With the 2014-15 school year in full swing, many high school seniors are finding that they have two jobs: keeping up with classes and filling out college applications. This post is the second in a continuing series about one senior as she navigates the college search and application process. She is Samantha Fogel, a student at The Derryfield School, a private college preparatory day school for grades six through twelve in Manchester, New Hampshire. Samantha and her college counselor, Brennan Barnard, will document her experience applying to college in occasional posts that will include the voices of her parents, teachers, friends and others. Her story may help debunk some myths surrounding selective college admission while providing a window into a time of transition for one young woman growing up in rural New Hampshire.
In the first post, which you can read the first post here, Samantha Fogel and Brennan Barnard wrote about the beginnings of the college search. Fogel explained how starting the application process was like “being sent out to sea by myself with 20 different maps.” Here’s the second post, with thoughts from Barnard and Samantha Fogel’s parents, Erin and Jeff Fogel.
From Brennan Barnard:
“Helicopter,” “Velcro,” “snowplow” parent, “tiger mom” — all titles we use to vilify styles of parenting in today’s culture. These are the parents that make the headlines. Rarely do we learn about the “carpool” parent or the “glider” parent or maybe the “mother duck,” who provides a healthy example for her children until the time has come for them to waddle off on their own. The latter represent most of the parents we work with as high school counselors. But they can be overshadowed by those parents who are fixated on their child gaining admission to the highest-ranked college in the country. You know them; they have already purchased a sweatshirt from that college — not in the child’s size, but in their own.
My own father attended Dartmouth College and then Vanderbilt University for his law degree. My older brother earned his bachelor’s from Middlebury College and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt. My younger brother attended Dartmouth as an undergraduate and then earned his law degree from Stanford University. I was a strong student, too. I attended a liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, Franklin & Marshall College, and earned my master’s degree in education at The University of Vermont — institutions that may not sit with my brother’s alma maters in the same tier on the US News & World Report rankings, but that were the right place for me. I had close relationships with my professors and opportunities for research, internships and meaningful involvement in campus activities.
My parents challenged me and wanted to me to strive for my best, but they also were able to manage their own expectations and distinguish between what they wanted and what I needed. Samantha Fogel’s parents, Erin and Jeff, are cut from this same mold.
In the Fogel household, there is no cable television and family dinners are rich with discussion and debate. The Fogels have always encouraged Sam and her sister, Jessa, to pursue their passions with gusto and to excel in what they do. For Jessa, among other pursuits, that meant being a high school standout in cross-country running and Nordic skiing. As a senior, she was named New Hampshire Skier of the Year in her division and Jessa continues to ski competitively at Dartmouth. As a varsity coxswain at Derryfield, Sam shares her sister’s athletic prowess, but she truly shines when she is on stage. As a part of every Derryfield performance since she arrived in 6th grade, Sam is at home in the theater. The Fogels have provided opportunities for their girls, encouraged them and allowed them space to grow. They did not allow college admission to dictate every turn in the road as their children navigated their way through high school.
With two young children of my own, I can understand those parents who appear to have me on speed dial and who are on top of just about every decision in their child’s life. But it is also important for parents to try not to lose sight of the distinction between what they think is best and what may actually be most appropriate and fulfilling for their children.
It is when we attempt to control every last aspect of their lives, education and experience, that we can in fact impede their growth. The college admission process is the ideal opportunity to allow our children to waddle off and explore, take ownership and chart their distinct course. (Now I am off to do my 10-year-old’s homework for him after I finish practicing my daughter’s piano playing….)
From Erin and Jeff Fogel
Anyone who is a parent of more than one child knows how different they can be. One likes to dance, the other is into soccer, or maybe violin. Or all three. So we as parents split up on the weekends driving each child to and fro. There is always the exception of course — the families whose children all play the same sport or spend their evenings and weekends at the community music school. We are not that family. So it is no big surprise that the college search process for our second child is entirely different than it was for our first.
Our oldest daughter Jessa’s college search was exceptionally focused. She was looking for two things — an Ivy League school where she could compete in cross country ski racing. We visited the handful of schools that fit her criteria. She was completely uninterested in dorms, dining halls, or clubs. “I’m sure they will have a place for me to eat and sleep, Mom.” She wanted a school that seemed bigger than high school, had a challenging academic environment, and a cross-country ski team.
She narrowed it down to two or three schools. But in the end, she applied to Dartmouth early decision and was accepted.
For us as parents, it was pretty easy. She knew what she wanted. What was hard was the anxiety she felt about her choice. It’s great to know what you want, but what if you don’t get it — especially if you’ve decided there’s only one school for you? She worried, which made us worry for her. Luckily, the acceptance came early. Surprisingly though, there was some second-guessing on her part as her friends were later weighing their options with multiple offers of colleges and scholarships. We weren’t prepared for that, but that is the downside of the early-decision choice. In the end, she went off to college with excitement and is thriving in her new environment.
Samantha’s college search, like Samantha herself, is entirely different from her sister’s. While her sister’s path was akin to a superhighway, Samantha’s is more like a winding country road—an adumbration of constantly changing size, geographic location, and academic offerings. I suppose it was a much more typical start.
While just as talented as her sister, Samantha thinks differently. She is less analytical, more social networker. She likes to gather opinions of friends, both in college and those in the process of finding their own future alma mater. Jeff and I are not at ease with this approach. We are gatherers of facts and less interested in opinions. So we flip through the college guide books, suggesting schools that we think would be a good fit for Samantha. You can see where this is going. The more we suggest and push, the more she resists, and conflict ensues.
Thankfully, an early meeting with Brennan, the college counselor at her school, goes a long way to helping us resolve this and navigate the waters more peacefully. He skillfully guides Samantha through a line of questions that helps her think about her approach and validates some of our parental suggestions. In subsequent visits to campuses, I notice Samantha has been much more discerning about the academic programs and what she likes about them as well as how she might or might not fit in socially. To her, dining halls, clubs, and dorms are important as well as opportunities for study abroad and internships. I think the campus visits will be the key to her decision-making. For now, we are putting our faith in the process. After all, we have raised a great kid — smart, capable, and independent minded. She will make the right choice for herself.
What have we learned from all this? Two things. The superhighway gets you there, and gets you there fast. The winding country road also gets you there. It takes a little longer, but there’s some interesting scenery along the way.