9 Months of Hard Labor: What To Expect When You’re Expecting College

Article posted on Wednesday, January, 25th, 2012 at 12:23 pm by Dr. Nancy Berk   (9 comments)

Illustration by Jesse Lenz

This article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Denison Magazine. Special thanks to Denison University, Maureen Harmon, Editor and her staff, and to Jesse Lenz for his illustrations.


Time Flies when you’re a parent. One minute the minivan is stocked with juice boxes and action figures, and the next it’s loaded with duffle bags and dorm decorations. Once upon a time, I thought I had the whole parenting thing figured out. Then my older son applied to college, and I learned there is another process as challenging as childbirth.

It’s not a coincidence that a teen’s senior year is about nine months long. Obsessing over prepping, searching, applying, and waiting, parents who survived three trimesters way back when sit at another nail-biting crossroads, with even less control.

The college expectancy period involves at least three trymesters. The operative word is try. Try (trı) v.: to make an attempt or effort to do something. Ex.: I will try to stay sane during my child’s senior year.

The problem is, there’s no Lamaze class for the bumpy college-bound journey. And parents deserve more than a sugarcoated handbook for what to expect when their kids hit the college circuit. So after two tours of duty, I decided it was time to write one.

Please note: College-bound trymesters can differ, depending upon whether your child applies early decision, early action, or regular decision, but the course is still the same—trauma, drama, nagging, and success. Ironically, you’re required to keep your senior on track at exactly the same time that those “What did I walk into this room for?” senior moments start hitting you. Like childbirth, however, the pain is fleeting and, in the end, well worth it. Your baby’s going to college.

First Trymester Features:

It’s normal to be nervous, nauseated, and confused during the first trymester of your child’s college search. Expect the symptoms to be worse if it’s your first child. The process bears no resemblance to your beanbag chair college days, and you’re clueless. Life is one big question mark with tons of abbreviations. Acronyms haven’t been this unsettling since the unsolicited AARP application landed in your mailbox before its time. AP. ACT. SAT. GPA. ED. EA. Each one seems more important than the next. By the time you figure out what a FAFSA is, you need an EKG and a security guard for your IRA.

The only thing worse than worrying about your teen taking standardized tests is the thought of having to take them yourself. It’s true; I’d take a bullet for my kid but not the SAT. To combat this overwhelming anxiety, you will likely resort to one of three strategies:

1: Shopping You can’t pass a Barnes & Noble without purchasing several phone book-sized practice tests for your teen. Amazon’s emails begin to suggest you might also be interested in the LSAT, GMAT, and some Rosetta Stone software. You have enough CDs, DVDs, flashcards, and course materials to open your own Princeton Review satellite office. Chances are good that by the time this shopping spree is over, you will have carpal tunnel syndrome.

To read more: see Denison Magazine online.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Copyright 2013, Nancy Berk Media, LLC