Understanding the Relationship Between Parent and Teen Mental Health

Understanding the Relationship Between Parent and Teen Mental Health

The medical community declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, new research is helping to shine a light on another important aspect of the story — the mental health of parents and the influence of their health on teens. We see this influence make a difference during the college admissions process. 

Head over to the Harvard GSE website to watch a short video that discusses strategies to better support the mental well-being of parents and caregivers with a view to preventing anxiety and depression in adolescents.

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Jeff Selingo – Upcoming College Admissions Book

Jeff Selingo – Upcoming College Admissions Book

I’m excited for Jeff Selingo’s upcoming book and its emphasis on considering the vastness of higher education beyond a handful of selective schools—much needed. Read more about it below.

Lots of people have been asking me what I’ve found so far in the research and how they might help, so I wanted to give a quick update before the calendar turns to 2024.

First, as I’ve talked to parents and college counselors in recent months, I’ve been thinking about what this book needs to do. In much the same way as Atomic Habits and The Power of Habit tried to shift our mindset about developing better habits, my belief is that this book must help us reexamine what makes a “good” college. The goal is not for students and parents to settle for a second choice, but to consider the vastness of higher education beyond a handful of selective schools.

As I map out the book, the first half will be focused on explaining to readers why they need to reevaluate their college strategy in the first place. If you’ve been through the process recently, you’re probably thinking duh, of course they do. But everyone approaches this process as newbies, thinking their experience will be different. And as my editor reminds me, we live in an aspirational society: we want to aim for what we’re told is the top.

In the first half, I plan to illustrate how the admissions landscape has shifted in just the last few years by following the college-going experiences of recent graduating classes at three or four high schools that I’m in the process of identifying now (if you’re at a high school and want to be considered, reach out). For that section, I’m often reminded of this scene from Jeff Makris, director of college counseling at Stuyvesant High School, for a piece I wrote in New York magazine last year:

While we spoke, Makris pulled up the admissions results for his students going back to 2016. He rattled off a bunch of college names. About the same number of his students get accepted at the usual suspects in the Ivy League now as six years ago, though many more apply too. What might surprise students and parents from a few years ago, however, is the next set of colleges Makris mentioned: Northeastern, Case Western, Boston University, and Binghamton University. In 2016, 298 students applied to Northeastern, and 91 were admitted; last year, applications to the Boston school jumped to 422, but only 49 were admitted. Last year, 129 Stuy students applied to Case Western, about the same number as in 2017, but admits were almost cut in half to 36. In 2016, the acceptance rate for Stuy’s students who applied to Boston University was 43 percent; last year, it was 14 percent. Normally, Makris said, about 50 to 75 graduates enroll at Binghamton University, one of the state’s top public universities but a safety school among many Stuy students. This fall, 124 students went there.”

So how can you help? He says:

I’m always on the lookout for families who’ve been through the process at least once and have a kid in college (or recently out) and might have a story to tell about how they were on the path for Plan A and it didn’t work out—they didn’t get in, they couldn’t afford it, or for some other reason it wasn’t the right fit—and they turned to Plan B, which in the end turned out better.

If you can help in any way as a potential source, please complete this short form. I won’t be able to respond to everyone, but I will reach out if you fit what I’m looking for to illustrate the research.

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

College Rejections Aren’t Personal

College Rejections Aren’t Personal

I’m thankful that most of our students are admitted to their top choice schools in the EA, ED 1, or ED 2 rounds. But every year, some students are not so strategic with their choices and, therefore, are not as successful in these rounds. Each year since it was posted, I have revisited a wonderful article on rejection by Adam Grant. It begins by reminding us of what both students and parents can fast-forget when dealing with a college rejection:

When someone rejects you, it helps to remember that there’s another you.

You are not in this alone! A college with a 15% admit rate rejects 85% of applicants, so you’ve got a lot of company. Remember that you have to play to win, and when the game is over, the best thing you can do is move on confidently. 

As someone who has been rejected an appropriate amount, How to Bounce Back From Rejection is something I know well! Yet, it’s not something that can always be taught or that we can prepare students for, especially if a student is used to coming out on top. During a sea change year (i.e., this year and… honestly…the pathreet 3 years!) and when there is a lot of misinformation and misguidance around how hard it is to get into selective schools in the US, results can feel even more confusing. 

