Wednesday’s Parent: Partying and your college-bound teen

Partying and your college-bound teen. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Partying and your college-bound teen. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

If you are a parent of a teen, you know partying no longer means party hats and balloons to your child. That means for parents, we must move forward and leave behind those heart-warming fond memories of children’s birthday parties. Changing the noun “party” to the verb “partying” often instills heart-stopping fear about our almost adult children’s celebrations.

Partying conjures up images of unhealthy self-indulgence and lack of self-control. The location of festivities may vary from a concert to a private home. The wild spree may be short-lived but the consequences may linger affecting future college and career dreams.

So what’s a parent to do?

Here are 6 tips to deal with partying and your college-bound teen:

Be realistic Banish thinking “not my child” and replace it with recognition of peer pressure and certain situations may strongly influence and prompt bad decisions for anyone.

Have a conversation Keeping communication flowing is the best way to know what is going on with your teen. She should know your position and you should know hers about alcohol, drugs, smoking, fighting, unprotected sex and other risky behaviors.

Be alert You know your child, his habits, likes and dislikes. Beware of warning signs such as grades dropping and personality/interests changes. Be ready to seek outside help if necessary from school and private professional sources.

Set an example Children are natural learners and great imitators. Teens can’t wait to model adult behavior. Now is a good time for parents to take a fresh look in the mirror to see themselves as their kids see them. Since nobody’s perfect, expect to make some changes for both your and your child’s benefit.

Don’t become a challenge Parents also may have a past they are not proud of. Sometimes they may want to relate a personal story as cautionary tale. Be careful of this type of reminiscing because teens may see it as a challenge or not such a bad thing if a parent did it.

Be a back-up Let your teen know he can count on you in good times and bad. Be his plan B to get home and his out to save face with his peers.

For a great list of parting safety tips for teenagers, click here.

Read Suzanne’s post: Wednesday’s Parent: It’s Party Time Again


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.




Using Your High School Study Abroad Experience as College Prep

SPI Study Abroad

SPI Study Abroad

When most parents and teens think of studying abroad, thoughts of college students attending overseas college programs often come to mind. However, high school students may be interested in attending a study abroad program while they are still in high school and use the experience as preparation for college. How to do this successfully is explained by the following guest post from Justine Harrington, SPI Study Abroad.

Studying abroad as a high school student is a wonderful personal experience – there’s nothing like learning all about another culture and language in an exciting foreign country. But, did you know that study abroad can also be a great way to prepare for college? There are just a few questions to address when choosing a program, in order to fully maximize the college prep potential of a study abroad experience:

Does your program include the opportunity to attain college credit? Some high school study abroad programs offer the chance to take classes in exchange for college credit  — this is definitely an aspect worth placing near the top of your list when choosing between programs.  Attaining college credit during a high school abroad experience indicates a deep level of maturity in a student’s academic career, and looks wonderful on a resume or application.

One important note: in order to make sure that your future university will definitely grant credit, it’s best to check with that specific university before going abroad – every school is different! It’s also a good idea to chat with your study abroad advisor about how often credit is granted – inquire as to whether more than 90% of students receive college credit for the program.

Is there a global leadership or student ambassador component to your program? Most high school study abroad programs include some kind of global leader or mentor role that students are encouraged to apply for – this is a fantastic way to gain great cross-cultural leadership skills, which will not only help you stand out during the admissions process, but will also aid you during your time in college. In today’s world, global leadership skills (such as the ability to communicate across cultures and understand cultural nuances, and be informed about the world) are a must.

Is your program an immersion-based program, or more of a travel-based program? Both types of programs certainly have their appeal, but in terms of college prep, an immersion-based study abroad program (in which students are completely enmeshed in the culture and way of life of another country) is much more likely to help students in acquiring a second language. So, why is this important? Because, in our globalizing society, demonstrated proficiency in a second language is rapidly becoming the norm among college students. Getting a jumpstart on the language learning process (in high school!) will help you become more fluent in a faster amount of time – and there’s no better way to do this than by engaging in true language and cultural immersion.

About the Author: Justine Harrington is an Admissions Advisor for SPI Study Abroad, a provider of language immersion and global leadership programs exclusively for high school students. Justine is also the main contributor to the SPI blog, and is looking forward to spending her summer assisting with SPI’s French immersion program in Biarritz, France.

