One Good Book

I’ve just finished a very low-key, well-adjusted book concerning the college process that is a wonderful antidote to the frantic “win-at-any-cost” college books out there. It’s called College Admission Together: It Takes a Family, by Steven Roy Goodman & Andrea Leiman. Unlike nearly every other book out there, it focuses on the family dynamic as students and parents approach the college years. I think if more parents read this book they’d get what we counselors are trying to tell them when we say “Take it easy.”

The authors make a point of combining college process information with observations about what’s happening in teens’ lives as college looms. They ask parents to take stock of their children’s changes and look into their own attitudes in order to make the fact of eventual separation as smooth and productive as possible. Within the many stressors of high school and pre-college life, the authors find ways to create positive moments when parents and their children can communicate better and learn more about each other.

If you’re a college counselor, you know the frustration of working with parents who seem to have no idea about what their children really want or who they are. These parents insist on particular colleges for their children, or insist that you have to “chase after” Johnny to complete his applications or evern meet with you. You’ll see these parents in this book but not as caricatures or objects of derision, simply as people for whom the process can be as stressful as it is for their children. It’s an understanding and even compassionate book for that.

As I read the book I heard many things I’ve suggested to parents over the years–take a breath, listen more than talk to you child, step back and see him/her as a developing adult, and so on. Often these suggestions fell on deaf ears. Seeing it all in print can often be helpful and this book could be a great tool to get parents to look at themselves without a counselor’s being the one to deliver the sometimes unwelcome news.

The book is mercifully free of simplistic remedies for things like procrastination although abundant with simple methods for dealing with them. If putting things off is a problem with your teen, review the coming week’s calendar every Sunday evening; not only can college tasks be outlined, but you and your child can think ahead about other things as well at a time that’s not full of anxiety and that, perhaps, comes on the heels of a day relaxing.

It’s nice to read a book that doesn’t have an undercurrent of frantic striving to it. College Admissions Together takes a broad view of a turbulent time in a family’s life and lets you see it’s possible to ride the wave and come out nicely on the far side. I recommend it highly.

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About Will Dix

I am currently writing a book about college admission. I'm interested in the intersection of the college process and American culture. I attended Amherst College in the 1970s, taught high school English and theater at The Hill School in the '80s, returned to Amherst in the '90s as an admission dean, and began the '00s as a college counselor at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. I then joined Chicago Scholars as Program Director. Currently, I blog about college admission for Forbes.com. I also help community organizations serving low income students understand the college admission process so more students can consider gaining access to higher education. I have a few private college counseling clients that I take by referral only. The views expressed in this blog are mine alone.
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