About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

#35: I'm Going to College -- Not You!

I'm Going to College -- Not You! Surviving the College Search with Your Child, edited by Jennifer Delahunty (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2010).

"Acceptance by a top college is more than a gold star on a high school graduate's forehead today. It has morphed into the ultimate 'good parenting' stamp of approval -- the better the bumper sticker, the better the parent, right? Parents of juniors and seniors in high school fret over SAT scores and essays, obsessed with getting their kids into the right college, while their children push for independence.

"I'm Going to College -- Not You! is a godsend for parents, written by parents who've been in their shoes. Kenyon College dean Jennifer Delahunty shares her unique perspective (and her daughter's) on one of the toughest periods of parenting, and has assembled a top-notch group of writers that includes bestselling authors, college professors and admissions directors, and journalists. Their experience with the difficult balancing act between control freak and resource answer questions such as:
  • How can a parent be less of a 'helicopter' (hovering) and more of a 'booster rocket' uplifting?
  • What do you do when your child wants to put off college to become a rock star?
  • How will you keep from wanting to kill each other?"
Table of Contents:
Part 1 - Where It All Begins
  • An Unsentimental Education, by Neal Pollack
  • A Cautionary Tale, by Christine VanDeVelde
  • Personal Statement, by Wendy MacLeod
Part 2 - From the Outsiders
  • How to Get Into College Without Really Trying, by Gail Hudson
  • The Age of Reasons, by Joe Queenan
  • Application Madness, by Anne C. Roark
  • A Piece of Cake, by Jan Brogan
Part 3 - From the Insiders
  • Impersonating Wallpaper: The Dean's Daughter Speaks, by Jennifer Delahunty and Emma Britz
  • A Life of Too Much, by Lisa Gates
  • The Kids Are Alright (With Apologies to The Who), by Debra Shaver
  • Let It/Them Be (With or Without Apologies to the Beatles), or How Not to Spend Your Child's Summer Vacation, by Katherine Sillin
Part 4 - From a Mother's Perspective
  • The Deep Pool, by Anna Quindlen
  • When Love Gets in the Way, by June Hamilton
  • Hooked, by Laurie Kutchins
  • Our Quixotic Quests for Utopia U, by Anna Duke Reach
Part 5 - From a Father's Perspective
  • Market Lambs and Chaos Warriors, by Dan Laskin
  • Flowers Will Grow, by Sean Callaway
  • The Worst of Times, the Best of Times: The Scholar-Athlete Applies to College, by David Latt
  • From the Belly of the Whale, by David H. Lynn
  • Where the Chips Fall, by Scott Sadil
Part 6 - Road Trippin'
  • The Most Difficult Year to Get into College in the History of the World: Excerpts from 'The Neurotic Parent' Blog, by The Neurotic Parent
  • Laundry, Lost Luggage, and Lord of the Rings, by Lisa K. Winkler
  • Sound Tracks, by Joy Horowitz
Part 7 - A User's Guide for Parents
  • Love in the Time of College Angst, by S. X. Rosenfeld
  • Wait Outside, by Sarah Kahrl
  • Sophie, Real and Imagined, by Ellen Waterston
  • T-minus Thirteen Minutes and Forty-one Seconds, by Steve Thomas
My Take:
OK, but not exactly what I was expecting. Sure, we're still a few years from this particular milestone in Hazel House, but hey -- sending a sweet, funny girl off to school one morning and getting a moody tween home is sorta the same kind of strange country experience, and I spend enough professional time in the freshman-admissions hothouse to be curious about how it feels from the other side.

In short, this is an anthology of essays. Like all anthologies, it's a mixed bag; I enjoyed some of the pieces more than others, and given the subject matter, it's not surprising that at least a few come off as being a wee bit self-congratulatory. You all know my tolerance for what I recently heard called "first-world annoyances," i.e., upper-middle-class, mostly white people kvetching about problems most folks would give their eyeteeth to have. Yeah, there's some of that here, but it's not all like that. There were two essays by the parents of scholar-athletes, which provided a window on a part of the college selection process I didn't really know much about. I also enjoyed the one by the editor and her daughter, which essentially describes the former's efforts (at the latter's insistence) to remain as invisible as possible while her daughter made a decision that would ultimately surprise them both.

Don't read it seeking advice or coping tips, really -- but if you're in this position and want to feel like someone else understands, or have other reasons to hear what the process is like from a panel of parents who've been there fairly recently, it's worth a read-through.

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