soon... Relieved Parent of Happy Kid (once Finals are over)

Don't do this yourself. Seriously consider hiring a college counselor to guide your student through this process. I don't have a recommendation because my kids private school has an excellent college counseling program. It's a really different process from when I went to college. The counselor will work with your student through the entire application process, including helping them figure out which schools to apply to and keeping them on track toward due dates. Really, it's well worth the cost. That said my college sophomore applied to about 10 schools, there were several reaches and several safety schools. He got into one of his reaches and is a student there now. We did a tour of SoCal schools before he did applications and then didn't do any more visits until he had acceptances. not a college counselor

One more piece of advice for surviving the college applications...

Consider applying to a college or two that offer Early Action, which is a non-binding form of early notification of acceptance. It can be such a relief to know early on that you have a good option! And often these Early Action places will offer scholarships as enticements. Furthermore, applying Early Action means you have to get your act together for an earlier deadline, so there is motivation to get the personal essay written and other documents in hand sooner, which means less to do for the later apps. (Start working on personal essay summer between junior/senior year or at least very early fall.)

Another piece of advice re college apps, if your student's grades/scores are not strong, some of the schools that offer Rolling Admission have higher acceptance rates and a fairly quick turn-around, another source of relief from anxiety. Doesn't mean they can't try for more selective schools - it's just nice to know about these in case...either to apply early or late: there are tons that offer rolling admissions. =Early Bird=

We just went through the whole stressful process with our first son and learned some good lessons we can apply to our second son next year. 1) Start early and do your homework before you settle on your list of colleges; 2) Meet with a college counselor who can add great but lesser-known schools you might not have thought about; 3) A couple of reach schools is a good idea but more than that results in rejections that create unnecessary disappointment and loss of confidence; 4) Include several safety schools--your final list should be 10 or 12 colleges; 5) Go visit as many of the schools your kid is most interested in as you can afford--we were surprised when several of our sons prime candidates came off his list after he visited; 6) Do NOT leave the essays for the last minute.

A lot of what we learned for Son 1 can be applied to Son 2, so we're planning on only one session with a private college advisor to validate our list and approach, but we will use Lesley Quinn again to help with his essays. She's very good.

Lastly, if you want to enjoy Thanksgiving and winter break, start everything early! Good luck. -Carol B

I am a little dismayed that persons calling themselves ''private college advisors'' post on this list, recommending that parents make use of a private college advisor and then recommending themselves. Is this advice or advertising?

I talked to a few of these ''private college advisors'' on the phone this fall, thinking of engaging one of them, and heard nothing but a very rapid stereotyping of my child based on the most basic information, and including a few names of schools based on these stereotypes. We are proceeding without the benefit of this ''private'' and very expensive advice. The hype around college admissions is tremendous, and my sense is you are only making it worse for your kids by supporting the idea that this is a profession anyone actually needs. a Berkeley Mom

To the parent who said no one needs a college counselor, well I don't really know in what state of denial he or she is.

Even in the best of times, pre-proposition 13 etc, when I went to school, a little more help in selecting the non- brand name colleges would have been really useful.

+ First, today with (public school) counselors having to help 150 to 400 kids per year, personalized help is out of the question.

+ Second, frankly with more kids applying to more schools, even with kids with great scores can have trouble getting into the select schools. (I know, I'm an alumni interview for a highly selective university. And one kid I thought was a slam dunk, captain varsity sports team, 730's SAT's, COSMOS, good essay was waitlisted. I was shocked.)

+ Third, and for us most importantly, we use a college counselor, Barbara Austin, (852-0447) to get our junior to do his essay over the summer without parental nagging.

+ Fourth, I would say that this is not do or die. Thankfully, there are often many, many second chances, but you really have limited experience with the whole college admissions process. You do it once, twice, three times, at most. Why is it you don't want help. I know my kid needs the help. To think that you can get it right by yourself or even worse, let you child (yes despite the hormones, and height, etc. they really still often are children) decide well good luck with that! nr


November vacation conflict with college applications

April 2011


Greetings - here's a question about timing: my husband and I are celebrating our twentieth anniversary in the fall and have never been away from the kids on a vacation of our own, so months ago we turned in our miles for a week in Europe. We planned this trip for November and now that I'm entering the college application process with my junior daughter, I'm realizing that leaving for a week in the middle of the November of her senior year may not be such a good idea. Since we used miles, we could make a change in the calendar year. I don't want to give up our long-awaited vacation, but I also don't want to abandon my daughter at a crucial time in the application process. We'd be gone over Thanksgiving week but there are all sorts of deadlines around that time. My husband is graciously being flexible, but I'd like to do the right thing for both my marriage and my college-bound daughter. If you've been through this with your kid, how busy is this period? Is it terrible timing or should we forge ahead and treat this as an enabling time for her to do things on her own for a week? Really on the fence about rescheduling. Bad vacation planning on my part