Wednesday’s Parent: Stressing out the college process

Stressing out the college process. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Stressing out the college process. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Reactions to stress vary from fatigue to frenzy. Some may be frozen in a state of inaction, unable to be motivated. Others may find themselves so agitated they can’t concentrate. Either way, things don’t get done or done poorly. This may be disastrous for the college-bound loaded with an extra long college prep to-do list.

Keeping up with increasingly difficult classes, studying for college admission tests, researching colleges and filling out applications are happening as students are preparing for their driver’s license and getting ready for the prom. They are assuming more independence and responsibility and are faced with a host of new issues.  Choosing a college may mean living far from home. Paying for college may mean acquiring debt through student loans. These changes affect every family member.

Stress breeds stress

Parents and their children may respond differently to anxiety. As the pressure mounts, reactions grow stronger. Worse, family members may feed off each other’s emotions. Instead of having each other’s back as a college prep parent/student team, parents and students may find themselves at odds, harboring frustration and anger towards each other.

The best way to handle stress is to recognize how you deal with it. Learn your response and before it drags you down, start communicating. Get the team back together and on the same page. Perhaps a time management plan would make things easier to meet deadlines. Maybe better organization would speed up efficiency.

Use good stress

Not all stress is bad. Good stress from positive and exciting experiences may help motivate and inspire. Getting the lead in a play, making the team or becoming a club officer may generate joy for the accomplishment. It may also lead to concern about performance.

Students may focus on the great opportunity and the fun of anticipation to fuel enthusiasm and determination. Proud parents may offer congratulations and then take a step back. They should be careful not to add to the pressure of meeting high expectations their child may be feeling.

Take a stress break

Suzanne Shaffer and I have talked about some aspects of college prep stress before. Some of the tips in Wednesday’s Parent: 7 holiday stress-busters and Wednesday’s Parent: SOS over application stress may apply now. 

Overall, I’ve found the most effective way to interrupt the stress cycle is with laughter and fun. Try and find the humor in the absurdity and perspective in the freakout. College prep is the first step children take as they prepare for adulthood. Make it work for you not against you and give yourself a break!

Find expert help

On Twitter chat #CampusChat Wednesday, April 23 at 9pm ET/6pm PT, hosted by Wednesday’s Parent, guest Fern Weis of YOUR FAMILY MATTERS, LLC provides her tips and suggestions for dealing with stress during the college process. Later, check out Smart College Visit for a recap of the chat.

Read this to learn how to join the chat and participate in the conversation with your questions and comments.

Read Suzanne’s blog for typical scenarios to deal with Stress During College Prep.

Wednesday’s Parent: Passing the responsibility torch

Passing the responsibility torch. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Passing the responsibility torch. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

He’s got his mom’s eyes. She has her dad’s smile. He’s got his grandpa’s sense of humor. No one ever says, “She has her grandma’s sense of responsibility.”

Maybe it’s because many react to the concept like responsibility is a four-letter word. Being accountable, acting independently, making decisions and behaving correctly is the essence of being a responsible person. It is a parent’s responsibility to teach this lesson to their children.

The importance will be obvious once the kids leave for college and the lack of responsibility costs time, money and a lot more work for all family members. May students with a strong sense of responsibility mess up anyway? Sure, we all make mistakes and parents may use it as a teachable moment instead of an “I told you so.” However, if the lesson was well-learned, the student will probably be saying this to himself, taking responsibility for his actions, and being more careful in the future. That’s the true test of responsibility.

The following is a list of typical problems and preventive solutions for parents to teach responsibility now before their children go off to college as young adults.

Money Pit

Problem It seems every time the student calls home she is asking for money. Worse, the calls are coming with alarming frequency. Or the checkbook is overdrawn, the credit card is over the limit, or the student loan is so high the she won’t be able to afford an apartment and must live rent-free at home after graduation.

Solution Teach the value of a dollar and how to budget. Mixing money management skills with financial planning and delayed gratification is the basis of a sound financial future. If students can, they should balance studies with work to earn their own spending money. Summer jobs or internships that earn course credit may help defray more college expenses. Families should only borrow what they can afford to repay.

Dirty laundry 

Problem The student returns home for a visit with several bags to give his parents. Trouble is the bags aren’t presents. They are stuffed with dirty clothes. Never ask and try not to think how many times he wore those socks or underwear before he stuffed them inside a bag.

