The Mixed Message: School’s Creating Helicopter Parents

by AustinMom

Last week I went to a freshman (high school) parent night and was told about all the things I should be doing to ensure my child’s success. These included (1) making sure they were using the agenda the school gave them, (2) regularly checking their grades, (3) each weekend helping them select the appropriate FIT sessions for the next week, (4) subscribing to the teachers’ webpages for those using that system to get emails when each assignment is posted, (5) logging into my student’s account to see what the assignments are for the teachers using that system, and (6) in my account, I should also set it up so that I get a notification for missing grades, absences/tardies, and when the child’s average falls below a family determined level.

Before I go on, FIT sessions are mandatory 25 minute tutoring/study sessions that occur 3 days a week. Teachers post the topic/style of each of their sessions each week, such as Q&A review for Pre-AP Biology Test 2 or Review of Quadratic Functions, or the student can select a quiet study hall or a “open” study hall that allows talking so kids can work on group projects. Teachers or counselors can sign a student up for a FIT session that the student cannot change.

Yes, I set up my parent account so I can see grades, get notifications for missing grades and when an average falls “too low”. However, I think the rest of those items are my student’s responsibility, but I am absolutely willing to help her with any issue if she asks. The teachers and counselors have told them to do these things and have showed them how. I believe that my student should not be counting on me to do these things and then remind her about all her assignments. If she does not handle the responsiblity appropriately, then it is my job to step in and help her figure out what needs to happen differently.

The next day this article (Standford Dean) comes through my feed about the negative effects of helicopter parenting and not to do “everything” for them. The event last night that told me what “good”, “involved” parents should do seems to be promoting helicopter parenting.

About 5 days later I attended a set of college presentations with my HS junior. One of the speakers introduced the term “helium parenting”. The article (Helium Parenting) describes it better, but think about how a balloon is tethered to your hand when you hold it, but it can still move around freely within limits. Then, when you let go, it goes off completely on its own. Helium parents provide that freedom within boundaries knowing that they will ultimatley let go.

Totebaggers, do you feel that you are getting mixed messages about how “involved” you are to be in your child(ren)’s school life? Do you feel like you are a “helicopter” or “helium” parent?

What a Stanford Dean Says Parents are Doing That’s Ruining Their Kids

Helium Parenting

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151 thoughts on “The Mixed Message: School’s Creating Helicopter Parents

  1. Those school suggestions for parents sound like they are sick of hearing from parents asking about assignments, etc. My son does not tell me when he has homework, so my first stop when there is an issue is always the online grading system, where most teachers post all the assignments, reminders about big projects, and other communiques to the kids.

    Letting him be in charge of it now might not give him the best HS GPA ever–he recently flubbed a project, says it didn’t realize how heavily it was weighted (hint: it’s called a “project”)–but the only mistake I’ve seen him make repeatedly is using his cell phone in class when he’s waiting for other kids to complete work. Example: he kept getting 100s in English, so he did a crap job on an assignment. He got an F on it, and has since scored in the 90s. As much as we exhort our kids to always do their best, I don’t pressure him for making that kind of calibration.

  2. A few years ago my experience with my kids’ high school was the opposite of what the OP describes. The high school clearly wanted parents to butt out and let the students “take charge of their own learning. When I wanted to meet with a teacher I was discouraged from doing so because otherwise they thought that otherwise my kid wouldn’t be able to handle the independence of college. Well, my thoughts were that my sophomore kid could mess up his chances of getting into the best college for him if I did not intervene at that point.

    OTOH, from kindergarten through about 6th grade, the school wanted me very involved in my kids’ academics. Overly involved, imo. They assigned homework that needed a lot of parental involvement. Internet research for a third grader, for example. So I think they “trained” me to be very involved, and then cut me off abruptly during middle school.

    So overall, I would agree that schools send mixed signals and often mess up in helping students gain independence as they advance to graduation.

  3. Wow, I wish our district did some of this. In particular, I wish it were easier for parents to see what the assignments are, especially for middle schoolers. Instead, we just keep hearing the mantra “Students need to be responsible for themselves” – for 6th graders who, the year before, had takehome folders with one or two little worksheets, carefully overseen by the teacher. The gap is enormous. At the 5th grade back to school night, a number of us parents begged the 5th grade teacher to spend time explicitly teaching the kids how to organize themselves so they wouldn’t be annihilated in middle school

  4. I am watching my freshman’s grades as her learning disability mainly presents through lack of organization. However, as the school is basically running 3 systems the teachers can use to push assignments out to students, managing three systems is more challenging for her. Also, the teachers are fairly slow about putting grades or even the assignments on the central grading system. An example of slow is a Biology test taken two weeks ago hasn’t shown up yet.

  5. We am signed up to get weekly blasts (Thursday evenings) from the school’s online grade system with current status. It works pretty well and the timing is good because it prompts one of us to review the upcoming week’s work that’s posted by the teachers. I treat it like a weekly 1:1 I’d have with a manager. For me, that’s so I know whether it looks like a hell week on the horizon with lots of papers/projects/tests.

    For us, the good news is that he seems to have (finally) taken to heart the idea that grades count and doing well in the initial marking period of senior year might actually send a message to some schools that he is really capable of performing at the level his SAT indicates.

    I try very hard and am mostly successful at staying away from the online system except for the weekly blasts. Otherwise he’ll never learn to manage anything.

  6. I tend to agree with S&M that this is partly CYA for the school. If you burst in on the teachers and principals demanding to know why your kid got a B+ on some assignment, they can turn it back on you and primly ask if you did the requisite 20 hours per week of hovering. Oh, you didn’t? Well. That’s the problem, then.

  7. During my DS’s freshman year in high school I was always on powerschool, checking his grades and asking him why this assignment had a zero (because once he didn’t turn one in, so I was paranoid – it usually meant that the teacher was slow to grade them!) or what happened on that test. It was stressful for both of us. I went cold turkey his sophomore year and told him I wasn’t going to bug him anymore, which made both of us happy. His grades improved each year from then on. Whether it was me leaving him alone, or him figuring out what he needed to do to be successful, who knows?

  8. At a much broader level, requiring parental activity as an integral part of schooling gets schools and teachers off the hook for not educating those students whose parents cannot or will not assist in that fashion, which defeats the larger justification for broad based publicly funded education. I thought AustinMom’s kids went to private school, but maybe I am mistaken. Anything they require is part of the implied or express contract.

  9. Meme – I have a HS junior in private school and a HS freshman in public school. The public school is enouraging more helicoptering than the private HS or the private MS did. Private elementary pushed a lot of parental assistance Evil Twin described.

  10. Well, my thoughts were that my sophomore kid could mess up his chances of getting into the best college for him if I did not intervene at that point.

    Is the hardest part just getting in and with grade inflation etc. someone with a modest level of conscientiousness should be able to do OK? Or, is there a risk that the kid will end up over their head?