She is the one going to college, not you. You deserve the time alone wiht your husband. I had nothing to do with my two daughters' applications and they had no problem getting them done and in on time. Make sure she has a way to pay for the apps though. She is old enough to make sure they get down and besides, she is the one writing the essays and filling out the forms. These days you can keep in touch via Skype or just phone so you won't actually be that far away. Already done that

Senior year and college applications is fraught with stress for both parents and child. So why not finish off the process *early* and then go on your November vacation? It can be done through the process of ''early decision'' and ''early action'' applications.

By early, we really mean ''early'', with most college deadlines for these applications (including transcripts, recommendations and completed applications with essays) mid-October to early November - well before your Thanksgiving European vacation. For example, Boston College, Harvard and Stanford's early action filing deadline is November 1st. UC does not offer early action or early decision, but the application process opens November 1st, so you just file the application the first week and miss the last-minute rush.

''Early action'' means it's a non-binding decision so the student can apply to other colleges as well (N.B. some colleges have ''single choice early action'' which precludes early application but not regular applications to other colleges). ''Early decision'' is binding. The student should only do an ''early decision'' application if he/she really wants to go to that school. Most schools inform the student of their decision before the end of the year, while regular applicants have to wait until March or April of the following year. If the student isn't accepted early, the application is returned to the applicant pool with the regular deadline students, so it can be reconsidered.

So if your student knows where he/she wants to go, go ''early''. You'll beat the rush, get a decision much faster than everyone else, and be relaxing over the Thanksgiving holiday while other students are frantically trying to upload their first essays and overloading the server (happens every November 30th on the UC applications system). Good Luck

Keep your travel plans intact. If you must work with your student on college applications, why not complete them together before you leave? If your student is completing them on his/her own, it's not your problem. In any case, not all college deadlines are Nov 30th.

I hope you've made arrangements for an adult to stay at the house with your teen while you're gone. Not because your teen can't get to school without help, but to take away the temptation to have a big party. Go ahead and travel!

Wait listed at first-choice college

Feb 2011

My daughter just heard from her first choice college, Brandeis. She has been wait listed. The letter she received indicates there is no ranking of the wait list & doesn't say how the wait list works. Looking for current information about college waiting lists in general & Brandeis in particular. Thanks. first time college mama

The head of admissions from Stanford spoke at our high school this year. He said wait lists are three times as big as the incoming freshman class and the odds of moving off the wait list are slim. You should realistically look at your other acceptances and wait hopefully. Good luck to your daughter. anon

You should check out a web site called college confidential It has discussion boards for the admission process in general and for many schools individually. For example the discussion board for Brandeis is /

The content for each school is completely dependent on what people post there. I'm not sure if the current threads address the Brandeis wait list, but you could start one. You should also look at the threads for other comparable schools to get a sense of general trends regarding wait lists, as well as what people suggest to improve the chances of getting in from a wait list. It's been about 6 years since we were in your situation, but from reading numerous threads at College Confidential, I was able to figure out very early that it was going to be a tough year to get off the wait list at many schools, including the ones where my son was wait-listed. It helped a lot to know that.

College counselors tend to dislike College Confidential, because there is no accuracy check on what people write and no assurance of a balanced perspective. However if you keep these factors in mind it can be a very useful source of information and scuttlebutt. For instance, the school my son attended required a dorm selection. He was out of the country and unable to visit the school to make an informed choice. I found that the info on the College Confidential thread on the topic was very consistent with what I learned myself on a campus tour and by speaking directly to current and former students. Had we been forced to make a decision without visiting the school the College Confidential online advice would have served us in good stead.

Parent's role vs. kid's role in application process

Jan 2011


Dear Community: We are the parents of a seventeen-year-old high school junior who is just beginning to navigate the colleges selection/admissions process. I would love to benefit from the experience of (as well as congratulate) those parents who have recently been through this undertaking. Specifically, I'd love to know: what was your role in this whole thing? How much advice/counsel/guidance did you offer? How much did your son/daughter manage the process on his/her own? What do you wish you'd known at the outset?

I can already tell my daughter is daunted by the whole concept of college applications and test-taking. She goes to a great local private school which I'm hoping will play an active role in this whole endeavor.

