top of page
  • amyalysaglynn

Parents of eleventh graders: it’s time to talk about college applications. 

You decided your ninth grader didn’t need to a full-time relationship with a college advisor… and you were very likely right! But now it’s dawning on you that your student has a school counselor with a caseload of four hundred students, you’re hearing horror stories about kids with 4.5 GPAs getting turned down by schools that would have been considered low-hanging fruit in your day, and your once-carefree teen is becoming surly, picking fights, or starting to break out in hives when the subject of college comes up.

If you’re concerned that you missed a window to yell for help, you absolutely didn’t—in fact if you’d come to me when The Kiddo was in 8th grade I would probably have advised cooling your jets. Now, though… it’s time to rev that engine.

This process is stressful, confusing, and sometimes infuriating. They say major home remodels can trigger divorces—and navigating college admissions can absolutely damage your relationship with your child. I speak from first-hand experience as both an applicant and a parent. 

I help turn the college admissions process from a family-straining stress-fest to a successful, empowering and joyful process of self-discovery. 

Yes, I said “joyful.” Not the word that probably comes to mind when you think about applying to college, right? But I’m serious. This goes beyond getting a yes from Dreamdate University: my process gives students the opportunity to figure out who they are and what they want to do in the world—and how to make that compelling to the admissions team

Here’s what we do between second semester of junior year and second semester of senior year: 

  • Figure out what really lights them up, how they see themselves fitting into the world—dreams and fantasies, fears and anxieties, aspirations and goals, needs and wants. 

  • Develop a truly personalized list of schools to focus on. Anyone can do a Naviance search for “great engineering programs” and get a giant list of colleges to sift through… and you absolutely should! But don’t underestimate the power of human instinct and on the ground experience to cut through the noise and identify a manageable roster of schools where your student would actually thrive.

  • Learn how to research colleges even if you can’t manage a massive tour. My eldest graduated in the middle of the COVID lockdowns; visiting schools was generally impossible. And as it turns out, college websites are often remarkably sucky at giving you the information you need. 

  • To Test or Not to Test? Strategic planning around standardized testing (and yeah, AP courses, and whether it’s better to get an A in regular chemistry than a B in Honors chemistry… all that stuff. Spoiler: those answers do depend on the college and the student, so tread carefully around anyone with a “proven formula” or a "secret colleges don't want you to know" or a rigid list of The Three Things "they" are looking for).

  • Straight talk about the realities of the almighty “What are colleges looking for?” question. Another spoiler: there isn’t a “right” answer to “What should I do to look good to colleges?” But there is probably a “right answer for YOU.”

  • Freaking amazing essays! The one variable your student can really control in their college application is the one thing most college advisors aren’t specialists in. I’m an award-winning essayist with over 30 years experience in writing, editing and publishing, and I’m trained to teach composition and creative writing. Some people will tell you college essays "don’t count for much." All I can say is: that has not been my experience at all. 

  • Buffer zone between student and parents. I can’t emphasize how much of a thing this is. A really good college advisor can save you a whole lot of money in family therapist bills. I’m dead serious. 

  • Cut through the noise. While hysterics around who is getting in where (and whether they deserved it) are totally understandable… they’re also optional, and I can and will help your family opt out. Remember: this is no longer about fitting in. It’s about standing out. 

  • Get permission to be authentic. Often, what creates the most stress in this process is the overwhelming sense of pressure to figure out what colleges want and how to not say the wrong thing. “What do they want?” is the wrong question. The right question is “Who am I and how do I communicate who I am, in a compelling, original way?” I help students feel confident in doing just that.

If your student is already stressing about this in 9th or 10th grade, let’s schedule a talk! Sign up for Advisor On Demand. Four conversations, when you need them, to help your student think through important decisions, for a very modest fee. Summer internships or paid jobs? Model UN, Mock Trial, or Debate? Is that expensive overseas immersion program worth it? Will it look bad if my student drops Mandarin and takes up Latin? These check-ins are with student, parent, or both, and can cover anything from “None of my friends will shut up about college applications and it’s making me feel panicky” to “But seriously, what should my student do over the summer” to “I hate French with the fire of a thousand suns, do I really have to keep taking it?” 

That way, you get the advice you really need earlier in high school without having to take out a second mortgage, and the “full court press” relationship doesn’t start so early that your student is already burned out when it’s time to turn up the heat. 

Yes, applying to college has changed, and it hasn’t become easier or more transparent. If you feel like you need a guide (and a therapist), you’re not crazy and you’re far from alone. Yes, my students get into the Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools… but more importantly, they find and get into colleges that have what they need and want, and where they will find their people and their purpose. Let’s talk.  


bottom of page