  11. Argh. Pet peeve here, sorry I am awaiting takeoff. My impression is that the flat amount of logistical crap has increased exponentially since my day, and at the same time the teachers have gotten more moralistic about the kids needing to take charge of their work, and less flexible about oopses. It’s very authoritarian, be responsible, etc, without any training or practice so the kids can learn how to do that without big consequences for failure. No wonder the kids are stressed.

    I will spare the anecdotes for now. But I cannot say how strongly I detest this, because it does no service to the kids.

    I would call myself a helium parent. But the downside of that is my kid has periodically suffered for my failures to ride herd and schedule her study times.

  12. Rhett – A modest level of conscientiousness may not be enough. My example: A friend of my freshman is at another high school, where they take an online quiz every class day for an English class. The teacher took a couple of weeks to post the quiz grades and the parent found 12 grades of zero. These are 40% of the course grade and English is not this student’s forte. The child went to the teacher, asking what happened as she’d taken each quiz on the correct day. Found out, the student has mistakenly taken the practice versions instead of the gradeded versions. The teacher said, I can’t help you – all the zeros stand. And, her overall grade was failing. The parent intervened and the child was allowed to retake all of them almost 20 in all, but the grades would each be reduced by 15% for being late.

  13. Austin,

    But MM keeps telling is that hoop jumping nonsense has spread to college. What’s going to happen to them when they don’t put the new cover sheets on their TPS reports in college?

  14. “What’s going to happen to them?”

    They are going to struggle. Depending on the kid, perhaps mightily. IMO, it is no longer possible to be successful at college by being bright and doing well on exams. You must also be successful at the hoop jumping. Sending your student to a reach school if you are still helping to manage organization for them, or if they are relying on the kindness/flexibility of teachers is a mistake. If letting them struggle and figure it out in high school means that they won’t get in to that reach school, then they are not ready for that school. But giving them the opportunity to figure out how to manage ALL of it on their own means they can actually be successful in whatever school they end up at. Putting the emphasis on maximizing the prestige of school to which they are accepted instead of maximizing their ability to succeed is a mistake, in my opinion. I am seeing this play out among some of my kids’ friends now (and to some degree, among my kids)

  15. Rhett – You asked if general conscientiousness was enough. My answer was sometimes no.

    I, unfortunately, agree that hoop jumping is skill we have to teach our kids if they are to be successful. The point of my original post is that as a parent, I need to step back and let them hoop jump on their own as much as possible so they will be ready for college. However, sometimes you need to still need to step in when the alternative is “messing up” the kid’s chances for “X” (ET said best college, my example the parent was trying to prevent a course failure).

    IMO, each time you intervene as a parent, it needs to also be a hoop jumping lesson for the kid. In my example, the parent showed the student where in the handbook, it said grades could be made up regardless of reason, with appropriate late penalties, before the last 3 days of the grading period. The teacher didn’t let the student know of the policy, which was applicable; she just said zeros stick. Now the student knows a bit more about how to use the handbook/policies to her advantage.

  16. (ET said best college, my example the parent was trying to prevent a course failure).

    You can make a pretty strong case that they deserved to fail that course. The assignment wasn’t just to know X and be able to regurgitate X it was to know X and enter it correctly into Y system. She didn’t do the assignment.

  17. I am under the impression that one thing has not changed from my day and my kids’ day at the über-reach colleges, with the exception of the elite STEM schools or technical programs in larger schools. Getting in is the hardest part. Sure you have to go to class and turn in work, but it is now even easier because of institutional support to enjoy the intellectual fun and non traditional academic paths that used to be reserved for those with moxie, gift of gab and faculty backing. I would worry more about an above average student whose hard work, resume, test scores, and diligent parents got him a partial scholarship to an elite program at a large institution far from home, or a prosperous student admission to a reach but not top tier SLAC where she didn’t necessarily fit in well.

  18. Getting in is the hardest part.

    If that’s the case then Austin is totally correct. I’m just having a hard time understanding how much things have changed since 20 years ago.

  19. “Getting in is the hardest part.”

    Speaking from recent experience, I agree with Meme. So in our case a bright 15 yo who had not yet mastered jumping through silly HS hoops benefited from parental intervention, but later on he had no problem handling the elite school challenges. A few more years of maturity plus a more supportive academic environment made the difference.

  20. but later on he had no problem handling the elite school challenges.

    Do you have any insights into the level of hoop jumping required? Is it still more or less the same as in our day?

  21. I am so not a helicopter parent which hopefully won’t be to my kids’ detriments. My oldest is in 4th grade and she overall handles stuff herself. I tell her homework, studying, etc. is up to her but if things start going south then I will get more involved in helping her w/homework and studying (which she’d really prefer me not to do). In her ES, how much parental involvement is needed seems to vary from year to year. This year I have to sign her agenda, her homework and every test/quizz that comes home and there is a lot of busy work homework. Last year her teacher was anti-homework and I barely got involved except to go to the annual conference. It’s a good lesson that different teachers are going to require different amounts of hoop jumping. This week I know DD has forgotten to have me sign her agenda but I haven’t said anything – will see if she remembers.

    I really enjoyed the former Stanford dean’s book – How to Raise an Adult and feel like it’s something I should read every year.

  22. Helium parent here. My kids have definitely suffered, grade wise, because I am not a helicopter parent.

    But I don’t think mom-assisted grades are worth anything long term. I’d rather they mess up and figure out how to course correct. If that means a different set of college choices, oh well. It’s all part of growing ip and becoming a responsible, self-reliant, independent person.

    Fail. Fail again. Fail better. Figure out how to recover and move on.

  23. Evil Twin, did your kids change schools and/or school systems going from elementary to MS to HS?

    Perhaps one of the benefits of having kids in a K-12 school is that there is knowledge in the lower grades of what the kids have in store as they get older, and there are efforts made to ease the transistions.

    I would think that kids within a school system that funneled kids through an predetermined progression would be able to do something similar.

  24. “Do you have any insights into the level of hoop jumping required? Is it still more or less the same as in our day?”

    It seemed the level of hoop jumping was more or less the same as when I was in college. Nothing extremely onerous. Professors responded to emails. Many if not most classes had grades based on the mid-term and final along with a few papers. Also, having more flexibility in being able to select and schedule your classes made it easier, same as when I was in school. Obviously YMMV. As Meme said, other types of kids at other schools may have more struggles.

    “I’d rather they mess up and figure out how to course correct. If that means a different set of college choices, oh well. It’s all part of growing ip and becoming a responsible, self-reliant, independent person.”

    I also see the value of that approach. There’s not one correct way for everyone.

  25. My kids went through K-12 within the same school district. I’ve also heard other parents at other school districts complain about the disconnect between ES and MS/HS. In our case, the school district committee for curriculum continuity had teacher representatives from various grade levels, but as usual no parental representatives.

