5 Things I Wish I Knew–Before They Went to College

Four years ago today, I posted this story after attending college orientation with my youngest. I can’t get my mind around how fast and fun these college years have been with both my kids. There’s so much I would do over if there were things called “do-overs.” I learned so much from the experience and want to share five things I wish someone would have told me before they left home.

 

This week I made the trek to the University of Utah to attend orientation with my daughter, who is an incoming freshman. Class of 2018 — does that sound scary or what?images-1

I spent two days in the pristine mountainside beauty of Salt Lake City with clear blue skies and intense sunshine. Parents attended most meetings without their kids, who were similarly engaged with topics angled for teenage consumption.summerFun_FrisbeeGolf_LBoye_067

Having been to college orientation three years prior with my firstborn, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. However, in “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development, I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college.

“I think she’s met my son — the one who’s going to be a senior in college,” I whispered to a mom next to me. (He’s also the son who tried to give away the cat on FB.)

She answered, “No, I’m sure she’s talking about my oldest daughter!”

What did Dr. Ellingson have to say that we wished we heard the first time around?imgres-10First…

Children go through changes. But, if it’s your first child going to college, or your last, you will be going through changes, too. We are in the process of changing our relationship from parent to child to adult to adult. We go through transitions, pushing them away and holding them close.

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A student who works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus or doesn’t work at all. Students working on campus are making connections with the campus, student, and staff. They are completing their identity as a student first.

Students born from 1980 to 2000 are known as millennials. They don’t like to suffer —  they love nice things — and they don’t mind working for them. Unfortunately, this can interfere with their education. So, if they want spending money, suggest a job on campus.

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Cell phones according to Dr. Ellingson, are “the world’s longest umbilical cords.” Some students call home 5, 6, 7 times a day. In our day, we waited in line for the phone down the hall on Sundays — when long distance was cheaper — and horror of all horrors — there wasn’t such a thing as a cell phone!

Don’t let your child’s crisis become your crisis. Let them problem solve. Ellingson’s example was a daughter who called her mom and said, “I flunked my midterm. The professor hates me…” After consoling her crying daughter, the mother called back later with more advice. The daughter was like, “Huh? What are you talking about? Everything’s fine.”

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They are learning to become themselves. Making new friends. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes.

They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels. You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!”

Intellectually they are still developing. They see things differently than before. They love to debate. They will try out their debating skills, or how to express themselves by choosing opinions contrary to yours, even if it isn’t what they truly believe.

And Fifth…imgres-2
Dr. Ellingson talked about independence: “Their first steps as a toddler are towards you. Every step after that is running away from you.”

They need to discover how to be on their own — and this is one of their fears. Delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28. They will say to you “Leave me alone!” Then, “bail me out!” This is normal. The pendulum will swing back and forth.

Just remember to love them, guide them, but let them figure it out. The more we solve their problems, the more we delay their growth into independent, responsible adults.

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And one more thing…”GO, UTES!!!”


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And just like that….it’s over

 

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Graduation day.

I am sitting at home after my morning walk with Waffles the pug, enjoying my cup of coffee–like nothing has happened. Yesterday at this time, I was driving across the desert from Cima to Amboy. I actually love that drive through the desert Mojave National Preserve and Sheephole Valley Wilderness. There is so much vast space—desert wilderness and craggy mountains with nothing but Joshua trees and wildflowers. We saw exactly one car going our way. There were five or six heading in the other direction towards Vegas.

We left on Wednesday to drive 652 miles for our daughter’s graduation. With my recent surgery, there’s no way I could sit in a car for 10 hours, so we broke it up with an overnight stay in St. George. I keep saying that I’d like to go to the beautiful sites around St. George like Zion National Park, but we’re always on our way to Salt Lake City with no time to explore. Someday, we say.

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Walking into the Huntsman Center for graduation.

 

So, to get on with the story, we drove for two days for our daughter’s graduation. She was also moving out of the house she’s lived in for three years. Needless to say, she has a ton of stuff and although most of the work was done, there wasn’t a lot of time to relax. On the day of her graduation, we were working out where to pack and ship boxes that would not fit in her storage unit with furniture, kitchen stuff and winter tires — or either of our cars. Then graduation happened. I was shocked to see literally more than a thousand graduates in her major. We skipped the general commencement and I’m glad about that. The David Eccles School of Business was plenty long and meaningful. Then it was off to dinner with her friends at one of our favorite places, Valter’s Osteria. It’s a perfect place for a celebratory meal. And we listened to three or four happy birthday songs while we ate a delicious Italian meal.