Solution Teach now how to do use washers and dryers and when on campus learn where they are and how to pay for them. Make sure he has a full supply of detergent. Then when he comes home, reintroduce him to the responsibility of taking care of one’s own wardrobe.

Achoo! Cough!! 

Problem The parent receives a text message from his offspring complaining about how sick she is and needs some immediate TLC. The college infirmary is so packed, a bad cold doesn’t gain admittance. The school offered flu shots and hand sanitizer but this student blew them off, instead staying up late sharing popcorn out of the same bowl and drinking soda out of the same straw with others.

Solution Before you drop everything to dole out the sympathy, make a house call, or mail a medical care package, prepare her now. Teach preventive medicine like proper hand-washing techniques, sharing food, and getting enough rest. Have a plan for minor illnesses caught at school so she can take care of herself. Then send her off to college with plenty of tissues and the knowledge about using over-the-counter medicines appropriately.

Off meds

Problem It’s midnight and the student is calling home, frantic that he ran out of his necessary medication. There is no all-night pharmacy nearby. Or that he fell down and has bleeding elbows and skinned knees. The on-campus Infirmary is closed and the injury doesn’t warrant a trip to the ER.

Solution Teach basic first aid skills in general and special health needs for medication and special equipment in particular. Before leaving for college, have a plan to schedule reorders and know how to contact local pharmacies. Check out the campus Infirmary for what it treats and when, the local hospital and any medical professionals the student may need to contact for help. It’s also a good time to have another “sex talk.” And don’t forget to pack a first aid kit.

Freshman 15 

Problem The student has taken full advantage of all those cheese fries, shakes, burgers, pizza, ice cream, cookies and coffee drinks available and within easy reach twenty-four-seven. She has gained weight and it is negatively impacting her health and her wardrobe.

Solution Good nutrition is important at every life stage. Parents can model this at home and make a healthy life-style for the entire family a priority. When the student goes off to college, she will have the knowledge to create her own. Investigate all options on the meal plan and take advantage of the gym, sports and clubs available to get the student moving. Besides, the cost of tuition, fees, room and board usually covers these expenses whether they are used or not.

Bad choices

Problem Substance abuse, binge drinking, extreme hazing, academic probation, suspension, expulsion are all results of bad choices. No parent wants to hear any of these things associated with their student. Worse, the school may not be able to tell them of impending trouble because of privacy rights under FERPA.

Solution Keeping communication open and honest is the key to a good parent-adult child relationship. Start now by being a good and supportive  listener who is available to offer nonjudgmental advice when asked. Move on to teaching good decision-making skills and the expectation of dealing with the consequences of choices. Parents may also ask their student to give permission for the college to release information to them.

Failing classes

Problem The student doesn’t go to class, gets failing grades, and drops a course past the deadline. She was listed as a full-time student at the beginning of the semester but her record will show otherwise. Her academic standing and financial aid are in jeopardy but is still on the hook for the full college bill.

Solution Being a student is a job and acceptable job performance standards should be clear. Parents and students need to have a heart-to-heart discussion about expectations. Both should be vested in the agreed upon terms for motivation to achieve stated goals.

Pressure Cooked

Problem The parent provides a daily wake up call to the student and helps with her homework. Or the student, like these case studies, is unable to get what he needs to get done each day. The fear is without parental intervention, the student will be late to class, unable to handle the workload, and stressed beyond her limits.

Solution Time management skills are a must for those with long to-do lists. Parents and students can practice them together leaving more time for family fun. Creating a calendar, listing tasks, breaking them down into manageable steps and prioritizing activities is also a form of control that can mitigate against stress. Knowing personal limits and when to ask for help are skills, too. Students should know they may seek campus tutors and mental health professionals when needed.

Crime victim

Problem The student doesn’t bother using the campus escort service late at night and goes out alone. Or he leaves his new laptop unattended in the library. Or he props the dormitory door open leaving his wallet on his desk. The student is now a victim of a crime.

Solution Regardless of where families live, each member should have “street smarts” and self-defense knowledge. Parents can teach their children or they cans learn together from a professional. Before going to college, visit the Safety Office and learn campus and community safety procedures and features.