  26. MMM bought a Nissan Leaf!

    I am reading this with interest. I might need to check out that book – it sounds like it is up my alley. Having a 4th grader, it doesn’t apply much yet. His school is very big on the child’s responsibility (outside of the annual science fair, but that’s another post). So we don’t really have any encouragement to helicopter on school things. The exact opposite actually. But i wonder how it all translates when he goes to a new school with different systems in MS or HS.

  27. It amuses me that Stanford has created a complex system of bansai tree trial levels for admission and then is shocked that they end up with beautiful bansai trees.

    When babysitter #1 needed unplanned surgery, my babysitter for the last 3 weeks of summer had just turned 16. I branched out from hiring someone with two younger brothers and hired someone with two younger sisters. We all survived. I’m pretty sure I’m not a helicopter parent.

  28. I became a helium parent after I saw Jess Lahey speak last year. She is the author of The Gift of Failure: How the best parents let go so their children can succeed.

    I can check assignments via google classroom, but I don’t check more than once a week because DD usually gets most of her work done without supervision. The progress reports from the school are open once in the middle of every quarter, and then grades are posted 4 times a year. We don’t have access to the grades except for these 8 times, and the last time is in early July after school is complete.

    Her issue is procrastination, and all I get is an argument when I ask why she isn’t completing work so I’ve decided to let her figure it out. I still have time to let her “fail” since this is still middle school. She only has one class so far that will eventually have a grade on her HS transcript. Today is a prime example of her superior procrastination skills. The teachers were asked to assign little to no homework for the four day weekend since a lot of people were celebrating the Jewish New Year or going away since it was a long weekend. All she has to complete is reading 25 pages in a novel that she actually likes, but she hasn’t touched the book.

  29. Kids school posts assignments when they are assigned and grades are updated online weekly. If assignments show as missing/late the student has to communicate with the teacher and resolve the issue. Quarter end is the deadline for making up work and there are multiple reminders to complete before the quarter.
    So far, the handling of responsibility has been age appropriate. Older child also now emails teachers with questions. I found a surprising improvement in both my kids advocating for themselves which I didn’t expect.

  30. Lauren – DS is the same way. Whatever it is gets done right in time but not a minute earlier.

  31. From my admittedly limited view, and at non-elite universities, there is more attendance-related grading and more assignments (graded) to ensure students are keeping up that would make it difficult to miss class and still be successful. I’m not arguing for skipping class, but I saw no reason to show up to classes where the instructor was just going to read PowerPoint slides to me, and I was able to still do well. I could not make good grades with the habits I had with courses structured as my DD’s or friends’ kids are. It is an issue for one who is on an athletic team and one who works a lot of hours. Maybe at more elite schools that is not considered necessary.

  32. “In our case, the school district committee for curriculum continuity had teacher representatives from various grade levels, but as usual no parental representatives.”

    Are none of the teachers also parents?

    I think my kids benefit from many of the faculty at their school also being parents of kids there.

  33. MBT – that was my college experience in the home country as well. Professors showed up to almost empty classrooms. Parents questioned the teaching and why their kids were enrolled in college at all.
    After a few years, attendance policies grew strict and you couldn’t sit for exams without the required attendance. I don’t know if the teaching improved.

  34. Rocky, I see it partially as CYA, but definitely also getting rid of pests. Who wants to answer the same question 20 million times in a row? If parents want to know all that stuff, then put it all in one place and have a quick & easy way to shut 95% of them up.

  35. Louise and Lauren, mine too. A week ago he tried to print a project in the morning before school. The printer wouldn’t work & he lost a lot of points.

  36. MMM is on a slippery slope of unnecessary luxury!:) I do agree with him on the electric car thing though. DH’s car is 8 years old and we’re holding out another few years and then he’ll probably get an electric car.

    I went to a SLAC and attendance was taken in most classes, so it was sort of an extension of high school in that way. There was no getting lost in the crowd when you were in a 15 person class.

  37. By 8th grade, all of our kids had migrated to small private schools. The first was run by men, which may be why there was very little hoop-jumping required. The second was tiny, with very few graded events, which is the primary explanation for why there was little hoop-jumping there either. At the second school, we had two sets of extensive written evaluations each year that were delivered in the context of a conference with all or most of the teachers present (only 4 or 5), but if there were issues earlier in the semester the parents would be notified. Other than regular quizzes in middle school math, graded events were relatively rare, so that neither students nor parents needed to be checking a website to keep track of assignments. My kids didn’t have any special learning needs and they pretty much managed their own school lives by 9th grade. I cannot for the life of me imagine trying to keep up in an environment like the one described by Austin Mom.

    As for college, I agree with Meme that (for the totebag demographic), the hardest part is getting in. Kids don’t flunk out of school anymore. DH has fewer graded events than other professors, and doesn’t take attendance, but still gets students who show up in his office begging for extra credit after neglecting the problem sets all semester. Some of them do end up failing his class, but there seems to be enough padding in most students’ schedule that they still end up graduating.

  38. MMM better be careful about those tax credits. When I bought my hybrid in ’07 there were income limits on the credit. I betcha he makes enough now that he might not qualify for the credit.

  39. Finn – It does have football but they were/are abysmal.:) Fraternities and sororities.

  40. Rhett – In response to your comment at 12:10 – I agree that the student was to both do the assignment and master the technology. But, having to wait for feedback that it wasn’t being done correctly until close to 20 had been done incorrectly seems excessive “punishment”. One or two, then yep, maybe the kid should take the hit. Plus, the teacher didn’t offer up “the you can do them for late credit” until the parent stepped in. I think if a student asks what can be done, the teacher should at least spout school policy back at the student.

    My DD#1 is getting better at hoop jumping, but has gotten grumpier about it over time.

    S&M – I think what makes the kids (and adults if trying to helicopter) at DD#2 school challenging is that it isn’t 1 place to go look, it is at least 2 and might be 3 (depending on which system your teacher picked) that are electronic and require a different path to navigate.

    I have no problem with they forgot something on the printer at home and have to find a solution or have to scrounge around from a friend to get a copy of something they forgot at school or taking a low grade because they forgot there was a quiz. Those are all things that should be their responsibility.

  41. (Daydreaming) With a combination of federal and Colorado credits, I wonder what kind of price I could get on a Tesla S…

  42. A slippery slope of luxury indeed! When talking about the features of the Leaf, he wrote this sentence.

    “You can pre-heat (or pre-cool) the cabin from the comfort of your bed or office”

    Isn’t this the same guy who said that A/C was for wimps?

  43. I like the term and idea of helium parenting. My DS does have chores, but I need to give him more.

  44. “You can pre-heat (or pre-cool) the cabin from the comfort of your bed or office”

    I believe the Leaf also comes standard with a heated steering wheel.

  45. “And it’s a 2016!”