Did you use the services of a college counselor? Was the helpful? Was it worth the expense? Is this useful given that she's already in private school?

Any sage advice from the veterans in our community would be much appreciated. Hoping to strike the right balance

We hired a college advisor despite the fact that our child was at an excellent private school. The college advisor was very helpful in giving us advice about possible schools and navigating the process. I suggest asking senior parents at your school about how much one-on-one time the advisors give to students and how happy the parents are with the services they get. That will help you decide whether to hire someone. Watch out, though, if you decide to hire someone, you will find that spring of the junior year is late to be looking for someone.

Our child's role was to continue to do well in school, extra-curriculars and work. He had to study for and take several standardized tests and be personable and intelligent in interviews. He wrote the essays and completed the applications - which were reviewed by the college advisor and his parents. His parents developed spreadsheets to track all of the deadlines and created a filing system to organize all of the information. We also traveled with him to look at colleges and gave our opinions. My experience is that it is a rare student who can truly do it all on his/her own. Some students are forced to by circumstance, which doesn't sound like your case. While my son was in high school, there were parents who claimed their child was doing it all on his/her own, but a year later, stories revealed that not to be the case. So much is expected of these kids. They deserve the support we can give them, I think.

I think that one thing that helped to reduce stress was to encourage our son to not focus on the one favorite school and to leave decisionmaking about favorites until after he had acceptances. Hope that helps. Good luck! College Parent

I think there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to how to approach college admissions. It really depends on how much your teen wants/allows you to be part of the process. If she sees how much is involved,she will probably welcome at least some help and guidance. My daughter attends Berkeley High where the college advisors are very organized. (They have to be when there are only two counselors for over 800 seniors and I'm guessing that many juniors too.) Take advantage of any college info evenings the school sponsors and make sure your daughter knows where the college/career center is at her school. Encourage her to look at lots of colleges and universities online to get general impressions, so she can begin thinking about the type of school that would be the best fit.

We took spring break of my daughter's Junior year to make appointments at five different schools on the East Coast, and it was a great way to narrow down the long list of possibilities. She had thought she really wanted to go to Columbia, but after visiting, she was glad she had gone to the campus because she decided she didn't want a huge urban school after all. She didn't know much about Wheaton in Massachussets before our visit, but absolutely loved it when we toured there, and decided that she was more drawn to smaller liberal arts colleges.

The next step was getting her to articulate her goals, interests, and criteria in a college. Once she'd done that, we made an appointment with Wendy Morrison, a local college counselor/private consultant who really knows her stuff. Our family met with her for an hour and a half, and she had great suggestions for schools for my daughter to apply to and had a lot of substantive information about the schools my daughter was considering. Great investment.

Then there's a mountain of deadlines and supplementary essays to keep track of. Be sure to check on word counts. Twice my daughter misread the allowed length of the essay as the number of words instead of characters, so doublecheck the little stuff. Good luck! TG

It is a defining time- the era of college apps. I pushed and prodded. She resisted and detested. We came head to head and agreed I would remove myself from the equation and she would instead seek assistance from counselors and older kid's parents who had done it already. In the end she came up to the plate and did it herself (not without some breakdowns along the way), but she would not have gotten there had I not set up test dates coached and emailed about opportunities, deadlines etc.

We just received her first acceptance with a healthy scholarship to a small private east coast school! I am so proud of her. She is so proud of herself. She is now charging along applying for scholarships she was nominated for or I found and suggested.

College faires helped and a couple days of us just making ''yeah'' and ''nay'' piles in the living room from the zillions of packages received as well as assistance from a friends' mother who spent hours matching her interests and academics to schools with financial aid.

It is a delicate and self adjusting balance. you need to support and direct and then step back and watch or close your eyes and hold your breath. In the end it is a great threshold-teachable moment for all. Enjoy the ride. Good luck! V.

Many of us know how stressful the college application process can be - we're just finishing up the process at my house. My family is working with InsideTrack, a great company that partners your teen with a coach to guide them through the college search and admissions process. It seems like the biggest issue during junior year is to start figuring out the college list and mapping out a plan for the dreaded standardized tests. I strongly recommend that you check out My son is working with Maria, who is fantastic. I find that having a coach work with my student helps ease my stress level as I know that deadlines are being met without having to constantly nag! Best of luck to you - this really is an exciting time and getting some help in the process actually makes it fun! Your student will mature right in front of you. A Little Less Stressed Mom

IMPORTANT for parents granting their teens independence in the college process:

We had a very unfortunate event due to accommodating our son's request to ''handle it on his own'' (college app process). He recently turned 18 and has been craving more responsibility. He applied to state colleges through CSU Mentor and got some confirmations by mail and some via email. We asked his next steps and he said he would hear sometime between Feb and April of decisions and he'dd keep us in the loop.

