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.

Second…images-2
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.

Third…images-3
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.”

images-5Fourth …
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.

images

And one more thing…”GO, UTES!!!”


imgres-6

Advertisements

Parents are helping kids cheat on SATs

 

IMG_8940

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.

13072720_10209723459387040_1622431987689681423_o

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!

 

IMG_4568

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.

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 9.27.58 AM

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.

 

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 9.28.48 AM

Brett Simpson

 

When you get that “alert” that your child’s college is on lockdown

photo (4)

University of Utah campus view.

Last night my daughter texted me to say her college was on lockdown. Then, I began getting “alerts” from the University of Utah. It’s one of the worst feelings when you get notifications of a lockdown at your children’s college. Not only did I lose a night’s sleep with worry, but I’m so sad that our kids have to live through this. We never envisioned our kids living through terror-filled nights when we sent them off to college.

Other moms I know had an awful night, too, as we waited for news about our kids. We prayed for them to be safe. We commiserated by text and Facebook and I wish the world wasn’t such a scary place. Thankfully, my daughter is safe along with the children of my friends.

If you missed the story on the news today, a man with a long history of crime and run-ins with the law was camping with his wife in the canyon above campus. The wife left him for the University to report a domestic dispute. The husband must have followed her because next there was a shooting of Chen Wei Guo, a 23-year-old foreign exchange student from China.

In an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, you can learn more details. Can you imagine sending your child to the United States as a foreign exchange student and finding out that he’s been shot and killed?

“University of Utah officials, fellow students and friends were coming to grips Tuesday with the Monday night shooting that left a student dead at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon.

“ChenWei Guo, of Salt Lake City, would have turned 24 on Sunday. 

“Guo was parked in his vehicle near the gate at the mouth of the canyon when 24-year-old Austin Jeffrey Boutain attempted a carjacking, police said. During the encounter, Boutain allegedly shot Guo, who suffered fatal injuries.”

Last night reminded me of a horrific night while my son was at the University of California at Santa Barbara a couple years ago. Here’s how that story unfolded:ucsb

View of the UCSB campus.

Friday night, I had tucked myself into bed when the phone rang. It was my son — a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 

“Mom! There’s a drive-by shooter. A guy in a black BMW is randomly shooting people in IV! We can’t get home. Everything’s on lockdown.”

This was not a call I was expecting. Nor, one I wanted to receive.

Saturday afternoon, he called again. “I just went to the store. We’re on lockdown again and I can’t get home.” 

IMG_1743

 A view from a dorm room at UCSB.

Friday night the lockdown was because of the shootings and crashing of the BMW. Saturday, the police were removing deceased male roommates who had been stabbed from the killer’s apartment building.

l followed the story closely on the news. It’s almost all I could do for most of the weekend. I don’t understand why it happened, or how it could have been prevented. I believe we all tried to find a cause for this horrific tragedy to try and make sense of what had happened when that was impossible.

My heart and prayers go to all the families at UCSB. It’s been a tough year. I think the great academic accomplishments of the school are being overshadowed by tragedy. There’s too much trauma for students to digest. I wonder how these events will affect our kids in their future lives? Read about the academic accomplishments of UCSB in the LA Times here.

Just a few weeks ago, I got a call from my son during the Deltopia riots. I wrote it about Deltopia here.

images-5

A Deltopia party picture.

Add that to the weekly emails about a meningitis outbreak, and it hasn’t been a stellar year for UCSB parents, students, or the faculty.

The frantic fear in my son’s voice is not what I envisioned hearing. I am sure this is not isolated at UCSB, but just becoming more common at universities across our country. Is this the new normal for our kids? They aren’t experiencing the carefree college years that we did. Where did that world go?

ucsbeach

The view of the beach from UCSB campus.

Maybe if this is the new norm, as awful as that sounds, we need to be more aware and prepared. I don’t know the answer to any of this, but I’m thinking our kids need to know what to do in the case of an emergency. Are colleges adequately ready to support our kids in times of danger? The alerts let them know when something is going on and does tell them what to do. That’s something that wasn’t around back when I was in college.

How would you prepare your kids for emergencies when they’re away from home?

Parents Beware: Coaches Are Watching You, Too

1424421_10152067957624612_1586533978_n

Signing day.

It’s college recruiting season for swimming and articles are tweeted and posted hourly of recruits signing with universities. I ran across an interesting article from USA Today about parents and recruiting called “How college coaches evaluate parents” by Fred Bastie, owner and founder of playced.com, a college recruiting company.

In the article, Bastie interviewed Pat Fitzgerald, the football coach at Northwestern University who said, “An increasingly larger part of the evaluation of the prospect, for us, is evaluating the parents. It’s a big part of the evaluation.”

He breaks down the troublesome parents into five categories:

The Helicopter Parent
The Sideline Coach Parent
The Scouting Director Parent
The Sports Agent Parent
The Lawnmower Parent

I remember my daughter’s college recruiting experience and I’m pleased to say that we did not do the things listed in this article that wave red flags in front of college coaches.

Isn’t it sad that some parents, who are honestly trying to help their children, could be the reason their child misses a chance at a scholarship or a spot on a team? I remember when my kids were younger, like 13 or 14, and at a swim meet with college teams and coaches. I was at the end of the lane, enthusiastically cheering for my kids and their teammates. One mom with two kids around the same age, pulled me aside and said, “Don’t you know that the coaches won’t want your kids because of you standing at the end of the lane cheering?”

At the time, I thought she was crazy. My kids were too young to be thinking about college and surely no coach cared what I did. I went on cheering. I do not think being enthusiastic is a red flag to a coach. And I was probably right that no coaches were looking at a 13-year-old who barely made it into the meet.