    I’m guessing that he got a good deal in part because the dealer is trying to clear out 2016 models. This is the approach I took when I bought my current car.

    “And he financed it for 72 months!”

    And explained how he came out ahead with the 0 down 0 interest loan and the discount for financing.

  46. And explained how he came out ahead with the 0 down 0 interest loan and the discount for financing.

    I know, if you have good credit you’ll almost always be better off taking the subsidized financing. But, that doesn’t stop some from railing against the practice.

  47. “Kids don’t flunk out of school anymore.”

    Uhhh…please reference my posts discussing DS1 and the best three years of his life!

    (due to lack of effort/application, btw)

  48. “Kids don’t flunk out of school anymore.”

    A friend’s son who had done the whole Johns Hopkins NMSF thing just flunked out of his freshman year. It does happen.

    Scarlett, what did you mean kids don’t flunk out? That ones who go to class and make an effort don’t flunk out?

  49. MMM has railed against financing cars for years, even though most of the time it makes perfect sense.

  50. It looks like UT Austin’s 4 year graduation rate is 52.1%, Ohio State’s 58%. If you look at the 6 year mark both look to be in the low to mid 80s.

  51. I suspect many of the non-graduates did not flunk out but dropped out, whether because of academic struggles or for other reasons. At most colleges, I think if you put in the effort you’re likely to graduate.

  52. CofC,

    How are we defining flunk out? Failing so many times that you’re asked not to return. Or, doing badly such that you’re advised to take a semester (or more) off to collect yourself.

    At most colleges, I think if you put in the effort you’re likely to graduate.

    Isn’t putting in the effort the hardest part?

  53. Putting in the effort is probably the hardest part.

    Are there any totebaggers who flunked out? I’m going with no.

  54. My impression is that most who drop out of college do so before they actually flunk out. But I don’t have the data on that.

  55. “How are we defining flunk out? Failing so many times that you’re asked not to return. Or, doing badly such that you’re advised to take a semester (or more) off to collect yourself.”

    Perhaps it’s a semantic question, but I think it’s still pretty common for kids to change majors because of poor grades.

    “Isn’t putting in the effort the hardest part?”

    BITD, I knew a lot of kids who put in a lot of effort but still struggled. Some subjects in which a lot of kids struggled included calculus, chemistry (especially organic), and physics.

  56. “I knew a lot of kids who put in a lot of effort but still struggled”

    So then they change majors, right? I think that’s still very common.

  57. Sorry, what I meant is that kids don’t generally flunk out at reasonably selective schools (say, those that take fewer than 30% of applicants). They may drop out or transfer, but being kicked out for failing grades is very rare. Grade inflation is the rising tide that has lifted all boats, it seems.

  58. InMyDay® I saw both happen. Sometimes people would switch majors, and sometimes people would drop out when it became clear that they were failing.

  59. I think we do our kids a disservice to make sure EVERYONE can go to college when many may not be cut out for it. I think they start and don’t finish ever or mature more before they go back.

    I have a friend whose son is two semesters away from graduation, began suffering from anxiety to the point he has been at home for 18 months. He likley will not go back to his original institution and may never go back.

  60. Scarlett,

    I think we’re considering dropping out due to poor performance flunking out.

  61. A friend’s daughter flunked out of state flagship. She had 2 F’s and 2 C’s, due to depression or anxiety or something near the end of the semester. She was not allowed to come back. There was no academic probation for a semester or anything, just uninvited.

  62. Rhett,
    Many students and parents consider C’s poor performance in an environment where the average grade is an A.

    We all know that OUR kids probably have the bandwith and support to get a college degree, but it’s easy to forget that we are in a totebag bubble. In his 2009 book Real Education, Charles Murray had some interesting observations on the folly of trying to send more kids to college who simply can’t do college-level work. He was criticized for his bluntness, but it’s hard to argue with his four basic points, summarized below:

    “Ability varies. Children differ in their ability to learn academic material. Doing our best for every child requires, above all else, that we embrace that simplest of truths. America’s educational system does its best to ignore it.

    Half of the children are below average. Many children cannot learn more than rudimentary reading and math. Real Education reviews what we know about the limits of what schools can do and the results of four decades of policies that require schools to divert huge resources to unattainable goals.

    Too many people are going to college. Almost everyone should get training beyond high school, but the number of students who want, need, or can profit from four years of residential education at the college level is a fraction of the number of young people who are struggling to get a degree. We have set up a standard known as the BA, stripped it of its traditional content, and made it an artificial job qualification. Then we stigmatize everyone who doesn’t get one. For most of America’s young people, today’s college system is a punishing anachronism.

    America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted. An elite already runs the country, whether we like it or not. Since everything we watch, hear, and read is produced by that elite, and since every business and government department is run by that elite, it is time to start thinking about the kind of education needed by the young people who will run the country. The task is not to give them more advanced technical training, but to give them an education that will make them into wiser adults; not to pamper them, but to hold their feet to the fire.”

    http://www.aei.org/publication/real-education/

  63. There was no academic probation for a semester or anything, just uninvited.

    Forever? Or could she reapply?

    I can’t imagine they can do that if there is an ADA issue present.

  64. America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted. An elite already runs the country, whether we like it or not. Since everything we watch, hear, and read is produced by that elite, and since every business and government department is run by that elite,

    Yeh, I’m going to have to take issue with every business and government department is run by the academically gifted.

  65. I told you that MMM was getting antsy to buy an electric car. The discounts that he got are impressive, but obviously unsustainable from either the tax folks or Nissan. It’s just that with cheap gas prices, far fewer people are interested in EVs and hybrids right now. My brother recently bought a new Prius that was heavily discounted for this reason.

    MMM’s Car Purchase Decisionmaking Chart was hilarious. “Greater than 10 miles from work? Move closer. U-Haul $19.95 per day.”

    But I’m wondering what the IRS might have to say about this part:

    On top of that, I’ve placed the new car in service as a business vehicle, which will make it partially tax deductible and skew those graph lines even higher.

  66. Graduation rate statistics do not take into account the students who transfer to another school. Those are counted as “not graduating” for the school that they transferred from. So, you have to be very very careful with official graduation stats

  67. Milo – most small business owners seem to buy their personal cars under their businesses so it must be somewhat legit. And doesn’t MMM employ an accountant now?

    And I am going to say there are plenty of jobs out there for the less academically inclined college students. The six year grad rate is what most public’s look at because it is often really hard to graduate in four, especially for kids who work or switch majors.

  68. In teaching oriented schools, which comprises schools from elite SLAC(eg Swarthmore or Amherst) to Queensborough Community College, the mantra is now “active learning”, especially in STEM where a lot of research shows that this approach works. What one person calls “active learning”, another person may call “hoop jumping”. But it does really work.