Stolen identity

Problem The student returns home every chance he gets. The parent visits, calls, texts and emails every chance she gets. The parent-student separation anxiety is running way too high.

Solution Parents and students can develop their own individual interests and commitments. They can enjoy family time and time apart. Parent-student separation anxiety may be reduced by planned and regular agreed upon contacts such as weekly phone calls and mid-semester visits. Students need time to to make new fiends and adjust to college life. Besides, there are longer college breaks between semesters than those based on high school calendars. They do come home a lot!

Don’t forget to celebrate accomplishments. They lead to self-supporting, self-sufficient and independent adult children. Responsibility has its rewards!

Read Suzanne’s blog: With Freedom Comes Responsibility


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: 5 rule-breaking ways to encourage

Broken rule. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Broken rule. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

It’s one of life’s ironies played on teenagers: they are natural rebels testing limits at the very time they have a host of new college prep rules to follow.

The stakes are high putting pressure on students to follow procedures precisely. They are penalized for not submitting quality answers in the format designated. Whether it be homework, standardized tests, or college/scholarship applications, broken rules can negatively impact grades, scores, college admission and financial aid.

But there is some wiggle room for the “James Dean” college-bound and the good news is parents can encourage and support these five rule-breaking ways:

1. Creativity Direct those rebel tendencies to thinking out of the box. Students can stretch those creative muscles in essays, papers and projects. Read College Professor Invents Origami-Inspired Microscope That Only Costs 50-Cents to Make and watch the video to get inspiration.

2. Leadership Colleges want their students to show leadership qualities and students may do this through officer positions in extracurricular clubs. Being a club member is fine but going to the next level gives students a chance to move from rule follower to rule leader.

3. Solo Students may tackle a special academic and extra-curricular activity on their own. From research to community service projects, they get a chance to be the rule-maker.

4. Entrepreneurship Another way to get a chance to make rules is by starting a business. Students also get the bonus of acquiring leadership skills (see above) and earning extra money!

5. Social Media Students are on it anyway so they might as well coordinate, manage and market their social media presence in their best light. This gives them control over their “brand” to make the rules work for them.

For more about rules and the college process, see Suzanne’s blog.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Parent role in college visits

Campus this way. Pjhoto by Wendy David-Gaines

Campus this way. Pjhoto by Wendy David-Gaines

Visiting a college is a great way to evaluate a “good on paper” school but students and parents have different roles. Suzanne and I already gave our tips about why these trips are so important on Wednesday’s Parent. I called my post Collegecations because it’s the best way to check student-college fit and get a vacation. Now it’s time to focus on each family member’s function.

So take those college lists on the road to visit schools for the first time or reevaluate those that offered admission.

These are five parts parents play during a college visit:

  1. Fly on the Wall Step back and watch your college-bound child’s body language. You will know his level of comfort, excitement and interest about the campus and its current/prospective students without saying a word. It also will encourage him to take the lead in finding the place he wants to learn and earn his college degree. Parents cannot expect their student to do his best unless he is vested in the college process.
  2. Chief of Security The teen years should be called the “super teen years” because teenagers often feel invincible. Parents, loaded with the wisdom of experience, can spot dangerous conditions with a single glance. While your student is busy looking for what is important to her, parents may focus on the campus security systems such as blue lights and safety escorts. Seek out the Campus Security Office to learn about campus and community crime stats and policies/procedures to keep current students safe.
  3. Voice of Reason Dorm rooms, student centers, club lists are important but when parents find their student ignoring the classrooms, library and placement office, it’s time to speak up. Redirect focus on academic and internship opportunities that will determine the value of a college education.
  4. Financial Advisor It’s hard for the young to think ahead and appreciate the problems of juggling heavy student debt while supporting a desired lifestyle. Parents may provide perspective by analyzing costs, projected future income by career choice, and standard of living with their student. Include a stop at the Financial Aid Office for information about college costs, net price, scholarships and any other programs to help pay the college bill.
  5. Logistics Officer When attending college, students have their room and board set but parents have to arrange these every time they visit. Take time to scout out available accommodations, eateries and methods of transportation. Parent travel costs are not included in the cost of attendance (COA) so families must include them on their own. For more info on additional costs, check out POCS COA and to help plan a collegecation check out Smart College Visit’s Explore Colleges.

Read Suzanne’s blog about the student role in college visits.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.