How to say good-bye to your college student…

University of Utah in Salt Lake City

University of Utah in Salt Lake City

I cannot believe my daughter will begin her senior year of college. I will take her to the airport soon and once again say goodbye after spending almost two weeks together. She began her college journey three years ago. Here’s what I wrote about our final goodbye:

Last week I wrote about 7 tips for parents on Move-In Day. At the end I wrote: “I made it through the day without tears–mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When, it’s time to say good-bye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes another time.”

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

So, how did it go when we said good-bye?

We had planned to stay until Sunday. Move-In day had been Thursday. We wanted to be around for a few days in case she needed us. She wanted us there on Thursday, but by Friday — not so much. It began to make sense for us to leave a day early. We didn’t want to hang out and wait to see if she wanted us around. It didn’t make us feel good and we weren’t enjoying ourselves exploring the city that much. We had a long drive ahead of us, too. So we went out for an early morning walk Saturday and talked about how we’d let her know that we felt it was time to leave.

She texted us at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

text from Kat

text from Kat

Okie dokie.

It was time to say good-bye. We walked on over to her dorm. I took a deep breath. I said a prayer to be strong.

“Do not cry. I can do this,” I repeated in my head.

She opened the door, I wanted to say something profound and loving. Something she’d remember — but I said nothing. My husband said a few things and I nodded my head.

I opened my mouth, my voice cracked and wavered. At this point, I cannot remember what I was trying to say.

“Mom! Mom! Stop it!” she said. “Don’t!”

She held my face in her hands, like I was the child. “It’s going to be okay.”

A view  during our walk on campus

A view during our walk on campus

Tip 1:  Make it short and quick.

Bill and I walked out of her room into the bright cool air that is Utah. We walked all over campus for two hours and I felt much better — amazed at what a strong beautiful woman we had raised.

Sage Point dorms at U of U

Sage Point dorms at U of U, the athlete housing for Winter Olympics 2002.

Here’s an update:

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How parents can help their kids get into college

Parents can offer a lot of help and support on the road to finding the right college. But, don’t take over and do it all for your kids. I can’t tell you how tempting it can be to lead the college hunt—if you’re a parent who helps out on a daily basis—like driving forgotten lunches and papers to school when they’re in high school. Yes, guilty! I know one parent, whose son failed miserably out of college after college. This parent admitted that he had written all the college essays and filled out the applications. He begged me not to do the same for my children.

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My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

On the other hand, someone needs to keep track of what’s going on and that your child is meeting deadlines. The junior and senior years can be really tough with crazy, hectic schedules, proms, AP tests, etc.. We can’t back off at this critical moment and expect our 16 or 17-year-old to know instinctively what to do. Also, you can’t count on your high school to get your child into college. Not all high counselors are created equal. Some are really good at talking to kids and helping them through the process, while other counselors might not see it as their responsibility. They may have so many kids on many different tracks that they can’t offer one-one-one college counseling.

Here’s a check list of what can parents do:

1. Set up a master calendar. It’s a good idea to get a big, giant calendar or white board for your student and mark down all the important dates like SAT, ACT tests, college visit, deadlines for applications, FAFSA, etc.

2. Here’s what your child needs when it’s time to submit applications (don’t wait until the last minute to get these! You’ll only add to the stress if you wait):
—Official transcripts from all secondary schools attended.
—One letter of recommendation from an adult guidance/college counselor, coach, employer etc.
—One letter of recommendation from a teacher who can speak about academic ability.
—SAT or ACT scores

3. Review the essays. Don’t write them, but read them with a critical eye and get some feedback from other adults who you admire in terms of their writing or smarts.

4. Research schools. You can do initial research into schools’ majors, costs, and find out what their admission standards are. Every college has a website and if you dig deep into the admissions sections, you can find out the ranges of grades and SAT scores.

5. Make sure your child is taking the necessary classes and keeping the grades above a C. Don’t nag, but don’t let them slack, either.

6. If your child needs help with testing, enroll them in a SAT prep class. I did this for my daughter, who is not a good test taker and although she hated going, she thanked me afterward. She said the class, taught at a local high school over the summer, really, really helped.

7. Stay calm. This can be a bumpy road with pot holes and rocks along the way. Your teenager may procrastinate or suffer from anxiety over getting the college applications done. Parents can set the tone and keep the stress at bay, or they can add to it.

How do you think parents can help their kids through the college application process?

 

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My son’s high school graduation.

 

What are the odds of an athletic college scholarship?

 

 

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Pac-12 Champs.

 

I didn’t realize how lucky our family was. That is until one of my daughter’s former swim coaches sent me the “Odds of a High School Athlete Playing College Sports.” There is so much interesting data in this link, I recommend you explore it thoroughly. Although I keep telling other swim parents that there truly is a college for everyone—the odds are against getting a scholarship. The stats in the chart are about who plays in college–not who gets a scholarship. When you look at the depressing percentages of the number of college athletes versus those who participated in high school, keep in mind that the scholarship numbers are significantly lower than the numbers on the chart.

