by Steven Roy Goodman; Andrea Leiman Print book  |  1st ed
It Takes a Family   (2007-12-15)
Steven Goodman and Andrea Leiman have designed a manual that takes the subject of college admissions beyond academics and into the realm of transactional psychology—further, in fact, into the realm of culture. Of course the college experience is one with many larger parallels: a high-ticket family financial investment, a rite of passage, and, as this book details, a major decision-making nexus between generations.Over the course of 14 sequenced chapters, the “landscape” of the college admissions process is unfolded and surveyed, its rises and dips outlined in stages from early planning to adjustment to college life. The decision matrix faced by the family reflects the fact that college operates as the key choice in young adulthood. And probably no other high-ticket investment can claim so many shareholders and involves so many subroutines and routings. Reading through these guidelines, with accounts of the pressures to perform, developmental issues, with the stress, anger, fear, uncertainty, and the sheer ego forces unleashed by this quest for independence, respect, and success, one wonders how anyone survives.But the authors have documented the college admissions process as an emotional and social journey, not the straight-line trajectory to the student’s colleges of choice. College admission is a “danger zone” poised at the intersection of several key domains of life: the transition from teen to adulthood, the run-up to the student’s build-out to independence, the end of active parenting, issues of family roles and values, class expectations, the prospects for achievement—all aspects of launching the aspirational self into the world. The demands for good decision making are pressing on a powerful juncture: one where traditional students are still teens with shifting emotional responses (one outcome of the teen brain’s as yet incompletely formed thinking processes), the simultaneous need for dependence and control, as well as anxious parents who are reliving their own traumas and triumphs through their children. Especially stressful, and therefore the focus of in-depth discussion, is college as a breaking out of the child role and building out into the first stages of adult life and thinking. This launch beyond the family orbit is fraught with dozens of decisions which are the shared domain of parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, as well as the student him / herself. Because both writers work with the family dynamics of this decision (Leiman is a family psychologist and Goodman is a leading admissions expert) together they bring analytical tools into the picture for immediate application. Examples include self-assessments as well as questions for mutual discussion that assess opinions and approaches to topics from goals and aspirations to peer pressure, academic interests and ability, conflict resolution style, decision making responsibility, and comfort level with teen independence, to envisioning the future at school, and for parents, a midlife assessment. Just citing “important conversations” that should take place--from college living arrangements to behaviors and attitudes key to beginning adulthood—is a leading asset of this volume.While family groups naturally fall back upon a sense of shared values and assumptions, these are usually unequal to meet the demands for growth that the many college options demand--which college, how large or small, how far away from home, the student lifestyle, strengths in major subjects, social life and sports, costs and who will pay them--there is a great need for comprehensive guidance on how to make these decisions, or even more important, to determine who owns them. The admissions process is a shared venture without many clear signposts or instructions--financial, lifestyle, and social—which makes this crossroad ripe for frustration and conflict between generations and egos.These circumstances bear all the earmarks of a crisis; the book shows how the crisis potential can be transformed into productive and even rewarding family experiences. What is called for is an awareness of what the process elicits and how the workings of tension and uncertainty can be appreciated and anticipated. The outcome of consciously looking for and at these dynamics yields results both for the college search and for depth thinking about relationships, control, and confidence in a richly transactional undertaking. For the twenty million teens between aged 14 to 19 and their significant others, this treatise will be welcome confirmation that yes, this is a problematic transition. However, while its demands can’t be sidestepped, ignored, or perfectly resolved, they can be understood and managed along the way.Offered here are management guidelines beyond the administrative and academic to the relational and psychological. They include questions for family group discussion, self-assessment checklists for parents and students each to ponder and answer frankly, and strategies and timelines for the administrative and deadline-driven aspects of this project – which can cover years of preparation. With the complexity and emotional layering involved (even financial aid is one of the trickiest applications around), it is no wonder that the field has become a stronghold of expert consultants paid to advise and manage with as well as for the anxious and overcommitted parent.The fact that this is in many ways a nonreversible choice with high stakes—and college costs rising far beyond others-- makes it among life’s most central and critical. “Together’s” chart can instill a sense of courage and confidence about what lies ahead to allow all players in the process to learn, prepare, and navigate the waters—smooth and rough--that lie ahead.
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