    So to that end, in my intro programming course, I have a weekly quiz, a weekly in class lab project, 4 out of class programming projects, as well as two midterms and a final. And during regular class, I only lecture for about 10 minutes at a stretch, and punctuate with think-pair-shares, or poll questions. Some of my collegues have the students come up and do programming problems on the board, but I haven’t had the guts to try that

    https://www.wired.com/2014/05/empzeal-active-learning/

  69. “Yeh, I’m going to have to take issue with every business and government department is run by the academically gifted.”

    He’s probably being elitist and thinking of the Department of State and Apple, not the local branch of the DMV and the corner ice cream shop.

  70. I still have time to let her “fail” since this is still middle school. She only has one class so far that will eventually have a grade on her HS transcript.

    Why can’t she “fail” in HS? Would her life really be ruined if she gets a couple of Bs or Cs in HS and doesn’t get in to a top college?

  71. “Why can’t she “fail” in HS? Would her life really be ruined if she gets a couple of Bs or Cs in HS and doesn’t get in to a top college?”

    The implications are more severe in high school. Those grades would disqualify her from the state flagships and from many honors programs at lower ranked state universities. Fewer merit scholarships will be available, so college will be more expensive.

    Will her life go on? Sure. However, if a parent can help her get better grades by hiring a tutor, instilling good study habits in the child, etc, why wouldn’t they do that?

  72. Interesting observation: I teach a class at a local university. Not the fancy one. I’ve talked to some employers and they have told me point blank that they like hiring at this university because the kids have more grit and less ego. The students are less elite, less white, lower GPA, many are first in their family to attend college. They will work hard and do any task that you give them. They are used to working and studying at the same time–to juggling and prioritizing. They are better problem solvers because they have had to solve their own problems.

    The students at other, more elite universities (based on comments from employers and my own experience) seem to be less flexible and seem to do better in a structured program where they are told what to do.

    I think these observations are borne out by a study on the GPA of CEOs and entrepreneurs. I don’t have the study, but I think it said that C students were more likely to do well professionally than A students.

  73. I am well aware of the fact that I contradicted myself in my two posts. This cognitive dissonance reflects the fact that I am helicopter parent who knows deep down that drive, grit, and luck matter much more than grades and SAT scores.

  74. Sure. However, if a parent can help her get better grades by hiring a tutor, instilling good study habits in the child, etc, why wouldn’t they do that?

    You don’t want them in over their heads. If it takes an army of tutors and constant supervision to get them into UT Austin maybe that’s not the best fit for them.

  75. Houston, by any chance is that local university a public one? I have noticed many times that public university grads, especially the ones from the regional publics, tend to have more perseverance and grit. One reason is that many of them are working people returning for the degree, so they know why they are there. But there is another, I think more important reason. Public universities can weed out students, especially in popular majors, in a way that private universities cannot. That is especially true for the smaller private schools, even the elite ones. They justify their high tuitions on personal attention, support, student success, and so on.
    I have taught at two public u’s and one private, and my husband taught at an elite SLAC, so I have seen this firsthand.

  76. Are there any totebaggers who flunked out? I’m going with no.

    My sibling did. True Fs. From complete lack of effort. So it does happen.

  77. You can be forced to leave an elite college if you are on academic probation for consecutive semesters or something similar, which is a form of flunking out, but you can always re enroll. However, once you get there, the academic requirements are not onerous in most majors. It is homesickness or mental breakdown or partying or preferring to spend ones time in performance or politics that leads to academic disqualification – there are not a lot of hoops or excessive workload.

  78. I flamed out, left for 3 semesters, returned on academic probation, graduated magna even with a few Ds and was awarded a Natl Sci foundation fellowship for grad school, I know that everybody thinks that there are no longer second chances available as there were for me 45 years ago at 20. And 25 years ago at 40. But that is really not the case.

  79. I thought of the Totebag last year when there was a group project drama at my house. The group projectees started as a fantastic trio and the teacher gave ample time to complete the project. Of the trio, only a duo did their parts with “Davis” the flake promising to do his part. The duo thought that Davis would deliver and all they had to do was combine their pieces into a mind blowing project. On D-day -2 Davis’s piece was MIA and Davis had to be cornered and bribed or threatened to do his piece. On D-day -1 the project was incomplete, lots of face timing that scoundrel Davis, long rants about him and a plea to email his mother to get her son to deliver. Anyway, the dejected duo presented their pieces, complained to the teacher about Davis and got a lower grade.

  80. Louise,

    Was that Corporate America 101? It’s amazing how realistic the makes the scenarios these days.

  81. I flamed out, left for 3 semesters, returned on academic probation, graduated magna even with a few Ds and was awarded a Natl Sci foundation fellowship for grad school…there are not a lot of hoops or excessive workload.

    And after all that you graduated from X when you were 20? I don’t know that I have a lot of faith in your estimation of the difficulty of the coursework.

  82. At elite colleges, it’s unlikely that any of the kids there don’t have the intelligence necessary to get a degree. Flunking out of one of those colleges is almost certainly due to reasons other than not being smart enough to handle the courses.

    At public colleges, especially the non-flagships, e.g., directionals, admission criteria are much lower and, as Mooshi indicated, the bar is shifted to things like passing classes and finding money to pay tuition, fees (don’t forget the fees to support the athletic departments!), books, and living expenses.

  83. Are there any totebaggers who flunked out? I’m going with no.

    I also flunked out, but was readmitted into a different major, and graduate with a lofty 2.6 GPA.

    Although I’m a totebagger only in the sense of being part of this forum, not in terms of having “totebag values.”

  84. The implications are more severe in high school. Those grades would disqualify her from the state flagships and from many honors programs at lower ranked state universities. Fewer merit scholarships will be available, so college will be more expensive.

    Will her life go on? Sure. However, if a parent can help her get better grades by hiring a tutor, instilling good study habits in the child, etc, why wouldn’t they do that?

    Is she learning “good study habits” or is she learning that she can only succeed with a lot of extra help? And will she be able to get through the state flagship or honors program without continuing to receive all the extra help?

  85. A few of my colleagues and friends have kids that flunked out, or were asked to leave school in the last five years. In almost every case, the kids were not going to classes because they were having too much fun. They would party, and they were too hung over or too tired to go to class. Once they got behind, it was hard to catch up. The real problem for my friends is that they didn’t know until late in the game. The schools are not middle schools, and they don’t think it is their responsibility to immediately contact parents. Even though the parents might be paying the bill, they have little to no early information about academic problems.

  86. Lauren, colleges can’t give any information to the parents without the student’s consent unless the student is still a dependent on the parents’ taxes. It’s much easier for the colleges to simply not release information to parents rather than try to determine whether each student is a dependent or not.

  87. I understand why colleges can’t share the information, but I don’t think all parents realize how much they will have to depend on junior for information vs. the institution.

