Your parents' fears and wishes

Welcome to the new year and a semester!

If you're a senior, you've likely already sent off most or all of your applications. That means you probably have at least a little bit of anxiety about how things are going to turn out.

As a way to put that stress and anxiety into some greater context, please talk to your family about their fears and hopes about your academic future. Consider asking them just like that: "What's your biggest fear about me going to college? What are you most hopeful for?" At the very least, read this quick blog post from Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post, in which a high school counselor shares parents' responses about their fears and hopes for their college-bound children. It will give you some ideas about what your family is thinking, even if they're not saying it.

As a teacher, my hopes and fears for my students mostly had to do with their potential. I hoped that students would have interactions that maintained their curiosity and drive, and I feared that they would get too transactional and just go through college only doing what they absolutely had to in order to get through it. Maybe it's because I got the "not living up to your potential" speech way too much when I was in high school, but most of my anxiety for my students had to do with living up to their own potential.

As a parent of two daughters (admittedly, my oldest is still only in the fifth grade and we haven't talked a lot about college), I think about their potential and what I hope they'll accomplish in and after college. But it's also more personal: I worry about gender bias and sexual abuse, and I hope that they keep the grit and grace necessary to have a great experience.

So hopes and fears can be academic, economic, emotional, physical, or any combination. As the school year gets back into gear (or just coasts, as is sometimes the case with seniors), take some time to talk to your family about these things. If you're treating your college search like the search for a good relationship--and you should be--then getting their perspective can be useful for all of you.

Please share this with someone who would like to read it. And keep coming back: this month I'll be spelling out what you should be doing this semester, and I'll share some things I learned from a long talk with a Dean of Admissions.