He got some letters in Jan and followed up on others via automated phone systems but he hadn't heard from his preferred. Together we checked the original app confirmation email which explicitly advises to check CSU Mentor often as it is the ''primary source of information and communication regarding your application''. In his account, the last note (posted on Jan 7) said his application had been dropped because he had not submitted his ACT/SAT scores when requested and there's no appeal since the campus is impacted and many other applicants had submitted their info in a timely manner! What happened?!?!

When looking over the CSU Mentor account there had been 2 notices in December asking for his test scores and 7 or 8 prior messages with generic ''keep your grades up'' notices reminding him ''not to get senioritis'' and that his final GPA would be important.

My son's explanation:

After submitting his apps he'd checked CSU Mentor once a week. On seeing the generic emails, he assumed that nothing important would be there till admissions/rejection notices and he stopped looking.

It wasn't until his first responses came in that he checked again and by that time it was too late! Now he'll never know if he would have been accepted to his favorite school and has to wait a year if he wants to reapply!

In hindsight, I realize as a first-time-college-app-parent, I didn't know what to look for or what challenges there might be. I assumed his counselor would follow up and test scores would automatically be sent.

My advice: support your kid's request for independence, but don't let go completely. Set up a regular schedule for monitoring the process and keep in touch with other adults assisting your child (counselors, advisors, tutors, etc.) and ask for updates. And remember to check for post-app requirements within the first month after the deadline.

This was a tough life-lesson for all of us and maybe this will spare someone our pain! anon


How to celebrate finishing college applications

Nov 2010


My daughter and many of her friends will be finishing up college applications over the next few weeks, and we'd like to take them out to celebrate. I've been hearing about restaurants that are now making a nice range of alcohol free mixed drinks. Can anyone recommend a place, preferably in the east bay, that makes good ones? We'd love for them (and the adults with us who don't drink) to be able to celebrate with something more festive than soda or fruit juice. Thanks! Light at the End of the Tunnel

How about Yoshi's at Jack London Square? I honestly don't know about their drinks, though they have a full bar and I am sure could mix any cocktail without the alcohol-- but taking your daughter and one or two friends to hear good music is a great and grown-up kind of celebration. Music Lover

my daughter and her friends had started a little celebration process that they extended to finishing college applications.

At the end of every semester the kids gathered in our back yard around the fire pit (nothing glamorous - one we got from Target a few years back - you can even do it in a barbq) and they clean out their back packs and burn all the paper, etc. they no longer needed.

When they all finished their college applications they did a slightly bigger celebration - they brought over all the papers, drafts, practice tests, all the mail they no longer needed from the schools, one kid even burned her SAT prep book - they took pictures, made s'mores, we made virgin margaritas, and they were out there talking around the fire for hours! A picture of the burning of the SAT book became my daughter's home page on her computer for a long time - it was personally symbolic for them, they created it, it was easy and certainly inexpensive as some of the kids have little money for a more fancy celebration and was of their own making. It was a really lovely nite for us to see them talking outside for hours. Its now become a continued gathering as they are all now in college. They will all be back over winter break to sit around the fire. another mom


Parent ''brag sheet'' for high school counselor

Oct 2008


My hs senior brought home a form from Albany High, the parents ''brag sheet''. This is to help the counselors write letters of rec. for the kids.

I'm supposed to list what I consider my son's most outstanding accomplishements in the past 3 or 4 years and why am I choosing these as most important? Academic accomplishements and interests and examples. Non academic....

I have to admit I have no idea how to start this? My son has accomplished maturity, independance, compassion, ''menschlekeit''....these are the outstanding accomplishements in my opinion.

He had a Bar Mitzvah, he fenced in a tournament, he went to this what they want to know about? Help from anyone who's done this....I need examples. Thanks, college mom

It sounds like you've got some great examples for your brag sheet. The brag sheet doesn't matter unless your student is applying to private colleges or for scholarships where the counselor's input is requested. Don't stress!

Congratulations! You just wrote your son's brag sheet! All the accomplishments and activities you listed for your son are what you can include. Just flesh them out a little more, where, when, how. (I have no idea what ''menschlekeit'' means, so if you choose to use that word, I would translate it.) They say it's a little like writing a job reference, but I think it should be more personal as you are his mother, afterall. I think if you can tie in his choices of classes to some of his interests and then what he has done with them (if anything) outside of school, that would good. They want anecdotes, so try to remember what happened over the past year or so (I found this part hard...).

good luck!