  88. I delayed taking my final exams for a year because I wasn’t motivated to study for them. I already had an internship based on my prior years grades. That internship and after that a job along with a professional certification was my mapped out path. To me at that point the final exams and graduation certificate was a formality that had to be endured.
    On grade inflation, my mother mentioned that when she was in school/college getting 75% was considered excellent. By the time, I was in school/college the bar had risen to 80/85 and now it is 90/100 in the home country.

  89. DD, nearly all of the students at our university are dependents, and we get zero information on grades or academic issues after a single mid-term grade report during freshman year. But this place is full of Totebagger parents and dutiful kids, so I’m guessing that there are few surprises. My sense is that many of our students are in pretty regular communication with their parents. Personally, because DH is so very focused on these things and also runs into our kids on campus from time to time, I have to feign ignorance that college involves graded events and only ask about other things like friends and roommates. If there is academic stress going on, it usually becomes apparent in those conversations.

  90. “Is she learning “good study habits” or is she learning that she can only succeed with a lot of extra help?”

    This relates to discussions about how UMC (aka “rich”) families can and do provide “a lot of extra help” at many stages of their children’s lives. From the best childcare to deluxe summer camps to tutoring to paying for college to a down payment on a house to paying for grandkids’ private school, UMC kids benefit from abundant nurturing and support. Now, some of these kids will thrive from all this extra help, but some will never learn to stand on their own. OTOH, some less advantaged kids fail from lacking this family support but others come out stronger and tougher. With more perseverance and grit, as was noted.

    As parents we must make decisions about how much and what type of extra support we wish to provide our children. Some of our kids will benefit from it and some will not. The dynamics are complicated. If we withhold the expensive trendy clothes, will that teach grit or breed insecurity? If we withhold tutoring/intervention, will that strengthen a kid’s resolve or will that make them give up hope on academics? Inevitably parents make some mistakes along the way.

  91. “At elite colleges, it’s unlikely that any of the kids there don’t have the intelligence necessary to get a degree. Flunking out of one of those colleges is almost certainly due to reasons other than not being smart enough to handle the courses.”

    Why are people so unwilling to refer to other types of intelligence as ways of being smart? Used to be we talked about street smart vs book smart. Both can be divided into many parts. Some are stronger, some are weaker, in individuals. The combination of skills from both sides is what’s important

  92. Denver, that caveat must be new. We were always told not to discuss grades or student performance with parents under any circumstance. The logic that being included in someone else’s tax form doesn’t hold up. If junior sticks up a liquor store, does it matter if he’s a dependent on parents’ tax forms? The legal standing of women as subordinate/inferior to their husbands died long ago

  93. ^ the logic that being dependent on someone else’s tax forms removes their legal adulthood

  94. CoC/DD, “tutoring” and “teaching study skills”‘can have widely varying meanings. Whether a kid is being set up for success or failure depends on just what is being provided. Learning what is hard for you and ways to attack it can be very useful in later life. Simply having someone there to show you how to do it probably will leave you looking for that savior later on in other situations.

  95. Saac, it’s an explicit part of FERPA:

    “6. If I am a parent of a college student, do I have the right to see my child’s education records, especially if I pay the bill?

    As noted above, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student, once the student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age. However, although the rights under FERPA have now transferred to the student, a school may disclose information from an “eligible student’s” education records to the parents of the student, without the student’s consent, if the student is a dependent for tax purposes. Neither the age of the student nor the parent’s status as a custodial parent is relevant. If a student is claimed as a dependent by either parent for tax purposes, then either parent may have access under this provision. (34 CFR § 99.31(a)(8).)”

    http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/faq.html#q5

  96. A certain college student I know well had to leave spring semester of his freshman year last year because of mono. This, after a fall semester that involved more dedication to pledging and a certain early-morning armed forces unit than to studying his engineering courses–a fall of burning the candle at both ends that was exacerbated, according to his MD father, by having mono even then, but not being diagnosed. Read: crappy fall GPA, followed by no spring attendance.

    During the spring semester, he found himself a volunteer job in another country, and during the summer, he talked a company in another state into creating an internship for him. (All of this was funded by his college account, a large portion of which is not in a 529 so doesn’t need to be “for education”). He viewed the spring and summer as a “half gap year,” and decided to get as much out of it as he could. He read a ton of books, learned a fair amount of Spanish, and spent gobs of time thinking about his future and his next steps, including whether he wanted to return to school at all, and if so, whether he wanted to stay in engineering, which he now realized would take more work than he’d ever done in school before.

    He decided he did want to return, and to keep doing engineering, but that he wanted to do it right this time. He decided to make some big changes, the most important being ending his smart slacker ways and becoming a smart hard worker. At his (public) school, there’s a forgiveness program whereby you can pretend you didn’t take a certain number of classes, and take them over. You can’t do that with ALL of the classes, so certain of last fall’s grades will follow him, but they weren’t all terrible, and by killing it this semester, he can end up with a very respectable GPA. He made a commitment to himself and to his parents (though they didn’t ask him to) that he would do well this semester, resurrect his GPA, and continue to do well.

    And so far, he’s lived up to it. He is the same kid, but he has turned himself into a completely different student. The military folks had first told him to take a semester off and focus on grades, but he told them there was no need — he could do both. They have recently told him they’re impressed with his resurrection, and they’ve now shared that there was another guy in a similar situation who ended up in [some amazing military job that requires top grades and performance — no idea what] and they believe this certain kid is on a path to follow that guy. They didn’t use the term grit, but there was some other term or acronym they used, meaning he had taken the responsibility to identify his own problem, figured out how to solve it and then gone about solving it with hard work and determination.

    It’ll take him an extra year to finish, but it’ll take his original classmates 4.5 years anyway (unless they want to take classes in the summer), so he’s only behind a semester. And even if he were behind an entire year, he chose a college well within his college fund limits, so he can afford this screw-up/course correction.

    The adults in his life have watched in awe at this transformation, which was not ordered by them or executed according to their requirements, but was completely piloted by this kid.

  97. I always had been told that FERPA is in place no matter what, unless the kid explicitly gives his or her parents the right to see the records. I had never heard anything about being a tax dependent. Wouldn’t that be true for virtually all traditional age students? Yet, we definitely do not disclose anything to parents.

    At my university, we rarely hear from parents. I think only twice in my time here have I been contacted by a parent of a current student. Once, it was a father emailing me to say his kid was in the hospital. Another time, it was a mom who wanted to know the deadline for registration. Our students, as I have said many times here, need more helicoptering, not less.

  98. @Risley — wow! How awesome.

    Agree with CoC’s summary. Speaking as one of those parents who has chosen poorly in the past and will likely do so again, I don’t think anyone goes into tutoring/support/hovering/etc. with the intent to provide that forever. It just always seems like there’s a specific hump to get over, and that when you get over it, you’ll be good. E.g., DD somehow managed As through MS math without ever really internalizing the order of operations, so now we are supplementing with Khan Academy, because you have to know those basic rules cold to go further. But if we get over that hurdle, is that it? Or will there be another one?