What Grants also points out that I hope all students and parents can keep in mind is rejection often happens for a reason that is not personal to the applicant: lack of fit. Fit is not all about where the student thinks they will be the best fit academically, culturally, etc. Fit is determined based on what a college needs (its institutional priorities)—it’s a moving target and not always a two-way street. Students don’t control, and in many cases don’t even know or understand, a college’s institutional priorities. How can they be when colleges are not transparent about it? What constitutes a fit in one applicant pool might not be a fit in another, and this can vary from school to school and year to year. 

Students, please remember: 

We are more than the bullet points on our resumes. We are better than the sentences we string together into a word salad under the magnifying glass of an interview. No one is rejecting us. They are rejecting a sample of our work, sometimes only after seeing it through a foggy lens.

Hang in there. In the end, as hard as it will feel to accept in the moment, things almost always work out just how they should.

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Focus on the next fours years, not the last.

Focus on the next fours years, not the last.

The class of 2022 is resilient. They’ve weathered a pandemic, the confusion of test-optional, okay at best online schooling—the list goes on. 

Great read in Charter by S. Mitra Kalita. “Bottom line: You’re going to be fine. Let’s focus on the next fours years, not the last!”

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*


Are You Putting Too Much Pressure on Your Child During the College Admission Process?

Are You Putting Too Much Pressure on Your Child During the College Admission Process?

Intense achievement pressure, particularly in affluent communities, can generate high levels of stress, anxiety, and/or depression in young people. We are sharing this from MCC, and hope you give it a read!

The questions and short quiz created by the team at Making Caring Common can help parents and caregivers (and even counselors like us!) be alert to red flags that they may be putting too much pressure on their student in the college admissions process.

College Admissions Red Flags: Quiz and questions for consideration

  1. During dinner conversations, do you often talk about your child’s grades and college applications, forgetting to ask your child what they find interesting and fun about school?

  2. When you meet with or contact your child’s teacher, do you ask primarily about grades and test scores? Do grades and test scores tend to crowd out discussions of whether your child seems to be enjoying school, is a good friend to others, and contributes to the classroom?

  3. Do you email or call your child’s teacher about assignments or grades more than once a month, even when your child is not having any problems (e.g., trouble completing homework, absence due to illness, etc.)?

  4. Does your child sometimes not eat or sleep well because he or she is worried about not performing at a high level in school?

  5. Do you press your child to take certain courses or participate in extracurricular activities in which they have little interest, or which are stressful for them, for the sake of college applications?

  6. Do you encourage your child to do certain community service projects that they are not interested in because you think these projects will be helpful for their college application?

  7. Do you sometimes allow your child to exaggerate or lie about the extent of their community service because it will help them get into a selective college?

  8. Do you ever encourage your child to apply to selective high schools or colleges based on prestige or commercial rankings, such as the U.S. News & World Report ranking, without considering whether the school is a good fit for your child’s personality and interests?

  9. Do you ever see your child’s peers as competition in the college application process—for example, telling your child not to let others know where they are applying to college because others might apply to the same school and hurt your child’s chances of getting into the same college?

  10. Do you sometimes pressure your child to engage in substantial college preparation while they are on vacation (e.g., intensively studying vocabulary cards or math problems), instead of ensuring that they have ample time to relax or play?

  11. Did you or do you plan to hire an SAT/ACT tutor or have your child take an SAT/ACT preparatory course before junior year of high school?

  12. When you visit colleges with your child, do you sometimes ask more questions than your child does on the tour or at the info session?

  13. If your child was not accepted at a selective high school or college, would you be embarrassed? Would it affect your self-esteem?

  14. If your child received a bad grade on a test or assignment, would you feel responsible or like a failure?

  15. Do you primarily visit and talk about highly selective colleges with your child, rather than a wide variety of colleges, including less-selective ones?

  16. Do you frequently think about whether your child is performing at a high level or will be accepted at a high-status college?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to take a look at the messages you may be inadvertently sending your child, and to talk with those you respect and trust about how you might reduce college admission pressure. Learn more about our Turning the Tide Initiative and use our tips for dialing down achievement pressure and raising caring kids.

 *Stay in the know! Subscribe*