''My son has accomplished maturity, independance, compassion, ''menschlekeit''....these are the outstanding accomplishements in my opinion. He had a Bar Mitzvah, he fenced in a tournament, he went to this what they want to know about? mother of a senior too


Apply to a major or undeclared?

Sept 2008


I'm going crazy with my first-born and the college application process. I am on the faculty at UCB but am getting different info from the admissions office and the college of Natural Resources (believe me there is no advantage to getting inside info just because you are on the faculty! I'm in the dark just like everyone else!) My daughter is interested in Near Eastern Studies in the college of Letters and Science , but I'm told that her application will be treated as ''undeclared'' I'm assuming this will make it harder to get in. She's also interested in Forestry thru Natural Resources. My question- Would it be best to apply to Letters and Sciences with Near Eastern Studies or Natural Resources in Forestry. The bottom line- which choice would better her chances of getting in ( assuming all else being equal, essay etc..) Thanks so much! It wasn't this hard when I went to UCB

No easy answers here. First, evaluate how your daughter looks on paper--has she been taking a Near Eastern language? Is she good in science? What SAT Subject test scores are strongest? These might tie in to how strong she looks as a candidate. You could call each department and ask: If my daughter entered in Letters and Sciences and wanted to transfer into Forestry, how difficult would it be? Ask the Near Eastern Studies department the same question and also ask why you can't declare it as a major and what is necessary to declare it as a major. The answers to these questions will help. But in the end, there are no guarantees, so she should choose the direction she likes the best. Another option is to apply to several different universities, half applying as a Forestry major (if they have that major) and half applying as a Near Eastern Studies major. Then come April, she can see where she gets in and decide which direction she's most likely to pursue. Anonymous

I am a UCB faculty member with 2 children at UCB and a lot of experience with admissions-related administration. In L, there is no such thing as really having a major when you come in as a freshman. All freshman are treated the same and your major does not affect admission. The ''major'' options are used for some sort of statistical purposes but you are not in a major when you get here. If your child has a sincere interest in the environment (even the Near Eastern one) I recommend CNR. There is a major in Society and Environment where she could focus on the Near East, and an interdisciplinary major you write yourself that could include the Near East. Forestry is also a good major, and there are a lot of options besides forestry in the natural resources. In CNR, your choice of major will also not affect your ability to get in. Admissions are done for everyone the same way by the same people. It is a big disservice to your child to have them apply to CNR if they are not interested in environment (bad for their self-respect too, shows a big lack of faith). Environmental stuff is also growing in popularity, so CNR is as competitive as anything else. The advantage is that it is a smaller college home, though the lower division giganto courses are the same for everyone.

Believe it or not, the other UCs also have some great programs too. berkeley mom


In a big panic about the college application process

Sept 2007


Now that the time has come, sure enough I'm in a big panic! I went to a meeting last year at my daughters school and came away with the knowledge that the whole college applicaiton process is very stressful. Of course I've been worrying for a year, but haven't really done too much about it. I'd like to know if there is help out there, what do other parents do? I'm a single mom and was not educated in this country, so I feel like I'm at a disadvantage. Are there inexpensive (or free) ways to find out exactly what you're supposed to do?

As concerns how to pay for college, you need look no further than Frances Fee (ffee [at] Frances has mastered the financial aid application progress and is able to give you a realistic picture of how tuition will impact your student's/your budget. I can't recommend her highly enough. And, she is there to help you during the entire undergraduate years. Her fees are very fair and she is very generous with her time. You will not be sorry if you contact her. Tuition Anxiety-Free Mom

Thought this was a great article about out of sight high priced college loans and the costs of education: ''High-Priced Student Loans Spell Trouble'' Sunday September 30, 2:14 pm ET By Marcy Gordon, AP Business Writer

We did a very detailed analysis of costs and benefits of private colleges vs University of California, I think a lot of other people are too, considering the numbers entering UC this fall. College Teen Parent

My daughter is applying colleges now, so I can not give any advices. I am just giving information which might help other parents or become indicators.

My daughter wants to major Engineering and applying UC schools, CalPoly, and some Ivy schools. Although I didn\x92t major Engineering, I took several Math and Engineering courses at Cal, so I do not recommend my daughter to go to Cal. When I was a student there, major classes were too crowded. Beginning of each semester, there were hundreds of students sitting down on the floor for first couple months until half of the classmates dropped. These classrooms were made for three hundreds students or so. I also had to wait for a long line, when I wanted ask professors questions and sometimes late for next class. It might be similar for any other classes which are requirement. Classes must be more packed now and next few years.

