What Parents Learn About Themselves When Their Child Applies to College

As the craze for the "ten year challenge" spreads across social media, I bet many of you have either participated in it and offered your own side-by-side pictures of yourself in 2009 and 2019, or at least considered it. I'll be honest, I've wanted to do it. The problem is that I can't find one photo of myself from 2009 or the next few years. There are pictures of my kids, and my husband, but none of me. It brings me back to who I was ten years ago.

I have learned that it doesn't matter what we do with our lives as long as we are fulfilled and contributing. Working parents are not better or worse than stay-at-home parents. We have a whole lot in common. Our kids take precedence over everything in our lives. Their health, well-being, and happiness matter so much to us that sometimes we put our own health, well-being, and happiness on hold for them. That's what I did ten years ago, and I won't let that happen again. 

After leaving what was supposed to be my "dream job" as the Dean of Admissions of a selective college, I was home with two kids for the first time since becoming a mother. I fueled my daughter and son with everything I was missing: home-cooked meals, extracurricular pursuits, playdates, and a way out of everything that seemed too challenging to face. I lost my ambition for awhile. In fact, I lost all desire to actually do something with my time beyond being a mom. With each day that passed, I felt like I was becoming a shell of who I was. My gumption was gone. My voice was fairly silent. And I accepted mediocrity in myself and those around me. This can happen to working parents and stay-at-home parents alike.
 
But then I got an idea, and I ran with it. That idea was my first website. After that, I started doing videos, blogs, and Facebook Live sessions about the one thing that I loved about my former self: being an expert on college admissions. Then I created a second website and now a national online community of parents with Application Nation, and the rest is history.
 
When I created Application Nation for parents whose children were going through the process, I discovered something unexpected. Moms and dads who spent their days as writers, physicians, financial gurus, artists, and stay-at-home parents, were not only discovering a passion to help their children and other families through the college admissions process, they were becoming experts-in-the-making themselves. Like the former actuary who loved diving into a college's Common Data Set, or the trip planner who had this uncanny ability to make every parent feel supported in the group during the toughest days, or the marketer who could put together a college list better than a seasoned school counselor.
 
When I pointed this out to them, many of them responded with, "Who, me?" Yes, you.  
 
Just as it's my job to find that one piece of a student's story that makes them so special and helps them stand out, I found myself doing that with the parents of the group. And all of sudden, the parents started seeing themselves differently. As Application Nation grows, we are about to launch a training group for parents who want to stay involved even after their child goes to college. They have something to offer, and I refuse to let them walk away without letting them consider something that could change their life and many students' lives going through the college admissions process. It's an exciting time for these parents and for the students across the country who deserve better advice and resources than they currently have.

"Helping your child through the college admission process? You just might start seeing yourself differently." TWEET THIS 

As I scroll through the images on my phone from the past several years, I see a lot of pictures of my kids (now three of them!), my husband with the kids, me with the kids, and yes, me by myself. It has taken years, lots of sacrifice, and daily words of wisdom from my ever-supportive husband. But I am doing something that I am truly passionate about. And I'm helping a lot of parents and students. They fuel me with the things I was missing ten years ago.
 
Doing something for yourself that contributes to the greater good is not being selfish. It's about being whole. If you have ever felt like I did ten years ago, you know that any challenge, social media or otherwise, allows us to look within ourselves and make sure we're living the life we want our kids to live.