Our daughter is lucky she got one. However, never once during kindergarten through high school senior year did we put pressure on her to get a scholarship. It was a reward for her consistent hard work and love of swimming—kind of like an extra cherry in your Shirley Temple.

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Here’s a chart from the “Odds of a High School Athlete Playing College Sports” link above.

 

I know a couple kids who wanted to get into a particular school, for example, one applied to New York University—and when she talked to the swim coach—she was “flagged” for admission. It made a statistically tough numbers game to get into a top university more of a sure thing. Lately, NYU has had record-breaking 60,000 applicants annually and offers acceptance to around 18,000. Out of those, less than 6,000 attend. Having a coach on your child’s side can make a difference in getting in.

My son wouldn’t go near a pool when we were doing college tours. He refused to talk to a single coach. Looking back, he said that it was a mistake on his part. Maybe he should have explored swimming and not turned his back on a sport he’d spent 10 plus years pursuing. After getting rejected by eight out of nine schools he applied to, he thinks maybe talking to coaches could have given him more choices. It might have, but we’ll never know.

When my kids were younger, we looked up to this super fast sprinter on our club team. He won CIF and was so much faster than any kid around. Our mouths dropped open when we heard about his college scholarship at Arizona State University. Books. Yes, that was it—books only.

So, what are the odds of getting a scholarship if you’re a swimmer? Let’s look at the numbers for women, which have slightly better odds than men. There are approximately 166,838 high school female swimmers according to statistics from 2015. Of that pool of athletes,13,759 get spots on a college team. The chart below shows that 7.8% of high school swimmers swim at the college level and only 3.1% swim at the NCAA D1 level. That’s the participation rate–and not all athletes get scholarships. So, it’s a fraction of 3.1 percent–in the case of women’s D1 swimming, and even less for men.

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Here’s some more fine print from the data: Men’s swim teams are limited to 9.9 scholarships and Women’s swim teams are limited to 14.

“*Do the Math!   NCAA Division I men’s teams have an average roster of 29 swimmers but a limit of 9.9 scholarships to award per team. This means the average award covers only about 1/3 of annual college costs, and this assumes swimming is a fully funded sport at the specific school. Swimming is an equivalency sport for NCAA limits, so partial scholarships can be awarded as long as the combined equivalent awards do not exceed the limit. For example, an NCAA I school can award 21 women swimmers each a 2/3 equivalent scholarship and still meet the limit of 14 per team.”

We need to remember as parents, that putting our child in a certain sport for the hopes of a college scholarship isn’t that smart. They need to be passionate about their activities and spend all those hours and sacrifices because they want it. Not because of a dream we have for them to earn a scholarship. I do know that a lot of my children’s friends and teammates got college scholarships. So, it’s not impossible, but it’s important to put it into a realistic perspective.

What are your thoughts about college athletics and scholarship opportunities?

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Senior recognition day. The last home meet for women swimmers.

 

 

He’s Going to Be Okay

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Sunset in Berkeley during our weekend visit.

 

My son officially finished his undergrad degree in August. It was a long haul and never as easy as I had imagined for him. I looked at college as some of the best years of my life. I imagined my son would love college, too. But it wasn’t all great. In fact, some of it was downright ugly. But, the good news is he made it. He officially has his undergrad degree.

Now what? We visited him in his new home in Norcal and I can say, although I think he’s way too far from home, it was a perfect weekend. The weather, the food, the girlfriend, the apartment—everything was perfect. I say that with pride and relief. After this weekend, I know my son is going to make it as an adult. As a mom, I’ve done my job. I’m proud and happy.

Is my job done? I’m not sure. Is a parent’s job ever done?

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When my son rode the “Snow White Pony” Thursday nights at Street Fair.

My son’s degree and career choices have been hotly debated between my husband and me. I have total confidence that my son will find his way, and I agree with my husband that he hasn’t made all the exact choices that we would have in his place. In the end, It’s his life and it’s up to him to live it—not us.

We can’t tell him what to do, what jobs or careers to follow. We can encourage and express our pride in what a great person he’s become. I am truly proud of my son.

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Father and son at Crissy Field during our perfect weekend.

 

When Is it Okay to Do Too Much for Your Kids?

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When they were young and needed me.

The sad truth is that my kids don’t need me as much as they used to. My days are no longer spent driving to school and the pool, volunteering in the classroom, packing lunches or helping out on the swim team.

I used to do way too much for my kids. All the time. I drove forgotten homework to school, suits to the pool and all the little things to totally incapacitate my children’s development to grown-up adults.

So, when my daughter called and said she got an email and her classes were going to be dropped on Friday—if tuition wasn’t paid—I didn’t exactly jump to take care of it. I’ve learned from my prior mistakes and write parents tips on how I wished I’d have parented for SwimSwam.com.

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This spring at Open Water Nats. Photo thanks to Ref Paul.

Next, she begged me to call the school. I held firm that she should handle it by herself.

She asked me why I hadn’t paid tuition? That one stopped me. We don’t pay tuition. She earns it through a swim scholarship and she must certainly be aware of that fact. I guess she was really worried and upset. She is in her major and excited about her classes.