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This guy is mine for the next three months.

 

The next morning we were up early and she was letting in the carpet cleaners and throwing away junk left by the previous year’s roommates. On the road, we stopped to say goodbye to our dear friends, my husband’s childhood friend Pastor Scott of CenterPoint Church in Orem, who’s been a surrogate dad to our daughter these past four years.

Eventually, we made it home, and I wonder where the past few days went–let alone the past four years.  I haven’t had time to process graduation, much less have time to enjoy it. All I can say is I’m glad my daughter is home for a few weeks. It feels so right to have her here–although she will be leaving soon for her next adventure in life.

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And she’s a graduate.

 

 

 

Parents are helping kids cheat on SATs

 

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Move-in weekend for college.

 

Here’s a strange trend, The number of parents asking for special accommodations for their high school kids taking the ACT and SAT has more than doubled in recent years. In “Rich parents are using doctor’s notes to help kids cheat the SATs” by Doree Lewak in the New York Post this trend is discussed:

“The ACT says that roughly 5 percent of students taking the test receive accommodations, most commonly for extra time. Prior to 2003, it was less than 2 percent. The College Board, which administers the SATs, along with the PSATs and AP exams, says that it’s also seen an uptick in accommodations in recent years — from 1.4 percent in 2012 to 3 percent last year.”

Some parents, who aren’t able to pay $4,000 to $6,000 for a psychological evaluation and the coveted doctor’s note, are calling foul. One mom named Kim Gronich is considering suing her teen daughter’s school.

“She’s coming up against all of these kids who bought extra time from a doctor’s note. It’s outrageous and it’s rampant,” says Gronich, who is considering filing a lawsuit against her daughter’s school for helping so many get special treatment. “The other kids are there for hours more … These are the children who are cheating and getting away with it.”

When it comes to getting into top colleges, well-heeled parents will do anything to give their kids a leg up on the competition. An increasingly common tactic is getting kids extra time on the ACTs and SATs because of a psychological diagnosis that may or may not be legitimate. Previously, the testing companies alerted colleges when students received extra time, but they stopped doing so in 2003, opening the door for abuse.

“Parents with means will stop at nothing to get their kid into college — that’s what they do,” says Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, an education lawyer and staunch opponent of the accommodation abuse.

I find these tactics so discouraging. Are parents today not learning anything? Can we not let our kids be kids? I’m sure these doctor’s notes are in addition to paying for SAT and ACT tutors or expensive prep classes, too. When we were kids, we showed up on a Saturday morning to take a test completely unprepared. The test score was what it was. A test score. Also, not that many students bothered to take the tests in the first place, only those applying to colleges that required a test score.

What type of diagnosis can give students accommodations on the test? And are they guaranteed to get more time? From the article it states:

Both the ACT and the College Board say that more than 90 percent of those seeking accommodations are successful. To get extra time, parents can pay thousands of dollars to have their child evaluated for a learning disorder by a private neuropsychology evaluator, typically a psychologist of some sort. If they’re not successful, they’ll often try a different psychologist, ponying up thousands of more dollars. Common diagnoses include ADHD and processing issues. The evaluation is sent to the school, where it’s typically accepted. In the unlikely event, it’s not, some parents hire a lawyer to appeal. When it comes time for a student to register for a standardized test, the school usually sends out a request on behalf of the student.

“More and more people are claiming to have these disabilities,” says Sam Abrams, a Manhattan academic and professor at Sarah Lawrence College who closely follows this issue. “Diagnoses can be trumped up. Severe anxiety disorder is ramped up like nobody’s business. It’s a catchall that nobody can argue with — it’s self-reported. If you don’t like the diagnosis of one person, you’ll find someone to find another therapist to diagnose your ‘anxiety.’ It’s so easy to get those diagnoses today.”

