#117 The Supportive Parents’ Guide on the Road to College with Kristina Dooley Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins 01:06

Parents, Are you unsure if you’re doing too much or too little while supporting your college bound students through this pivotal chapter. Today with Kristina Dooley of Australia consulting, we delve into the often understated support system parents provide, we offer expert insights about understanding how parents can best guide their teens through the search and applications. While striking that perfect balance between parental involvement and teen independence. We’ll explore how to validate and listen to your teens aspirations, emphasizing the importance of empathy and open communication. And Kristina will shed light on how you can have honest discussions about college affordability, ensuring expectations aligned with financial realities. We’ll also discuss the delicate topic of application essays, highlighting your student’s voice and ownership while recognizing the supportive role, you can still play as you help your student recount achievements and activities highlighted on their college applications. And if when college decisions come in, your team has to handle any rejection, which they probably will. We’ll provide tips on how to navigate these challenging moments constructively, ensuring your team remains motivated and focused on their future goals. Whether you’re just starting to think about college with your high school or are in the thick of senior year, this conversation is filled with actionable advice tailored for parents eager to support their teens college bound journey effectively. I’m Lisa Mark Robbins, and I want to welcome you to college and for your clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation.

Lisa Marker Robbins 02:55

Kristina Dooley, welcome.

Kristina Dooley 02:58

Thank you. I’m excited to be here. Thanks. Wow,

Lisa Marker Robbins 03:00

this is long overdue. How did we not have you on before and I already know it’s not gonna be the last time. So okay, we are exploring this topic of like what a parent to do. And you know, we hear we hear names like helicopter parents, and all of the things that go along with that. And, and I know that in their hearts, parents don’t want to overstep, they always want to help and support. And it’s a fine line. And you have so much experience, not just you, but the team that you’ve built, that you’re able to give us some insights. And you know, I think I want to start with like, if you think about the families, your team has worked with supporting them as IECs. What does it look like for the successful families? Who have kind of walk that tightrope appropriately on the parent role? So in general, like, what does it look like?

Kristina Dooley 04:01

Yeah, that’s a really good question. And I think, I think sometimes it’s interesting, you said, you know, what are the what are some of the don’ts? You know, what are the things but I actually I like to focus on our, with our families, and what are some of the do’s what are the things that you can do positively to help your students in the process, but, and I think the ones who to answer your question, the ones who follow that advice are the ones who are the folks that we work with, I think, a huge a huge, very kind of basic thing that parents can do, is actually not projecting their own experiences and and past wins or fails on their child. And by that, I mean, if a parent had, you know, high expectations of themselves attending a highly selective school and that didn’t pan out, don’t project that on your child to live vicariously through that and you know, in that in those goals, I think we hear a lot of students who, who have that happening, but also this college search. This is not your grandma’s car. Knowledge search anymore, you know, this process is so different. And so I think the ones that I see that are the most successful are the ones who realize that realize that it’s a different landscape right now. I mean, we know you and I, and all your guests know that it’s changing literally by the week. And two, again, just not not approach it, like it was the way, you know, 2030 years ago, it’s just not the same. So I think the other thing, and we’ll get more into some of the specifics of different parts of the process and how to best support but I think we use that word support, I think support has to be authentic and genuine from the parent, meaning you can’t you if you’re going to support your child in terms of their lifts, their their outcomes, all those things, they have to feel that that’s real. And you know, parents know, their kids, and so they know, how does my kid best react to that is a positive praise. Is that just a hug? You know, what are those things? But I know we’re gonna dig more more deeply into a lot of those topics. But yeah, those are the successful ones don’t project your experience on?

