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College Admissions Together : It Takes a Family (Paperback)

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Doing College Admissions En Famille

by on 2/26/2008

I read with trepidation the request to review of what I inferred would be merely another book of hot tips about how to pry open the doors of selective colleges. Enough of those, I sighed. Thankfully, however, College Admissions Together by Steven Roy Goodman and Andrea Leiman is significantly different. Aimed at parents, but clearly for the entire family, the book presents the journey through high school and the transition to college as a family matter to be shared. The authors allude delightfully in the subtitle to a work we are all aware of, whether or not we’ve read it. As they say, “It takes a family.” Perhaps the family dynamics have to be reasonably good in order to follow the admonitions in the book, but any family which does will emerge stronger. In each chapter the embedded strategies are well interwoven with the discussion about college admission. One could almost approach the book as an extended interactional “game” designed to promote family harmony, with college admission being merely the topic that gives the exercise meaning! The book brings to mind The Parents Guide by Don Dinkmeyer & Gary D. McKay, my favorite parental handbook. Steven Goodman and Andrea Leiman’s book is somewhat like that -- with checklists, interpersonal exercises and provocative questions for discussion. While College Admissions Together is definitely a “how to” book, it is, happily, so much more. Ideally, the book would first be read by all the members of a family as a child enters the high school years, and then intermittently discussed over the next few years. That approach might help preempt later controversy related to family dynamics, fear of failure, peer group challenges, etc. These and similar issues are discussed succinctly and anecdotally in the book. Although such topics may seem only tangential to college admission, the authors remind us that adequately resolving them is crucial in adolescent development and thus germane to college admission. And, of course, to success in college. The opening chapter, “A Safe Passage to Adulthood,” acknowledges the inherent stress for families as young people progress, and includes the first of the book’s novel exercises, this one to address family disagreements and conflicting preferences and opinions. The authors remind us that ideally parents give children roots and wings, and the essence of the book is about recognizing and constructively using the inevitable tension of relating with college bound adolescents. Subsequent chapters deal with potential domestic mine fields such as “Objectively Assessing Your Child,” “Peer and Social Pressure,” “Shifts in Family Control,” “Establishing Realistic Expectations,” “Enhancing Your Family’s Communication“ and “Family Member Responsibilities.” One could argue with a point here and there. For instance, shouldn’t it be the aspiring adolescent who keeps track of application deadlines? One would like to think so, and to think of this competency as a test of readiness for college. We repeatedly assess academic preparation -- lest some child be left behind! Yet we overlook readiness. But perhaps the authors are being necessarily realistic: best not to entrust the adolescent with that crucial responsibility. Wisely, they advise parents, “You must keep careful track of admissions deadlines.” (Emphasis mine.) The book is tidy. Unlike other bloated volumes, College Admissions Together is a mere 174 pages. Easily skimmable in an evening. Yet it doesn’t skimp on the essential details. The helpful chapter, “Key Aspects of College Applications” succinctly discusses where and when to apply, standardized tests, essays, financial aid and other related topics. In “The long Wait for Decisions” is the only discussion that I’ve ever seen in a college guide book regarding the emotional vulnerability of many young people at this time, including a cautionary few paragraphs about about the possibility of depression. The authors are thorough. Incidentally, it is sobering to realize that according to a recent survey, 32% of American young people live in single parent families, most of them highly stressed with every day survival. (In Kansas it’s 42%! No wonder a contemporary book title asks, “What’s the matter with Kansas?”) And since many children live in foster homes or with grandparents, uncles, aunts, or older siblings, far fewer than the remaining 68% live in two parent families. Sadly, those young people are unlikely to reap the benefits of the family interactions proposed in the book. Also, like most American youngsters, they are less likely to be in private schools or in SAT prep courses or have educational consultants or essay tutors. No doubt about it: there’s no level playing field. But the disheartening statistics should not distract us from the value of this unique book. The model of cooperative effort presented in College Admission Together is superb. If I were to recommend only one book to parents of college bound young people it would be this one. My friend Bill Coffin used to say regarding life, “It’s about finding a transcendent purpose.” For college counselors and college admissions officers, this yeasty book reminds us that there is one aspect of our college admissions work that is transcendent: the strengthening and enriching of the bonds of families. That -- and the writing of such a book as College Admissions Together -- is noble work. David Denman

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Product Overview

As featured on NPR and the Wall Street Journal -- A top educational consultant and a family psychologist join forces to offer sane, savvy advice for bonding as a family as you steer your children through choosing a college


Publisher Casemate Pub & Book Dist Llc
Mfg Part# 9781933102542
SKU 204503534
Format Paperback
ISBN10 1933102543
Release Date 10/30/2007
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Doing College Admissions En Famille by on Feb 26, 2008