I assured her there wasn’t anything to worry about. The financial aid office was probably processing scholarships and hadn’t gotten to hers yet. She’s had lifelong experience at being a W and at the end of the alphabet, after all. Her classes were not in danger of being dropped. Still, she was concerned and wanted me to take care of everything.

I finally broke down and called. While I sat on hold for 30 plus minutes and got transferred around from office to office, I wondered why I was doing it at all? The times I’m asked by my son or daughter to help them are few and far between. I’m thankful for that. So, when she did ask for my help, I decided to go against my better judgment and experienced “parenthoodness” and pampered her.

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Now they don’t need me so much….

In the end, there are FERPA things and I couldn’t help her anyway. What’s FERPA you ask? Once your child is in college and you want to make calls, or check out their grades, etc. you’ll learn that you don’t have any rights to do that—unless your child fills out a form and gives you those rights.

“The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.” http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

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What used to be my typical day–drive to school, pool and piano.

So, a good thing to think about is that if you’re doing everything for your child and they leave for college and need your help—you just might not be able to help them.

When do you think it’s okay to do too much for your children? How do you overdo it in the parenting arena?

How Best to Deal With Your Kid’s Roommate Drama

Now that your child is in college, be prepared. Roommate drama is a thing. How can parents help–or should we?

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University of Utah, Salt Lake City

 

I experienced drama with my first roommate at the University of Washington. I won’t go into detail, but needless to say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. She was from out-of-state, didn’t know a soul, and after a few fun weeks of acting like besties, we were unable to live with each other. I remember her passive aggressive nature, and I never knew what I had done to offend her. But, she wouldn’t speak to me for days on end. Next, she glommed onto my brother and I watched them as an inseparable couple—except she’d flirt with one particular guy behind his back. We ended that roommate situation after two quarters and never spoke to each other again.

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University of Washington, Seattle–my alma mater

My son had a bad situation his freshman year. He and his roommate filled out the computerized roommate pairings at UCSB and they housed together because they had the exact same SAT scores and similar interests. However, the roommate was an hour from his home and girlfriend, had a ton of high school friends with him, and my son just didn’t click or want to get sucked into the continuation of high school life.

 

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UC Santa Barbara

 

This weekend, we went to my daughter’s “Parents and Move-In Weekend.” For the second year, she’s living off-campus in a house with three other girls. She has a large, yet cozy room she’s decorated in her own style. But, inevitably there’s roommate trouble from time to time. Whether it’s someone who hoards dishes under their bed, roommates who never do the dishes, or another who’s boyfriend has moved in for 60 days…things will happen between college kids living in close quarters. They are used to having their own space. There’s bound to be tension as they figure out how to be adults, living with new people.

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My daughter’s living quarters.

I’m glad we were there for her when some roommate drama cropped up. Here’s a few ideas to help with roommate drama:

One

As a parent, stay out of it unless it’s a dangerous situation or may result in trouble with the landlord.

Two

Give support to your child and let them vent to you. Help them figure out what is the best course of action.

Three

Why are they anxious or upset? It may be deeper than what they tell you on the surface.

Four

It’s important for your child to not keep things bottled up, but talk things out. Whether it’s talking in person or texting—just make sure they are able to express themselves.

Five

Advise your child to think things through before they act. Are they willing to live with the outcome of a roommate confrontation? Or, is it better to let it go?

Six

Let your child know that it’s important to stand up for themselves. It’s not okay to be taken advantage of.

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Dusk at Liberty Park, Salt Lake City

 

What roommate problems did you have? How do you help your kids handle roommate drama?

On another note, I read in the Seattle Times that the dorms I lived in are being demolished!

The Roller Coaster Ride of Parenting

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My son and swim team friends years ago.

We were leaving tomorrow for my son’s college graduation. I’m packed and I was on my way to swim practice when he texted me. He said he has a bunch of papers that are due on Monday and he doesn’t have time for graduation activities.

It’s been a tough quarter for him with prolonged illness—weeks and weeks of getting sick and staying sick.

The announcements are out. The celebratory dinner was set, grandpa’s hotel room booked. We have friends and family coming in for the graduation ceremony. But, one thing will be missing. My son.

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The day we moved my son into his dorm room at UCSB.

He’s planning on graduating, mind you. But, he doesn’t have time to celebrate and attend the activities. Seriously, why did his college schedule the ceremony the weekend before finals and when papers are due? I don’t know the answer to this. 

On my daughter’s side, we spent the weekend at her target meet to qualify for Olympic Trials. She swam well, made it to finals, but didn’t achieve the cuts she was looking for. She’s been so close, but in all honesty, it’s too bad she tripped and sprained her ankle last summer, chasing a bus. My point is that it’s hard to make a cut at a last ditch meet. There’s too much pressure and it might have been easier to make it during last year’s long course season.

Do I love my children any less? No, I do not. In fact, I’d say they are truly growing up and experiencing the difficulties of adulthood. Disappointments do occur. Things do not always go as planned. It’s how we react and handle ourselves that will determine success or failure. I don’t want them to give up on their dreams.

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Open Water Nats at Lake Castaic, July 2014. Photo by Anne Lepesant.