When I interviewed coaches for an article for SwimSwam magazine, many of them expressed concern about helicopter parents, but several coaches had another take. They looked at how the athletes treated their parents. One coach passed over a child for being rude and obnoxious to her mother. In that case, it wasn’t the parent who ruined the opportunity, but a kid who acted like a rude, spoiled brat. Of course, you have to consider someone raised that ungracious child in the first place.

In my opinion, it’s not the parent who coaches want to avoid dealing with, but it’s how well the children of overbearing parents will adapt to being away from home for the first time. It’s how well they’ll handle adversity and be productive, giving teammates. In the article, it states something our own club coach has said, “There are only two people the college coach wants to talk to: 1. the athlete, 2. the athlete’s coach.”

That said, what role do you think parents have in the college recruiting process?

1268612_10201830817922396_1577138410_o

My daughter and friend on a recruiting trip.

 

 

Why do 50% of kids not return after their freshman year of college?

My Alma Mater. University of Washington.

My Alma Mater. University of Washington.

 

With the school year beginning, it’s worth taking a look at some pitfalls our kids may face their freshman year of college. I originally wrote this story in September 2015–and the stats haven’t improved since then.

I wonder why so many kids fail college? I was shocked to read a statistic from ACT that 50% of freshman students do not return for their second year. Then, 30% of those remaining, do not graduate within five years!

Why? What can we do to better prepare our kids for college? There is so much pressure on our kids to get into great schools.You’d think with the great expense, and all their work to get in, it would be a breeze once they are there. But, it’s not.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

Here’s my list of why I think kids fail their freshman year:

ONE

Too many kids go to college. I do not think everyone should go. When I was in high school the majority of students did not continue their education past high school. They were able to get jobs, support themselves and their families without a college education. Today, a college degree has become the norm and standard. There are many kids who would be better served to work for a few years, and then decide if they want to go to college. By having everyone go, and not everyone is equipped to go, some kids are set up for failure.


TWO

High school doesn’t prepare kids for college. The work is often spoon-fed by teachers in little lumps of daily assignments and reading. Having a syllabus with a couple dates on it and no day-to-day requirements is more what college is like. It takes discipline, motivation and self-determination to not procrastinate but to work and study in advance of deadlines.

imgres

A gorgeous location. UCSB.

THREE

We do too much. As helicopter, hovering parents, we are afraid to let our kids fail. We don’t let our kids learn from their mistakes. They need to have more chores, part-time jobs or something to do besides homework. Some of the crazy, heavy AP schedules don’t allow for real life experiences. Plus, we cater to our kids’ every needs—even to the point of helping them complete projects or assignments. My conversation with four-time Olympian and former University of Texas head coach Jill Sterkel included some great advice that you can read on SwimSwam here. She believes in letting kids work out their problems in a less high-stakes environment. We need to give them room to do this.

FOUR

Millennials mature later, according to Kari Ellingson, Vice President at the University of Utah. I attended a talk by her at orientation with my daughter. I wrote more about her talk here. According to Ellingson, “It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28.” It’s no wonder they can’t handle the many demands of laundry, getting their own food, studying, etc. Maybe our kids are not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of college at age 18?

What can we do to help our kids be prepared for success in college?  I’ll talk to some more experts and will get back to you!  What do you think are the reasons why so many kids fail in college? I’d love to get your feedback.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

Here’s What Happens When You Disagree With a College Student

IMG_9371

I’m thankful for my beautiful neighborhood.

I’m surprised when people aren’t grateful for all our country has to offer. There is opportunity here for everyone. We have a standard of living that many people from other countries would be thrilled to enjoy. It seems not appreciating our country is especially true for college students. I recently posted a comment on a college student’s FB page — big mistake — when they were bemoaning the problems in our nation. I mentioned something about looking at all we have and being thankful.

Guess what happened next? I got a piling on from outraged kids saying that because we have an affluent society doesn’t mean we should be racist.

10398882_1105509125185_1178298_n

I’m thankful for my kids and friends. Especially the ones who sail!

Excuse me? Did I mention anything about racism? Did I say it was okay to be a racist? Let’s be clear. Racism is bad. It’s evil. It’s wrong. But, what I was thinking about is the fact we can choose which path to take. We aren’t forced into a job, career or marriage. We have choices. We also have clean water and air.

These kids sitting in their exclusive ivory towers on ivy league campuses with the latest iPhones and laptops seem to enjoy ripping about how awful our country is. I read about it in the paper on a daily basis. How would they enjoy living in a part of the world without a toilet or running water? Where they wouldn’t have a grocery store, a Starbucks or cell service? How would they survive?

My hope is that they take their idealism and go to a country where life isn’t as easy. I’m sure a lot of places in the world would welcome them and could use their help. Maybe then, they would appreciate what we have. Maybe they will understand and show empathy for the people who came before them, and the changes we have made. No, we aren’t perfect. No person is perfect. But, we are truly blessed.

imgres

Beautiful UCSB, where my son attends college.

I’m very thankful for my family, friends and country. I’m thankful to live in this part of the world, where we aren’t concerned with basic survival. I’m thankful that we have freedom of speech and wish we could have more civil discussions and agree to disagree.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I think it’s a perfect time to reflect on all that we have.

I have a beautiful home, two wonderful kids, a loving, kind husband. I’m grateful for my friends, my community and for those who serve our country and have kept us safe.

What are you thankful for?

IMG_9490-1

I’m thankful for the times I get to watch my daughter swim.