    We all know the answer is that there will always be another one (even if at the time you hope/delude yourself into thinking that this is *it*). But then that is why the other half of the problem is to help the kid learn how to help herself. How to break down a problem/project into smaller pieces instead of panicking when you see something unfamiliar or that seems too big; how to study and plan your days so you don’t end up jacked up the night before three tests; how to ASK THE [BLEEPING] TEACHER or go to the help center, etc. Most of what we struggle with isn’t pure academic knowledge per se, it’s all of the habits and attitudes that allow the kid to get out of her own way. None of which the school actually teaches. And those skills are the ones that will, theoretically, allow her to fly off on her own in another few years and manage the expectations at a college on her own.

    This is also where I insert plug for small LA schools — much more personalized support/handholding available for those who need, much less chance of just getting lost in the crowd.

  99. This is also where I insert plug for small LA schools — much more personalized support/handholding available for those who need, much less chance of just getting lost in the crowd.

    That’s kind of what Mooshi was just complaining about.

  100. CoC put it well.

    I will report back in a few months on the experience of welcoming (and more or less non-parenting her because of age and adult respect) a late 30s child back into the home for what may be an extended period. Said child was very independent from middle school on, left for college 3000 miles away at 17, and never required a dime of post college financial help or co-signer on her lease or car loan, etc. She is setting up several businesses, one solo and one with partners, does not appear to want to work in a traditional job ever again. Does she have the entrepreneurial gene that is not generally present in our family of quirky nerds? She unexpectedly after a lifetime of being the good responsible girl on the totebag fantasy path is manifesting my tolerance for risk and failure.

  101. My second semester of college, my grandmother died. All in all, I missed two full weeks of classes. I was able to salvage all my classes but one and ended up with a F in Chemistry (partly due to not knowing all the university policies that would have allowed taking an incomplete). I also do not test well on the standardized tests, but my grades were good. As a result, I entered my MBA program on academic probation. At the end of the first semester, I did well enough to be off. Yes, I survived it all and learned some life lessons in the process.

    LfB – I agree tutoring/mentoring in our house is geared toward helping them figure out how to handle the subject matter and/or processes on their own. And, to learn how to recognized when they need help and find ways to get it.

    MM – I would not describe what you listed as hoop jumping, unless the assigments are more busy work than having learning objectives. One hoop jumping this week – teacher asks them to memorize formulas before the material using those forumlas is covered. It is much harder to memorize a page of formulas in two days when you haven’t been exposed to what the variables even stand for yet. Given the other homework load, looking all of them up (no textbook in this class) online to find out what they mean on your own has meant extra late nights.

  102. Interesting observation: I teach a class at a local university.

    Oh! Do tell. That’s one of the things I’d love to do in retirement.

  103. ” It just always seems like there’s a specific hump to get over, and that when you get over it, you’ll be good. ”

    This.

    Now that we’re in the college application game, and our kid actually did a lot of work on his essay(s) before school started, that effort is in addition to regular schoolwork, fall sport, very part-time job (~5 hrs/wknd, and he loves it, gets some exercise doing it and makes $100)…so while not particularly onerous, he needs constant reminders about doing the college app thing. But once we get past that…

  104. Meme – I am optimistic for your DD. I prefer the terms risk/reward. She is going for her version of the American Dream.
    I know you Totebaggers are giving me the old eye roll, but I remain optimistic that your kids will end up fine, despite some unforeseen detours.

  105. @Houston – I don’t think that hiring attitude is uncommon at all, especially outside of “Totebag Companies”. I think that reinforces that there are a lot of different paths out there, and that getting a C in HS doesn’t mean that you’ll be living in a gutter. (I know, that’s an exaggeration.) I’m not even convinced that it means that you’ll never get a job at Goldman Sachs or be a doctor or go to a Top 10 Law School or whatever it is that drives so much pressure to go to only the best schools.

    That said, as a parent, I totally get the instinct. It is impossible to know what is helping and what is too much or too long. I don’t think anyone really sets out to be a Tiger Parent or to have their kid fail because they practiced too much hands off parenting in an attempt to raise a functioning adult. It’s really hard to know until much, much later which interventions and decisions were ultimately good or bad or neutral.

  106. Part of the bumps in the road for my DD relate to refusing accommodations for dyslexia, but not figuring out well how she would manage classes with a heavy reading load. She has generally figured it out, with the end result being a lower GPA than she would have liked. But there is, IMO, a tremendous amount of value in hard-earned knowledge. In addition to being annoyed that she didn’t figure out some of that stuff earlier, she is also annoyed that she didn’t figure out the value of networking earlier. She is getting to attend some professional association conferences on the school’s dime based on organizations she has held leadership positions in, and is becoming aware of other opportunities that might have been open to her if she had invested more effort in to volunteering and participating more from day one. She was telling me last night she feels like she has to share this knowledge with someone, so plans to dump it all into her high school cousins at the holidays. Having seen her struggle a little then take on all she’s doing the last year makes me take a much more relaxed view for my younger child. Everything doesn’t have to happen on the pace and the path that I envisioned. Them finding their own way, as Risley described, is just so satisfying to watch.

  107. She is getting to attend some professional association conferences on the school’s dime based on organizations she has held leadership positions in, and is becoming aware of other opportunities that might have been open to her if she had invested more effort in to volunteering and participating more from day one.

    80% of success in life is just showing up. I would add that many lessons can’t be taught, they can only be learned.

  108. Louise, I think kids of folks on here are likely to do fine too. That’s because of the energy we put into figuring out when and how to intervene. Yours may not need organizational help, but you’ve gotten them extra instruction in the thing they’re focusing on in school, a solution wouldn’t occur to me because my kid has yet another set of needs. We can’t make our kids successful, but I think everyone who posts here would be willing to take a hit personally if it meant making a difference in their kid’s chances. Not everyone has those priorities. I can think of a couple examples right off the bat of people who “look like” this group, but don’t fit that description

  109. Vero Beach, where we have T-day week reservations, is evacuating. Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing that I have made all the WDW reservations for this weekend yet!

  110. But there is, IMO, a tremendous amount of value in hard-earned knowledge.

    This is the point I was trying to make and apparently failed miserably in my attempt. They can sometimes learn a lot more by struggling to get a C on their own than by having us hold their hand to get an A.

    In addition to being annoyed that she didn’t figure out some of that stuff earlier, she is also annoyed that she didn’t figure out the value of networking earlier. She is getting to attend some professional association conferences on the school’s dime based on organizations she has held leadership positions in, and is becoming aware of other opportunities that might have been open to her if she had invested more effort in to volunteering and participating more from day one.