My son scored very high on his tests—without a prep class or tutoring—or special accommodations. Even with a perfect 800 in English and high 700s in Math, he didn’t get into an Ivy League school, which was his dream. I think we’re putting too much emphasis on test scores because they don’t really determine a thing. We need to back off and not try to fix everything for our kids. Also, my daughter, who was diagnosed with Scotopic Sensitive Syndrome, which is a sensitivity to light, could have gotten more time. There was no way she wanted it. Why on earth would she want to be stuck in the test for more than three and a half hours, was her take on it.

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One of my favorite pictures when they were young at Aliso Beach.

 

What are your thoughts about parents going the extra mile for special accommodations for the SAT and ACT?

When Your First Race is the Boston Marathon!

 

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Brett (right) with her siblings and mom and dad. (From left) Romy, Allie, Christy, mother Cathy, dad Andy, Andrew, Maggie and Buff. 

Brett Simpson, age 24, is running in her first race, the Boston Marathon, on behalf of her father and raising funds for kidney disease research. What a race to start with, right? A graduate of Princeton University and a four-year collegiate athlete, Brett was on the rowing team which won the Ivy League Championship in 2016 and she earned a top academic award from the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA). Although she hasn’t entered a race before, she said she’s been running as cross-training for rowing.

A college teammate who lives in Boston gave her the idea about the Boston Marathon. This teammate asked Brett to run and pace her for part of the New York Marathon since Brett lives in New York City. Her teammate from Boston, said, “I don’t know anyone else in NYC.” Brett said her friends from crew are “teammates for life and she’d drop anything in a moment to support them.” Later, her teammate suggested Brett should try the Boston Marathon. Brett explained that although this is a race with qualifying times if you represent a charity it’s possible to enter the race. Of course, since it’s her first race ever, she doesn’t have a time! After she looked through the listed charities the kidney disease research “jumped out at her.” She’s raising money for the Center for Kidney Disease Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which is the Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital.

I was surprised to learn that you can’t just sign up to represent BIDMC and raise money for them. Brett had to submit an essay and eventually was selected as someone who the hospital would want to represent them. Most of the team members are in Boston and there are two in NYC and in California. Brett said although she hasn’t met her “teammates” in person, they are a “virtual team with a coach that sends the workouts.”

Many collegiate athletes feel a loss after graduation when they no longer have their team to motivate them and be a part of their daily lives. Brett feels inspired by her father who is into athletics and would call her and ask about her running and workouts. Since he experienced kidney failure in July 2016, Brett’s inspiration to workout has come from her dad. She has to run for him.

 

 

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Sisters (from left) Maggie, Christy, Buff, Brett, Romy and Allie (seated).

In July 2016, Brett was far away from her dad, mom, and six siblings. She was with her Ivy League championship rowing team in the United Kingdom competing in the oldest rowing race in the world, the Henley Royal Regatta. She likened it to a big social as well as athletic event, similar to our Kentucky Derby. She said it was a unique and great experience, but she was worried about her dad. He’s been in and out of the hospital and on dialysis since.

In addition to academics and athletics, Brett is an accomplished bass player and was a member of the San Francisco Youth Symphony. In college, she couldn’t row and play in the orchestra, so she decided to pursue athletics. With five sisters and one brother who are gifted athletes and musicians, I asked her how they became such accomplished athletes. She said, “Well, we’re a tall crew and then there’s what my dad always told us.”

“My father always said personal fulfillment starts in the body. Discipline and joy come from challenging yourself physically first and then seeking out other challenges in life.”

Brett’s goal is to raise $7,500 for the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center by running the Boston Marathon April 16, 2018. She is looking for any size donations and would greatly appreciate all support. As far as running, her personal goal is to run in a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon in her first race ever.

Here’s a link to her donation page with her story: donate here.

Read more about Brett on the Roster from the Princeton Tigers Rowing page.

 

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Brett Simpson

 

Helicopter Parents’ New Role: College Concierges

 

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Before college, we hung out at the beach without worry.

In two articles I read today in the Washington Post and MarketWatch brought up helicopter parents continuing their hovering into their kids’ college years and a recently published study was cited:

“The study published this month in the journal Sociology of Education by three social scientists — Laura Hamilton of the University of California at Merced, Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia and Kelly Nielsen of the University of California at San Diego — followed a group of female students (and their parents) from 41 families. The students lived on the same dorm floor at an unnamed prominent Midwest public university (some of Hamilton’s research on this same group of women was featured in her 2013 book with Elizabeth A. Armstrong called ‘Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality’).”

