They're in! Now What? Parents, Keep It Real

Maureen Tillman

Guest blogger Maureen Tillman's got some tips to help you and your child with the transition.

Our post today comes from Maureen Tillman, L.C.S.W. She has served as the organizer and curator of The New York Times' Local College Corner, and is also the creator of College with Confidence, a comprehensive psychotherapy service that supports parents and young adults through the college experience. She has offices in Maplewood Village and Morristown, New Jersey and also provides educational seminars, training, phone and skype consultations.

Strategies for a successful college transition

The retention and graduation rates in this country scream out that American students experience significant challenges staying in and succeeding at college.According to the non-profit organization American College Testing, the national retention rate for four-year institutions is 67.6 percent at public schools and 68.7 percent at private schools. Completion rates are even starker. Just over half -- or 55.1 percent -- of students in private institutions, and 39.6 from public institutions, graduate in 5 years or less.

Many parents take an incredible leap of faith sending their children to college, spending an enormous amount of money as well as saddling their young adults with student loans in an uncertain economy.

Parents need to get real with their teens about what college really is. It's a valuable academic commitment in a world of wonderful opportunities -- and distractions.

One of the most important factors for success of college students is being real with themselves. This sounds easier than it is. In today's "bubble wrapped" society, most teens and parents do not realize how much support and monitoring they have received growing up, including parents, institutions and tutors. Too often, students used to constant support at home become overwhelmed when they arrive at college and don't reach out for support in a timely way, resulting in myriad of difficult outcomes.

Teens heading off to college need to understand what it takes for them to succeed in life -- socially, academically, and emotionally -- and how to make that happen.

How can parents start this process?

    1. Do some serious soul searching and evaluate how much monitoring and support your teen has had from you and others:
  • Are you waking them up in the morning, doing laundry, running errands, making their appointments?
  • Do you call the high school or college about information?
  • Do they have a tutor/therapist/psychiatrist/disability? Do they regularly spend time with a support team at high school?
  • Have you been making sure they meet deadlines?
  • Do you monitor/remind them often about their time and activities?
    2. Find a good time to talk:
  • State that beginning college can be a big adjustment and that you want to help them to get ready.
  • Explain that this will involve fostering their independence.
  • Ask what they feel you are still doing for them that they can do themselves.
  • Discuss recreating a support team on campus similar to the supports they are currently receiving.
  • Ask if they have any worries or concerns about transitioning to college. Whatever they express, listen, brainstorm for solutions, get information. Consult with a professional in the field now when they are still in your "orbit."
    3. Get the facts yourself. For resources on challenges at college as well as a successful transition, visit my website:

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Where Does the Tiger Mother Fit into the College Application Process?

Do you have a tiger mother?

Controversy has been intense over Amy Chua’s memoir entitled Tiger Mother. Chua depicts herself as a highly demanding if not overbearing mother who pressures her children to fulfill her own image of success, many have argued, to the point of endangering her daughters’ mental and social development. While her children do achieve outstanding external results including maintaining high grades and excelling musically, it must be asked, at what cost?

As children mature and demand back control of their own lives from their overly-invested parents, a power struggle undoubtedly ensues. The college process can be seen as the last great clash in which children entering the new epoch of adulthood, expect to exercise their own right to choose, while parents remain reluctant to relinquish their parental clout. Parents, still at the financial helm, are often able to wield some influence in the area of college decisions, and often don’t refrain from trying.

Valerie Strauss recounts a humorous anecdote shared by Teege Mettille, assistant admissions director at Lawrence University, of what she calls an “ultimate helicopter mom” in her article in The Washington Post. Accustomed to parents calling to schedule admissions interviews, even Mettille was surprised when a parent who had just scheduled an interview for her son and began expressing her interest in the school suddenly stopped and said, “Wait….he [my son] doesn’t need to be here for this, does he?”

As seniors and their parents begin hearing back from colleges and making important decisions on where to attend, experts suggest that they open up honest lines of communication. Parents should remember that students are the ones who ultimately have to spend their four years on the chosen campus, and students have to consider their parents' decade-long effort to pay for college. It is hard for parents to let go, but it is equally important that they recognize that this is perhaps the biggest step their children will take on their way to an independent adulthood.

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3 Ways To Get Started On Your College Admissions Essays

It is very important that you let the experts help you. Do not ask kittens for help.

College admissions is a competitive game these days, as we are surely not the first to tell you. But more often than not it's the getting started that poses the greatest challenge for students. If you are feeling overwhelmed or have simply been procrastinating when you know you shouldn't be, read on.

1. Talk to your parents

Your parents have advice to offer that might surprise you. They've seen parts of the country you've never been to, and have likely studied all kinds of things you know nothing about. Some of these things are even interesting, and taking an intro course in one of those fields might not be a bad idea. One of the great things about American universities is that they don't expect you to declare your major before you arrive. Most schools will give you up to two years to do so. As a result, you're going to have the opportunity to study things you never knew existed. Your parents might be able to talk to you about what you're interested in and point out new academic opportunities where you least expect them.

At the very least, get a college tour or three under your belts. Your parents do the driving, they pay for the gas, you see exotic lands... It could be worse.

All this information will help get you on the ball when you talk to your counselor.

2. Meet with your guidance counselor.

You have a guidance counselor. Let that person do some guiding. He or she is going to have access to plenty of information about schools you're not familiar with. Ask for info on schools that offer the kind of scholastic programs, academic environment, and location you're after. Don't shy away from a school just because you haven't heard of it. Now is a good time to uncover those kinds of new experiences, viewpoints, and even parts of the country.

3. Get started with CEO

Your parents and your guidance counselor are probably going to give you more information than you know what to do with. That's where we come in. CEO is the only one stop shop for streamlining and optimizing the admissions essay experience. We show you how to write the fewest essays that work for all your applications. We make sure you don't miss any requirements, and even show you essays for special departments and scholarships that schools don't include on their primary applications.

So take the bull by the horns with these simple steps. And let us do the heavy lifting - get started today with some college admissions essay help.