Lisa Marker Robbins 06:04

Oh, you know, it makes me think of a past episode we had with Ned Johnson, it was in year one and actually ended up being it might have been, I think it was a second most possible pot, a popular episode that year. And one of the takeaways is like, just you got to start with validating your students experience and how they feel. And I feel like that like, is just another way of saying exactly what you said there. We don’t dismiss even, I mean, you know, our kids or teenagers, often they are wrong about something they think, but they have feelings associated with that. So like dig into validating that and empathizing before you start maybe redirecting or giving advice. And so I think that goes, I think his advice was beautifully with what you said, I’m gonna link to his episode in the show notes, because I, I think his advice gives us a lot on the exact piece that you’re talking about today. Yeah. So as we kind of dig into, like the timeline and stuff, because we have listeners who their kids who are just starting high school, we have listeners who there, you and I are recording this March 1 of 2024. So that we’ve got a lot of seniors out there, trying to make sense of their where they got in and where to go. We have another episode on that. But when we think about like the starting point, so for a family who has a freshman, sophomore, junior, like, what’s the first role that a parent kind of steps in and starts to play?

Kristina Dooley 07:34

I think you made a really good point, Lisa, in terms of, you know, there are a lot of good reasons why a parent may disagree with for example, a school that a student may want to put on their list, you may have really valid reasons for that. I think when students are starting this process, that acknowledgement that they can have a pit that students can have opinions and schools that maybe they have in mind or majors or you know, all those kinds of things, then validating that, yes, those opinions matter. I think if a parent has pushed back on any of that, or they’re you know, that’s a sophomore, and they’re saying, hey, this summer, can we go visit these schools, and maybe the parent knows that those schools are either really out of out of the their league, either it’s academically financially, which we’ll talk about, or socially, maybe the parent just knows that that’s not the right kind of social fit. There’s a way to gracefully approach that conversation with students, I think the best way to do that actually, no matter what grade your pain is in, is to listen to their Why listen to why are they why are they saying I want to visit the school? What is it about that? Or why are they looking at us was again, a specific major? What? What’s their Why listen before telling them why that’s a bad idea, you know, or why that’s not going to happen? I think we don’t. And I’m a parent, too. I should mention that although my kids are in middle school, but I have myself tried to take my own advice and listen more before jumping, you know, jumping to like, well, I’m an adult, and I know these things, you know better than you do. I think if we take the time to listen, and the students as you know, I love that it’s in the warm weather place. So I love that. It’s a place where I can get involved in Greek life, or it’s a place that has great study abroad. Well, we know there are a lot of warm weather places. There are a lot of places that have study abroad. There are a lot of schools with Greek life. So there’s a lot of options. So maybe they’re really laser focused on a specific set of schools or school. But we can help them by explaining that if we jump into the why I don’t know if that is helpful, but I

Lisa Marker Robbins 09:40

think it’s very helpful. Like yeah, it goes you know, when I am supporting students with finding the right college major and career because that’s what I’ve decided to double down on and that’s my expertise. It goes along with I look for through lines right. And they can start as far back as childhood we as Parents now our kids. So my husband and I have five adult children 22 to 32. Get ready, Christina, you’re ready oh are common upon the teenage years. And then they become young adults. And it’s totally different and wonderful. But you we, when we navigate this, like that question asked the why? Because there’s going to be through lines that that just it helps also build self awareness for them. And parents, we still have things to learn about our kids, and who they are. So I love that tagging back to the why. You mentioned one piece like a parent could No, I remember when my now he’ll be 26 by the time we’re airing this. But when he was he’s a smarty pants intellectually. And when he took his PSAT and his AC T, and he’s scoring like really high. I, we start getting all this mail. And I remember one school, I won’t even name and it came in, but I knew it was out of our budget, right. And I had it and it would have been a fit for him in many ways. And I threw it away, I probably shouldn’t have just thrown it away, I probably should. Maybe that was how I should have started up. I was like, Oh, I’ll put this one in the trashcan. And he caught me. And he’s like, Why are you throwing that away? And I said, well, that honey, that school’s out of budget for us. So that started a conversation about costs, I’m sure. I mean, that’s a parent role, the paying for college piece for most families. What advice do you have when it comes to that? Like, are there pieces of the paying that the student owns? And or does the parent own 100% of that?