I read about this study in the Washington Post in an article called “Rich parents are serving as ’college concierges’ for their kids — and it’s fueling inequality,” by Jillian Berman. I found the anecdote at the beginning of her article especially interesting because the scenario was achingly familiar. My husband encouraged my daughter to attend an internship informational meeting her sophomore year held by Goldman Sachs. Unlike the kids who attended the meeting in the story, she was booted out, because they wouldn’t allow anyone except juniors and seniors.

 

“A few years ago, I attended an internship recruitment presentation by Goldman Sachs at the University of Pennsylvania. It was early in the fall semester, but the Wall Street investment bank was already focused on hiring interns for the following summer.

“After the 45-minute presentation ended, I found a small group of students huddled in the back of the ballroom munching on free food. I discovered they were sophomores who weren’t even eligible for the internship but had come to gather intelligence and get a head start for next year. When I asked them who had suggested they come, they all had the same answer: their parents.

“It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. It has been well-documented that the generation of schoolchildren who went to college in the last decade were raised by “helicopter parents” (who helped their children do everything) and “snowplow parents” (who removed all barriers in front of their children). The question was what would happen when they left their childhood home and went to college.

“A new study attempts to answer that question. It shows that hovering parents don’t stop once their kids go off to college, and that’s particularly true for affluent and upper middle-class parents. Such parents continue to help their children in college, the study found, because they “know the potential to make a misstep — and the costs of doing so — may be higher than before.”

Here’s some more info about the study in “Helicopter parents don’t stay at home when the kids go to college — they keep hovering” by Jeffrey J. Selingo from the article on MarketWatch:

“The research isn’t definitive, but it’s backed up by previous studies on the issue. It’s based on interviews with only 41 families of young women who lived on the same floor in a dorm at a major public university in the Midwest. But it helps paint a picture of the different resources available to students as they navigate college life. The study also indicates that the variation in resources affects students’ life post-college.

“Of the affluent families studied, 87% of parents served as what the researchers described as a “college concierge” for their daughters — talking with them regularly, guiding them to certain majors tutors and academic-focused clubs, providing them contacts for internships and jobs, and even helping to manage their admission into sororities.

“In contrast, just 33% of the less-affluent families were heavily involved in their daughters’ college careers, but it made little difference because they didn’t have the resources and connections to necessarily guide their daughters’ successfully. For example, one middle-class family pushed their daughter towards a law school with a shoddy reputation.

“Affluent parents often use their resources to ensure their children have a qualitatively better educational experience at every level,” said Laura Hamilton, a sociology professor at the University of California-Merced and one of the authors of the study. “Parents’ class backgrounds remain really salient for children’s success all the way through their experiences.”

These articles are common sense. Parents who are college graduates know the ins-and-outs having been there themselves. Kids who are the first generation in their family to go to college, of course, won’t get that help from their parents who are unfamiliar with the territory. I know that colleges, nor high schools, go out of their way to help students find tutoring or the right classes. It’s a shame that they don’t, but it’s a reality. It’s a reminder that regardless of socioeconomic status, kids need to be proactive and find out info and follow through for themselves.

Also, it may be a benefit to have parents who ‘concierge’ the way to a better college experience and outcome, but only if kids listen or follow advice! I told my son to see tutors all the time he was in a tough theoretical math major and we offered to pay. He says now he wished he would have listened to us about that–plus on what major he should graduate with. Now that he’s in the workforce and has the 20/20 hindsight, he realizes that mom and dad might have known something after all.

Another thought I have on this study is that yes, we are not all equal. The researchers are looking to universities to promote social equality and outcomes. It benefits a lot in the larger scope of things to have a college degree, but within that world, there are any number of majors, degrees and eventual career paths. Our kids are not all equal. No kidding. We cannot expect our children to have the same outcomes in college due not only to socioeconomic factors and parent involvement, but also interests, aptitude, skills, work ethic, and brain power.

My own two kids, who obviously come from the same two parents and socioeconomic means had two very different experiences in college. One listened to our advice, one did not. One had the comforts and privileges of being a D1 scholarship athlete, one did not. One is more academically inclined, while the other physical. Their experiences were both great, but also completely different.