About private counselors and tutors:
Although my daughter told me several students at her school use private counselors or tutors, not many people can afford them. I can\x92t. But I don\x92t think my daughter is behind or doing less than those students. We use any help from our family and friends. I tutored her mathematics through Calculus, and her uncle who is a lawyer helped her history classes. Her father\x92s friend who is a magazine editor checked her English essays (but he didn\x92t change a lot). My daughter decided her father (high school English teacher) is not good enough, and her other uncle (high school history teacher) is not willing to help her.

AP classes:
My daughter observed and analyzed (she likes to analyze everything) students/friends who graduated last 2 years, and she is using them as indicators. Some of the indicators are; Science/Engineering students who finished Calculus AB & BC (and or other AP classes) during their junior years tend to go to Cal, while many students who took it during senior years went to CalPoly or State Universities. Among them, who took score 5 on AP Calculus exams were accepted by schools where they wanted to go, such as Stanford and Harvard. Also many of them went to Cal Engineering/Science. I don\x92t know how schools consider AP classes and scores, but students can demonstrate how they are challenging. If you take AP exams by junior years, you can put scores on the application. It might be similar for other majors, although I don\x92t know which AP classes are important for them. These indicators helped her decide where she apply, and not to apply.

Public schools or private schools:
Since I can not afford for a private school, we made a deal. My daughter can go to a private school only if she gets full scholarships. If she gets it, I will not complain how far the school is. It will be difficult for me, but I have to have respect for her choice and effort. There were several students from her school who went to Ivy schools with full scholarships last years. Their financial backgrounds vary. At least one of the students has professional parents. However, their performances are alike. They took many AP classes, there were in varsity sports, leaderships or community services. But not all of them were perfect.

I will see what will happen to my daughter, who tries hard but not perfect. If she gets in where she wants, I will help friends\x92 kids as a free tutor. Teen's mom


Need help getting started with college application

Sept 2007


My son is a Senior this year in Albany. He is an African American student seeking to attend a historical Black college. His SAT scores are sort of low but has a strong cummlitive GPA. This is my first child to go to college and I need to make sure we are on the right path with our applications. S

Start here:

and here

If you child plans to go to a four year college. The Collegeboard site is very helpful, and it is where you register for the SAT test. The site is for The ACT. Your child needs to take one of these if not both, usually the SAT for most colleges. I would also get out the tea pot, or ice water jug and start sitting down with your senior every week, either after school or after weekend breakfast and have some talks about what they want to do or don't want to do. Four year college is not for everyone, but most work these days is requiring a Bachelors degree. This degree can be helpful even if someone pursues a career in Art or as a Chef, since this will be good preparation for project or business management. If your child wants a training program, you need to look into that, and there may be financial aid depending on the program.

Get your financial records in order and file for Financial aid as soon as they will take it, don't wait for the deadline. Financial packages are often awarded first come first served. As a single mother without a lot of money your child may qualify for a maximum financial award, though this may also involve a rather large loan. Read the paypack terms, since it is best to have no interest while in school or deferred low interest, there is interest while in school, but you pay later and payment after leaving school.

The worst loans are high interest, with fees of all kinds, and require payments immediately, do not take out these loans!

If you do not understand the loan terms, make an appointment with your banker - if you have a checking or a savings account, your bank may help you understand these options, or again speak with the college counselor.

Beware programs for quick easy college loans on the internet. The best ones are usually administered thru the college and are Federally guaranteed. Check and see if the college you are most interested has one bank or a choice of banks. There have been a few situations lately where private colleges were sending all of the loan business to only one bank with terms that were not competitive with other banks. Borrower needs to understand the terms.

California has an amazing system of public colleges: University of California Campuses, California State University campuses, and many, many exceptional community colleges and programs. The University of Texas, the University of Oregon and the University of Vermont and the SUNY system of New York are very worth while to look at for lower costs and excellent opportunities among others. Some of the other state university systems are a little easier to get into than the University of California.

Make an appointment with you child's college counselor as soon as possible. Ask for help from the principal, and her favorite teachers as well. Ask the librarian to help you with resources. There are many books at the library, and you can read through many of the current editions at Barnes and Noble, since they allow browsing.