Kristina Dooley 11:39

I think that and this is probably one of the areas that we have the most swaying back and forth between tight between families in terms of how comfortable they are having that discussion with their child about the reality of this isn’t a big expense, right? I mean, this is a it’s a huge expense. And so the conversation, my own feeling is that I think parents should be transparent to a point. I mean, I understand keeping some of your financial information is maybe not for your child’s consumption. But I think the reality of this giant expense that you will be making, I think we have to communicate that with students. And I will tell you, one of the most heartbreaking things is when a student goes through the admission process is accepted somewhere has their heart set on a school to then be told by parents, it’s not going to work. It’s not in our budget, and it never has been, you know, it was never in the budget. And so I think having those conversations on the front end, and I am actually finding, which I love. And I don’t know if it’s a product of maybe more kids taking finance classes in high school, but I feel like students are more in tune that college costs something, you know, like it’s, and I don’t know, 15 years ago, that was not those were not the conversations I was having with my students, they really kind of just they knew they had to do their part. They knew they had to write an essay, they knew they had to visit, you know, all those things. But the money piece was almost like, oh, yeah, I guess it does cost something. Now I actually have students, I just had a meeting last night with a student who said, Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to keep this one on here. Because I know it’s out of our budget. And I almost thought on my chair, because I thought kudos to mom and dad for that there is a budget, and it doesn’t have to be a specific dollar amount. It can be here’s our range, here is what we can afford out of pocket, should you not qualify for any merit money, because I think also making an assumption that your child will qualify for some big merit scholarship. We can’t anticipate that there’s again, that’s really fluid from year to year. And so I tell parents look at you know, do the net price calculators figure out, does that fall in what you are anticipating is the budget that you can, you know, that your family can can afford? So I think the parent process part of the process, though, they are the ones that have to help fill out those financial aid forms, for example. So yeah, that’s a huge part of the parent role in this process. It’s not the only part but but I don’t think it helps to have those silos, like parent does financial aid and stuff. And then student of the application stuff. I actually don’t think either of those should be in individual silos. I think there’s things that have to be communicated across both.

Lisa Marker Robbins 14:25

And let me I want to encourage parents that are listening, you know, I, my youngest is graduating college next month. So we’re at the finish line of that, yay. I made that last big payment in December. And I navigate my kids always knew my budget, we sort of the budget changed for one child who was getting a lot of merit aid. It was different for another child who wasn’t gonna qualify for as much merit aid. We had those conversations, but I got through those conversations. and they have no idea how much money I make. So it is possible to navigate it without saying like, here’s my tax return, right? Here’s how much money because kids think, you know, kids think $50,000 could feed a family of five, you know, and that’s not reality. So that seems like a lot of money to them. So you can navigate that. And I think you got really great advice there. And I also think it shows you as a professional Christina, or anybody who’s working with an IEC parents, like you and I both live in Ohio and total opposite corners of Ohio. And, you know, Ohio State, our state flagship, I see parents all the time, the parents make the assumption that their kids 3435 36, ac T, is going to give them this huge merit aid at Ohio State. And it doesn’t, right, right. So those net price calculators leaning into expertise, so parents might have the primary role on the financial side. But students, I think that’s great advice. They need to have some role. Now. Yeah, and I think, go ahead, I

Kristina Dooley 16:05

was gonna add one more thing, just in terms of like, forward thinking. The other thing I tell parents and students is that should they should they qualify for a merit award, I think having the conversation with their child, before they go to college, that the vast majority, if not all, of merit awards are typically dependent on the student maintaining a certain GPA and college. Yeah, and so if your financial situation hinges on them retaining that scholarship, that is a conversation that needs to be had to and say, Hey, this is your responsibility, you know, you need to maintain this because that happens all the time to a student loses a scholarship, and then that school quickly falls into the not so affordable anymore category, and then you know, then that leads to whatever out your transcript, whatever. So, but that’s a conversation again, like forward thinking that it’s not just you get this and enjoy your time, it’s you have to put some effort into it to to retain it

Lisa Marker Robbins 17:01

well, and where my daughter attends, you have to not only maintain your grades, but you also have to do some community service. Yeah, have to give back. So dig into the details on that you brought up in there, the idea of parents shouldn’t fully own the financial piece. And students shouldn’t fully own the application and essays piece. And I just want to if people are multitasking, maybe stop because parents can sometimes be super hands off, or I’ve seen the opposite. Parents are too much in the driver’s seat of that process. And let’s talk about that, again. You’re successful families like what does that look like? What is a parent role in the application as a process? Certainly, it’s not writing those essays.

