As I am pre-occupied with the emotional roller coaster that has become rooting on my New York Mets this weekend, I thought it is a perfect time for the Hopkins Insider blog to turn to its second Guest Author. This time you all get to enjoy the journalistic stylings of a very important person in my life ... my Mom.
Yes, Admissions Daniel's mother has penned a blog entry. This past summer, "Admissions Mom Rachel" joined me during a series of summer college fairs in New England. This was her second time shadowing me as I performed the recruiting aspects of my job and this year she was much more involved then just helping me keep the college fair tables stocked with materials and keeping me company while stuck in New England traffic. This year we actually chatted a lot about the big issues of my profession and while sitting in traffic our collective light bulbs went on. What a great idea to have my Mom write a blog entry for the parents out there ... sharing her thoughts and her advice. So with out further adieu, I turn this blog over to Mom. Enjoy!
Greetings readers of my son's blog. My name is Rachel and I am Admissions Daniel's mother. This past summer I accompanied my son on one of his recruitment trips to New England. This was the second year I went with him, and what an amazing experience. Besides getting to see my son perform, I also had the chance to be a witness once again to the college search process in action for so many students and their parents. My first conclusion; things have really changed in the last 15 years since my children were looking at colleges.
As we drove around from college fair to college fair we chatted a lot about how things have changed and how chaos and stress seemingly have taken over on all fronts. However, as we chatted I also sensed a lot of clarity could be gained if students and more importantly parents, paused, took a deep breath, and patiently looked at the big picture from all sides. As we continued to chat, it was clear I had a lot to say and what better way to say my peace then taking over the Hopkins Insider blog.
(So this is blogging. Hmmm...No big deal.)
I write to the PARENTS out there. This is my advice to you all as you shadow your children as they proceed through their personal college searches. Hopefully you will find my advice helpful ... and most importantly keep reading my son's blog because I truly believe he is really good at what he does. He puts his heart and soul into what he does!
#1 - LET YOUR CHILD SPEAK
This may seems obvious, but after what I have witnessed it clearly isn't. You need to let your child speak for themselves. More importantly, encourage them to speak up and ask questions. As I watch my son do his job at the college fairs, he is much more engaged when the student is involved in the conversation. This doesn't mean that parents shouldn't ask questions, just don't dominate.
Remember, they are the ones going to college. I know it is tempting to live vicariously through your children, especially with all the opportunities available to them now, compared to what was available to us back then. But you need to let them make their own choices. Your role is to guide them, make suggestions, encourage them, at time prod them into action, and let them know what is financially available to them. Be their cheerleader, but also step back and let them grow. I guarantee, they will surprise you.
#2 - DON'T BUY INTO THE HYPE
There is so much information out there today about the college search process. However, in my opinion, so little of it is accurate or the truth.
Today's students have an abundance of information with the Internet, college guide books, guidance counselors, counselors for hire, their peers, the media ... I could go on. It seems everywhere you turn now there are stories about college admissions and finding the right college. Everyone now has an opinion. There really is a “Yin & Yang” feeling to all of this. On the one hand so much information opens up so many doors. But on the other hand you can drown in so much information.
I was shocked by how many questions and comments from both parents and students could be described as "college admissions gossip”. At times those questions seemed more prevalent. Instead the questions should have focused more on whether the college was the right fit for the student. Watching Daniel interact it seemed like lots of his time was spent dispelling myths.
Help your children to sort through all this information and decipher between factual information, personal opinions, and ridiculous myths. There are credible sources in the mix, it just takes some time and patience to ignore the hype.
#3 - GO BEYOND THE NUMBERS
If there is one thing I have seen watching Daniel read all those application year to year, it is that the numbers are just one of many factors. Your child will learn nothing about whether Hopkins is the right school for them (or other schools for that matter) by focusing on average SATs and GPAs.
Today's college bound students need to expand their searches and ultimately that will expand their horizons. If your child is considering Hopkins, he or she is probably quite gifted. One of the true pitfalls of looking at highly selective colleges is the strong tendency to focus on getting in. The gaming of the admissions process has unfortunately gotten out of hand, and is replacing what students should really be doing ... investigating the "right fit." It is a four year commitment, and how can some statistics determine fit?
Experiencing the college fairs, the students who got the most information from Daniel were the ones who wanted to discuss what was available to them such as the as the arts, sports, classes, clubs, research, etc. Those who asked questions about social life and academic fit seemed so much more adjusted, than those who focused on the numbers. There was an excitement, more confidence, and a more optimistic point of view of these students than those discussing “how to get in” questions. My advice is to make sure your son or daughter focuses their college search on questions of “fit” rather than how to gain admission.
At the same time I say this, I also understand how competitive it is to get in. So I advise way in advance of decision time, you should have a conversation about dealing with rejection. Remember again also to speak openly about the financial commitment that must be made by the whole family. Make sure they realize there is not just one school that fits, and in the end there are perfect schools for everyone.
Let me leave you with this final suggestion ... now is the time to watch in amazement as your child continues to mature and tackles this task with gusto. Your children have so much more than we did: more resources, more opportunity, more choice. Guide them and advise them, but cherish this time and this decision too. This is the time for you to LISTEN to your children, to have confidence in them, and begin to assist them with their futures. Continue to support and protect them, while at the same time enjoying the ride in the passenger seat.
And one final note ... if I was a parent of a college-bound child considering Johns Hopkins University, here are the types of questions I would have him or her asking Admissions Daniel. (Give this list to your children, it will help.)
- You have to ask about Baltimore. Everyone has heard the rumors and concerns about life in Baltimore. I have visited many times and it is a great city that continues to improve. The Hopkins campus is beautiful, part of an extension of the city is Baltimore. Make sure to find out more about "Charm City."
- Please ask about something other than medicine. Hopkins is so much more than medicine. I wasn't aware of their amazing programs in writing, international studies, engineering, etc. until I listened to Daniel speak about the place. Plus, you will make my son happy if you don't ask about the pre-med major.
- Ask tons of questions about social life. Some of the best students who chatted with Daniel during the college fairs were a young lady who wanted to know more about the Hillel program and a young man who wanted to know about the baseball program. Ask whether Hopkins has your extracurricular passions. Ask about the campus, the students, and what people do for fun. Hopkins is not the place where fun comes to die, make sure you find out why that is just a myth.
- Asking about what learning is like. Don't just ask if Hopkins has your intended major. Ask about how students learn, how they interact with faculty, how they work with each other. Statistics like class size, student to faculty ratio, number of students are all important, but you want anecdotes too. Each school has an overall academic philosophy and you need to see if that matches with the way you want to learn.
- Ask about Hopkins Interactive. It is a great site, and more students should use all its features. (Sorry I had to put in a plug for my son.)
Well, I hope I have done the Hopkins Insider blog justice, and you all found my words insightful and helpful. Maybe Daniel will invite me back for another guest blogging stint ... I'll make sure to share baby pictures and any embarrassing stories of Daniel's childhood.
Well, we hope you enjoyed this entry. Since I have had a few requests for an update on my niece Lilly (and my mom's granddaughter), here are some new pictures from the end of the summer and her first day of pre-pre-pre-school. She has learned so much already that she has moved to teaching Soze. Hopkins Class of 2028 here she comes!!!