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My college age kids.

What are your thoughts about these two articles and parents of the affluent ‘concierging‘ their kids through a better college experience?

The High Costs of College

imgres-1My son (yes, the one who tried to give away the cat on Facebook) is in his third year of college. We began his college savings soon after he was born — and our daughter’s too. I asked the grandparents if instead of buying toys and clothing for Christmas and birthdays, could they send a check for their college accounts? One grandparent thought that was a horrific idea and how tacky of me to ask! The others said, “Great! What a good idea!”

When you have small children, you may notice how overboard the gifts get in proportion to the little guys, and how quickly the toys are overlooked, broken, and the clothing outgrown. A contribution to the college account is a present forever. Your child can help select investments as they grow older, track their account’s growth, and participate in the education of preparing for college.

You know your own relatives best and if this idea is an option for you. Of course, we were the major contributors to the college savings, but it’s nice to have help while saving for hundreds of thousands of dollars for an education!

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Do you know how much college costs these days? My son is in a public university in California and it’s about $30,000 per year. If he went to a private university, it would be closer to $60,000. I’ve read that a few schools in our state are closer to $75,000 per year. What will it be years from now, when your kids are in school?

Do you know the difference between college savings plans? 529s, UGMA/UMTAs and Coverdells? Which is best for you? As the wife of a financial advisor for 25 years — if you have questions — I advise you to ask a financial advisor for help. They help families prepare for milestones like college planning and retirement.

Here are links to helpful resources.

Comparing College Savings Plans

How Much is a College Education Worth? 

Inflation and College Costs 

College costs through the years

Four years in the blink of an eye!

 

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Celebrating victory after the Utes vs. Cougar meet.

I was afraid I was going to have tears streaming down my cheeks. I forgot to bring tissues and I was feeling apprehension, anxiety, sadness and nostalgic all at once. It was the morning of my daughter’s last college home meet on “Senior Day” and the senior girls who gritted it out for four years of being D1 student-athletes were going to be recognized.

 

We moms of senior girls have been texting and emailing the past month or two planning ways to make this day extra special. I think that was one of way preparing ourselves for the end of our swim mom careers.

When we were at the airport leaving home, I was told the flight was overbooked and I was the one selected to be bumped. I couldn’t believe it. This was the second time in a row I got the lucky ticket! I showed the agent that I had purchased our tickets August 1st–more than six months prior! And paid full price! And was in their frequent flier plan. They said they were sorry, but the computer picked me to be “bumped” and they’d try to get someone to give up their seat. This was way too stressful for me and I think I cried more tears at the airport than any other time throughout the weekend. From kindergarten to her senior year in college, my daughter had worked hard at swimming and I was going to miss her final dual meet? Fortunately, someone took a $600 coupon, gave up their seat, and I made it to Utah.

Back to the morning before the last dual meet, I battled with getting my leg brace on. It took me three tries to get it on the right way and then I worried about being late for the short ceremony that was going to proceed the meet. I snapped at my husband and realized that I was feeling stressed over one of these “milestone occasions.” I wanted everything to be perfect.

On the drive to the pool, I settled down. I realized we weren’t going to be late and I began to think of great memories swimming has given our family throughout the years. It was my daughter’s birthday weekend and I recalled since she was a little girl, her birthday always fell on a swim meet. I remembered when she was 13, one of the “hot” fast swimmer boys told her “Happy birthday!” at the meet. After that, she was known as the “girl who so-and-so said happy birthday to.”

The ceremony went off without a hitch. I didn’t cry but thoroughly enjoyed every moment with the other senior parents. The girls routed their opponents who have been fierce rivals and just happens to be my alma mater’s number one rival. My daughter swam her last 1,000 of her collegiate career and did so well, especially since she’s been fighting an injury all season. Afterwards, we parents were on the pool deck giving hugs, taking photos and sharing memories from their college days. We got together for dinner, joined by our dear friends who live nearby and have welcomed our daughter into their home for four years. No one can believe how quickly these years flew by.

I didn’t cry like I thought I would. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s because there’s one more meet to go, PAC 12s, their conference meet. I don’t think I’ll escape the tears then.

 

 

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Seniors at their last dual meet.