Get through the college search without losing your sanity

Does the idea of the college search for your student throw you into a panic?


Are you hiding under the covers about it?

Maybe you’re just at the tail end of sophomore year for your first child, and you’re already having nightmares about getting it wrong. You’ve heard all the stories about kids going into debt they never dig out of or coming back home to live in the basement (that’s going to be a craft room!). You’ve heard that colleges are harder and harder to get into, and you’ve looked at some of the sticker prices. Why is this worth it?

Let me tell you, I’ve been there - and it’s possible that I’ve got you beat on the crazy.

I started obsessing about college the minute my first child, Sophie, hit ninth grade. I started having dreams about going on long pleasant road trips with her up and down the coasts, admissions officers taking us to lunch because of her all-expenses paid scholarship that she was offered earlier than everyone else because she was an obvious choice. The next night, I’d dream that because of her tragic junior year in which she’d decided that grades didn’t matter and she’d rather buy a VW bus and drive around the country finding herself, she spent senior year yelling at me about how she was never going to get in anywhere, and then she didn’t get in anywhere. I mean anywhere.

You can see where I’m going with this - I was truly a crazy person.

I knew enough about child psychology to do my best to keep this crazy to myself, but that just made it worse.

Dreams of my kids doing smart things in a place like this . . . .

Dreams of my kids doing smart things in a place like this . . . .

I was forced to present an exterior as a normal person who occasionally asked, “Um, so do you want to talk about college ideas?“ What made it worse was when I tried to find other adults to commiserate with. All of my friends had kids younger than ours - we were the vanguards. And when I tried to talk to parents with kids the same age, I usually watched the wall go up. “Oh, I’m not sure what you’re asking. My Johnny is completely dedicated to the college search every day - he’s very committed and understands the value of it.” Or, “What college search? Mine is going to a state college - everything else is way too expensive and too far away. We aren’t talking about it - she’ll be fine.”

Then I realized there were people who actually did this for you - I could hire someone! Problem solved! I started researching private college counselors. What I found threw me into another tizzie. Some of them seemed super creepy (“I guarantee your child will get into Stanford if you hire me!” and “If you do what I tell you now, you will be able to pay for any college.”). Others, who seemed to be just what I was looking for, were SO pricey! I was sure they would help, but how could I rationalize paying $3,500 and up to do something that I felt like I should be able to do on my own. Maybe.

So I got to work.


The first thing I did was to see a financial adviser - I knew I didn’t want to become an expert in this area I was obsessing about, and I knew for our family that would be a huge factor in the decision.

The second thing I did was to collect every piece of information I could that would help me develop a philosophy of how I wanted to approach the problem, along with a lot of advice about how to get there.

I won’t tell you it was all smooth sailing.

Parts of it really sucked. But the thing of it was, we figured out how to, for the most part, make it sort of suck as a family. I also won’t tell you I didn’t stress all the way through it, but I realized we were at the other side with exactly what we were all hoping for; choices between some great schools that Sophie could choose from, and we all still liked each other.

In the aftermath, I still felt bad - I’d wasted a LOT of time worrying and stewing, time I could have spent enjoying the last years of Sophie’s time with us. Because of all the stuff I figured out with Sophie, the search with Ben was SO much easier. I knew what needed attention when, what mattered and what didn’t, and how to be the shepherd to Ben the sheep. He wouldn’t want me to call him that, but he’ll probably never read this.

This program was created because I don’t want you to do what I did.

I wish I had this program as an option when I was planning college with my first child . . . I spent a lot of time worrying about whether what I was doing was the right thing, and not enough time enjoying my kid while he was home.
— Chris, parent of thriving college sophomore

It’s designed to give you everything that took me a couple of years to develop on my own that would get my head in the right place to be the most useful and most pleasant parent I could be. It was also created because I couldn’t find anything else of its kind; there are people out there who will manage the college search for you (for a hefty fee), or financial guys who will tell you that you should have started saving years ago, but that’s not what you need. You need a place to ask questions, a place where you don’t have to pretend not to be worried about grades or whether your kid would actually LIKE going to a fancy ivy league school . . .

Why me?

Here’s me and my second child, Benjamin, on his high school graduation day.

Here’s me and my second child, Benjamin, on his high school graduation day.

I’m a certified ICF coach, so I have tools to get you where you want to be in this process. Also, as a friend likes to say, I’m a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks. I’ve been through it. I’ve survived one child not getting admitted to the school of her dreams, and what came after. I have had to have some very real conversations with our kids about finances and some conversations about meeting deadlines. Our first kid graduated from a school she ended up loving, and is now paying her way through the Real World (on a liberal arts degree, no less!). We have a son who is about to finish up at the school of his dreams, and a third child is entering his junior year - I’ll be in it with you all the way!

What the Program Is

This program isn’t the magic bullet to getting your kid into Harvard. It’s a way to start to think differently about how to approach it, and a way for you to not feel alone as you go.

Here’s what you get:

  • Six hour-long online sessions to kick off the academic year, covering topics that will get you off on the right foot. If you can’t attend the session in person, use the recorded sessions to review whenever you like. We will get to know each other a little, but no scary icebreakers here - we’ll get right down to business. Sessions are specific to parents entering junior year and a separate one for parents entering senior year, so questions and topics will be specific to you.

  • Monthly newsletters during the academic year with reminders and new information, based on where you are in the process and what’s coming up. They will keep you on target for what to pay attention to, and will help keep your mind in the game throughout the year.

  • Membership in a closed Facebook group to share challenges and successes with other parents going through the same thing you are, and even some who have already done what you’re about to do.

I love working with Maria. She has a calm, positive demeanor in everything she does, and is encouraging and challenging at the same time. She’s a great coach.
— Gillian, student
  • Optional one-on-one sessions to talk through any issues specific to you and your student that we might not cover in class, or a place to have confidential conversations about what your specific family is facing.  Option 2 and 3 include this part, and additional coaching is available.

  • Also optional - special delivery of a three-volume set of selected readings to get your brain moving in the right direction before sessions begin.

  • Weekly email throughout the summer with some things to do before September. These are also a great way to introduce the program to friends; they can sign up for these before registering!

So maybe we should talk about what’s NOT included here.

Here’s what you won’t get:

Sophie, my oldest, graduating from college. And there’s the son who doesn’t yet know what he’s in for!

Sophie, my oldest, graduating from college. And there’s the son who doesn’t yet know what he’s in for!

  • Guarantees about getting your student into any college, legal or otherwise. We are here to help you be an advocate for your student and help find the best school for them, not the “best school.” That distinction might not make a lot of sense right now, but it will.

  • Finance. We are not experts in how to pay for college, and that’s private. We’ll give you some things to look out for and strategies that worked for us, but we suggest you consult a financial advisor.

  • A platform for the sole purpose of bragging freely about your student’s achievements and which “prestigious” school he/she got into. Leave that for public Facebook posts or for your neighbors; we are a place where you can be unsure, ask questions, and honor the possibly nontraditional choices that make a difference in the lives of your students.

Okay, so what’s the financial commitment? I’ve got three options for you. Choose the one you think is right for your family and the one that will make you feel ready for this big adventure. And because this will be more fun with your friends, you have the option to talk your besties (or just the neighbors) into joining the team too, and you’ll receive a 20% refund for every person you bring into the clan. Keep going with that until your enrollment is totally free!

Whichever option you choose, this program will make you confident that you are using your limited time wisely, without spending more than you would pay for the average summer camp for your kid. You will stress less about the college search, and enjoy your family more. All this without losing your sanity. What’s not to love?