    I’ve made this point many times. The soft skills are more important important than the academic knowledge (unless you are highly specialized like MM’s DH).

  111. I wish I could get my kid to understand the value of networking! So far, he refuses to do it.

  112. I didn’t learn the value of networking until I was in my thirties!

    “80% of success in life is just showing up. I would add that many lessons can’t be taught, they can only be learned.”

    Amen.

  113. I love hearing about everyone’s kids. So happy for MBT’s DD and Risley’s family friend.

  114. SM, that is my point. We have told them both all of those things, using examples from our own lives. But to be told it and think you understand it on a conceptual level is completely different than having some of your own experiences where you realize you only have access to this cool thing because you showed up for x and were willing to help this person who has some juice with y (with no expectation of anything in return), or talking to someone about how they got an opportunity you would have loved, and learning they found out about through a casual conversation with a professor, not because they have a skill set that is superior to yours. Like DD said, this might be one of those things that they have to figure out.

  115. Risley, that engineering student you know will probably have a higher GPA for courses within him major than overall. He should make sure to highlight that fact on his resume, e.g., list GPA within his major before overall GPA.

  116. ” I’m not even convinced that it means that you’ll never get a job at Goldman Sachs”

    Doesn’t Goldman Sachs ask for applicant’s SAT scores?

  117. Nice line re teaching vs learning!

    I know the value of networking is one of those things you have to experience to appreciate. I wish my kid would “get it”. Of course, there are some people who are just nartural-born networkers. That really isn’t either of us.

  118. Risley, I’ve seen resumes where people break out their junior/senior year GPA (say, 3.9) from their freshman/sophomore GPA (say, 2.7) as evidence that they are more capable than their 3.3 GPA suggests.

  119. I know the value of networking is one of those things you have to experience to appreciate.

    Exactly. I’ve been working on this with DS in regards to the HS baseball coach. Tryouts are in Feb. but I got him to email the coach to introduce himself and they exchanged a few emails after that. Hopefully this will give him a leg up in tryouts because he has shown some extra interest to the coach.

  120. Finn/WCE – I’ll let him know, thanks. He believes he can get to 3.5 this semester, and still has another 7 semesters to go, so this may not be necessary. (The forgiveness thing, where he could completely eliminate some classes from his GPA, saved his neck).

    Houston – he’s maybe not a family *friend* exactly… ;)

  121. Denver, my son met one of the editors of Make magazine. I have no idea if he will one day have a project where that person could help, but I absolutely could not get the boy to write a thank-you note by hand or by email. He’d rather starve to death than do something he has deemed unnecessary. There are a couple other lesser examples too, like his seventh grade math teacher, who showed an interest in staying in touch all through eigth grade.

  122. S&M, we went out to dinner with one of the Make editors this weekend. Probably not the same person. We got comps for Maker Faire from him too. I have to send a thank you message!! But he is an old friend

  123. S&M, they just don’t understand the value in the thank you note for something like that. And there aren’t any obvious negative consequences for not doing it.

  124. I think they have to receive a thank-you note to recognize its importance. I am fortunate that I learned very early that hand-written sympathy notes are important, even though no one close to me had died yet. I sent one to a friend when we were in college and she called me up and cried about how much it meant to her. From then on I have tried really hard to sit down and grind out the sympathy notes, even though they are super not-fun to write.

  125. I gotta say, the hardest part of parenting is figuring out what has to be “learned” instead of “taught.” But then I remind myself that I learned the real scope of “marketing” at about the age of 40, when my first big new client called me because he remembered me from a prior job. And I went, wow, I wasn’t trying to impress him, or get business — it’s just building relationships and making a good impression, most preferably when you *don’t* need something in return.

  126. I don’t know if GS asks for SAT scores when the firm recruits on campus, but they do not ask if you’re interviewing post graduation.

    I think the SAT/ACT score is a stupid indicator to use post college for most jobs. My neighbor invested 1000s of $ to move her kid’s score from a 31 to a 32 because she thinks to will help her chances at a school like Wash U or Northwestern. Should an employer hire this person when she is 28 because she happens to have a rich grandmother that pays for private tutors, college advisors and private ACT/SAT prep? I would much rather have some of the hungry, smart, driven applicants that Houston mentioned from a slightly lower tier school.

  127. I tell my kids that they *know* so many people through their school, activities and neighborhood. I don’t use the word network necessarily but make sure to let them know that interpersonal skills matter. So, things like introducing yourself, letting people know what you are interested in, greeting people you know when you bump into them all that prepares you later in life for things like elevator speeches, small talk in work situations, at an interview etc.

  128. SM – now that they have email and Face Time it is much easier to keep in touch. Also, now they are old enough to communicate with overseas family directly, so they can practice communicating via email.
    Heard some worrisome things going on, on kids social media accounts from parents at school, so prefer not to let them use those methods to keep in touch.

  129. Finn, please continue to comment about the big stakes tests! I know I get ideas from you, and helpful reminders, and others feel the same. Btw, what year in school are your kids now? I had thought they were considerably older than ‘saac, but I guess not if they are still in HS.

  130. GS asked for SAT scores, at least in the past. Unsure about their current recruiting practices.

    Risley: I know. : ) BTW, 3.5 is truly awesome, doubly so in a hard major like engineering.

    Regarding thank you notes: My kids learned that they are required early in life. They had to write thank you notes before they could play with their birthday presents.

  131. It may be too late to add to this conversation, but networking – or just being brave enough to go talk to an executive – has helped my kids quite a bit. DD comes by it naturally – she was setting up meetings with accounting partners to just “chat” – people DH or I were acquainted with, not really friends with. This was before she interviewed for her summer internships at the big four. She tries to use the phone or meet in person rather than email whenever she can.

    DS had the nerve to walk up to the CEO of a major company while he (the CEO) was eating lunch at a Shake Shack and introduce himself (DS had seen him speak earlier that week). They chatted, and DS was told to contact the CEO about a future job. He ended up working there this summer. Did it make a difference? I don’t know, but it sure didn’t hurt.

    I would never have done that as a college student.

  132. I’ve already shared that DSS’s ability to walk up to people at conferences resulted in his current job, despite not having done any postdocs. And one time I got a really good part in a synchronized swimming show because I shmoozed the coach. So there’s that.

  133. Interesting post!!! Thankfully we are through High School and the kids are in college, where you never know what is going on, unless your kids are willing to tell you. I think all the email and checking your kids grades daily in High School is not good for the kids or the parents. Kids need to be given some rope to make mistakes, and this “hovering” that is encouraged by the schools is not conducive to letting the kids learn how to manage their time, learn to actually go talk to their teachers face to face, and organize their workload. At some point they have to learn this, and High School at least is a fairly safe place to start. The majority of my sons’ high school years I felt like I had taken on the responsibilities of the teachers, and sometimes wondered what on earth the teachers were doing, if I was doing all their work.

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