Make a wall chart and get bizzy. If you cannot afford the application fees or college exam entrance fees you can get waivers, however it is getting pretty late. Your child needs to be scheduled or have taken the exams already. Did it last year, you can too


Advice for high school junior about applying to colleges

Sept 2007


My oldest daughter, now 16 and in 11grade, is a hardworking, strong (though not stellar) student. GPA hovering at 3.8. She is not as strong in math and sciences; still searching for her calling in life. She's definitely college bound, however, not one to stray too far from California. We didn't have enough to put away big bucks for the private school of her choice. We're middle class and unlikely to qualify for scholarships or grants. We'd like to hear from parents who have been there and any advice to high school students preparing for college and anything you would have done differently with your own kids to prepare them for the future. Thank you for sharing your insights! Signed, Newbie Parents

Do not let cost be the determining factor in choosing a college that will fit your child. My child was similar to yours as far as academics and standings. We, too, are what one would call middle class. We looked at who our child is, her interests, geographic desires (not straying too far from home) and found a few schools that fit her criteria. We did not look at cost. To our surprise we were awarded interest free loans and a small grant which made the tuition possible. Fortunately, she loves her school in the pacifc northwest and we're able to make it work. Visit schools and go with an open mind as to how you will pay for it. Sometimes situations have a way of working themselves out. parent who has been there

Yes, I have a couple thoughts for you and your daughter.

First, visit a few local campuses during your 11th grade that represent the different kinds of schools, e.g., small private (U. of Pacific, Mills, St. Mary's,...), big public (Cal, SF State, Chico), urban (Cal, SF State, SJ State), midsize to small town (Davis, Chico, Humboldt). Town and school on same page (Humboldt, Davis). Town and school on separate pages (Mills, Evergreen St.). Residential v. commuter (e.g., most of the above v. Sac. State or SJ State). Do a couple, and she will pretty quickly have a read on size and location, private v. public. Preppy v. broad spectrum.

Really, just a couple visits will do.

Second, make sure she sits in on classes by herself to get a read on the school. Have a meal in the cafeteria. Possibly spend a night in the dorm. The more personal contact, the better. She can look through a couple department offerings and email the teachers to see if it is ok to sit in. Most cases will welcome you.

Third, go when your high school is out of session and the college is in session. E.g., Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving week, President's Day Weekend, etc.

Do not put too much weight in the organized visits arranged by the colleges. They give you tours of buildings, led by a couple of peppy kids. You miss the real nitty gritty of seeing the teachers and kids in action. Your daughter will get ton's out of this, which cannot be conveyed at the college's organized events.

Also, if you can help it, avoid driving through a campus on a weekend ''just to see the place'' is a very distorted view - one that is just a bunch of buildings.

Note also that if you take one college walking tour, you have probably taken all of them. You can start one, but in 5 minutes you will see the same picture from the previous one.

Fourth, if you can afford the $500 to 800, get the services of a college applications consultant. That can help a lot, mainly by taking you out of the picture. That financial investment is small compared to a year's wasted tuition at the wrong school.

Fifth, get validation that your daughter is ready for college and wants to go. Very important. Consider options. If you can afford $600, I recommend the Johnson O'Connor Research Institute in San Francisco. They do a two day evaluation of interests and capabilities using written and manual tests and interviews. The stuff they get will blow your mind, stuff you'll never get from an academic setting. This experience really opened up the options and vision for our daughter.

Sixth, consider alternative college formats, e.g., at Evergreen State (in Olympia, Washington) and Colorado College (in Colorado Springs, CO). Evergreen may be 50 to 100 years ahead of all the rest of the colleges in the country.

There are probably other idea's you will get from others on the board. I wish you the very best of luck. Nathan

post script correction. The purpose of the recommendations I gave in the previous reply was to find out the kind of college and perhaps the kind of location that will work for her. Doing this during the 11th grade can open up new ideas and eliminate some non-starters for her. In the 12th grade, she can then find the many options that fulfill her needs. No specific recommendation for any of those colleges is intended. Again, good luck. Nathan

I found myself in a similar situation and learned that there are lots of private colleges out there ready to offer generous scholarships/grants to students such as your daughter. My daughter is attending a small liberal arts college in California, and my tuition contribution is less than what I would have had to pay for a UC because I was not eligible for UC finanacial aid. Also, it was my experience that private institutions were not as locked into the numbers game (GPA, SAT) but were more apt to consider factors such as extra-curricular activities and who my child is as an individual. I encourage you to look into private college financial aid opportunities. And, by all means secure interviews -- on campus if possible. Good luck. Grateful college parent

Oh my, not stellar? Your daughter is doing GREAT in school! There are tons of parents who wish they had your ''dilemma''. Keep encouraging her to keep up her grades. 3.8 is high enough to apply for the multitude of scholarships available. I started with Fastweb: Apply early and keep track of your applications. If she goes to a community college for the first two years, it will give you a chance to save some money. Diablo Valley and Santa Rosa are the most 4yr college focused in the area, and they have a program that will guarantee her admission to a UC after 2 years. I worked for someone who went to Diablo Valley, then was accepted and attended Wellesley!

My youngest is in 10th grade now, and her dream school is $30000 a year. We have saved some money, but nothing like that. We have already told our kids that we expect them to pick up some of the tab by taking out student loans and working part time. Good luck. The next couple of years are full of transitions and changes. Our kids think they're grown up, but sometimes they just need to come home and be tucked in and have a bedtime talk. jenny

With a 3.8gpa, your daughter will more than likely have a number of UC and CSU schools to choose from.


How much should I help ADD teen with college apps?

Oct 2006


My son is a senior at Berkeley High Independent Study. He has a dx of ADD, though is not on meds for it. He is attempting to complete some online high school courses to make up for some earlier bad grades. He says he wants to go to college but won't see the college counselor,won't finish his online courses, won't even pick a college to send ACT scores to, etc. Time management is an issue with his ADD. I want to help him get to college but feel that I'm having to push too much. If I don't push I don't think he'll get to a 4yr college next year, but if I do push will he even be ready for a 4yr college? Hope someone has some experience with this. Thanks.

Your son is doing (or not doing)the same thing my daughter did last year. Some people call it ''senioritis''. I called it laziness. She was just completely unmotivated to do her schoolwork. Despite passing the exit exam in 10th grade and high test scores, she did not pass 2 of her classes and did not get to ''walk the stage'' at graduation. She spent the summer in school. She was not alone. Out of the 70 kids in her graduating class 16 did not graduate or participate in the ceremony. But now she's at DVC, working and saving to move out. We knew last year that she wanted to go to DVC for the first 2 years, take the UC program, and then go to UC Santa Cruz.

I know theres a certain prestige when your child gets into Berkeley or NYU, but you have to remember when they turn 18, they are adults and have to make their own decisions. We can decide if we will support them financially, but they have to have their own goals.

I know several adults with ADD or ADHD, and they tend to be the ''go-getters''. Some, like my brother, went off medication in his mid-teens, and it took a few years after high school for him to get started, but he's doing quite well now. Good luck to you and your son Jenny

My first thought on reading your post was ''but, why isn't he on meds?'' Our experience has been that they can be catalytic in success at school. My college freshman would not be in college without them.

That said, you're right that you can only help as much as you expect to be able to help once he's in college -- unless he will be attending a school that will offer the help he needs. If that's an option (Landmark College actually specializes in ADD and LD kids, many schools offer support services) than do what it takes to keep him on track, knowing that increased maturity will also help him next year.
ADD Mom to ADD kids


Where to start in college application process

Oct 2001


Can anyone tell me what the standard procedures are for a high-schooler headed for college? Evidently all my sons friends took the PSAT this month, but my son did not. I wasn't aware that sophomores - which he is - took PSAT's. He's a great student and I see college as a definite. His high school is just so middle of the road - College Park High in Pleasant Hill. It isn't one of the top schools in the area, nor is it one of the worst, where a college might actively do some outreach.

I went to college in Florida where kids were guaranteed placement in college and my husband is foreign so neither of us had to deal with tests, competition, or applying to various colleges. So, during the high school years, just what should a kid be doing to get into college? (Evidently taking the PSAT is one of them.) I remember taking the ACT test to get into college, yet I never hear about it around here. When should a student take a PSAT, the SAT, ACT? How soon do you start applying to college? How, when and where does one go to apply for scholarships, grants, financial aid? Some kind of time line and what steps should be taken would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Wow! There's tons of information about college planning on ! Thanks, Frances C.! --Ann

It seems that you would be wise to seek the help of a college counsellor, who can guide you through the whole process. I highly recommend Wendy Morrison. She is very knowledgable, totally committed to finding the best fit for your child and works very well with teenagers as well as their parents. Her phone number is 510/384-5962. Corinne

To the parent who wants to know what to do to get ready for college -- If her child's school doesn't have an email list, I recommend she get on the Berkeley High School email list, even though her child doesn't go there. The bulletins re college admissions are great. Send an email to bhs-request AT with ONLY the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject and nothing in the message. Anonymous