Kristina Dooley 17:51

Thank you. Yes. It is not. And I hate to break it to parents. But when your child’s working at a Google Doc, for example, there you can view who’s been? Yes. So anyway, yes, let’s get that out of the way. The saps I actually one of the things that we share with our families with a Sharla consulting, which is my my college planning business is we tell them that the student owns the assay. And that is should should be 100% their work and their voice. And I actually had a meeting with a family yesterday, and I loved it because the mom actually said, Should to her child, you know, should you decide you want to share your essay with me great. If not, it’s okay. And I thought I think parents need to look at and this is all I’ll go on and on about it. And but I will say I want parents to look at the essay, almost like their child is writing a journal writing a journal entry, because they’re private. And I will say, of course, if we see an essay, you know, if I’m working with a student, if there’s something cause for concern, absolutely. Well, we’ll talk with parents about that. But they’re really being open emotionally in those essays, sometimes in a way that it’s surprising to parents, parents, often if their child does let them see their essay, they learn something about their own kid and that’s but that’s okay. You know, there are things probably, that the student just hasn’t maybe felt comfortable sharing yet. But I will say for the admission essays because those really should feel more personal and less like a generic five paragraph English essay. The admission reader is trying to learn something about the student and sometimes that does mean something really personal. So, parents please know that the admission officers are expecting a 17 or 18 year old voice not a 45 year old voice,

Lisa Marker Robbins 19:50

antenna or fact that would be like alarm bells in the reader of the application. If it sounds like a 45 year old mom wrote it Absolutely,

Kristina Dooley 20:00

and I’ve heard from a friend of the admission site, they can tell because of the double space after the period that the bomber the data has been. But I, you know, I think parents in terms of the being involved in that process, if your child feels comfortable sharing with you, my advice to you is, don’t read it, like you’re an editor, read it, like you are learning something you’re reading, you know, learning something about your child, don’t criticize their viewpoints on things in it, don’t tell them, well, that’s not going to, you know, that’s not good enough, or that that’s not how you want to share that with them, especially if they’re working with an independent counsel, or their school counselor or their English, or somebody that’s helping them along the way with that. Again, it should sound it should, it should sound like their voice. And in fact, we have students sometimes read their essays out loud and record themselves and listen back to see does that sound like me? And I’ve had students where they’re like, No, that’s that’s not that doesn’t that’s not how I would say that. So again, with the essays that piece, but we’re can parents get involved in actually, like, yeah, we get in and like a support. I tell parents all the time, I need your help. Even me, even though they’ve they’ve engaged with me to help their child, the part I can’t be all that helpful with, to be honest, is I have not been with that child through their entire life and know all of their accomplishments. And so I say the honors and awards section on the common app, I say, please show that to your parents, because they never forget, they will not forget what you have been recognized for you will forget. And I have kids who forgot major things. And then you know that their mom chimes in and says, but they won this award as a 10th grade, you know, it’s a big award. And I’m like, how did you forget that, but moms and dads never forget. So that’s one way and then the activity section, I would say that that’s also another section, I tell parents take a peek at it after your child is has completed it, we don’t want them going in and doing that for them. But take a peek. Because again, there may be something that the student has done. That’s important. However, when you ask the student about that, and they asked not tell them, you should change this, like, you know, remove this because it that’s not impressive. That that phrase to me, or whatever the wording is of something like that is one of the things that kind of makes me cringe a little when parents say, well, that’s not going to be impressive to the admission counselor, I can assure you I wasn’t admission counselor, when I was 22 years old. Things that impressed me at 22 are not the same. It’s what it impresses me now. So we don’t know, we don’t know who’s reading this application. So it has to be something that’s meaningful for the students. So if that was their summer job at, you know, a local ice cream shop versus, you know, something else that the the parent deems as more worthy. That’s not the point of it, they’re trying to get a sense of the student. So again, I think that those are two major ways that parents can help their student is like to think about and help them remember things that they should be including, but not forced them to include things if they’re not comfortable, or don’t really want to highlight that. Well,

Lisa Marker Robbins 23:01

your your example of like the Activities List, and apparent feeling like oh, I don’t know that that should be on, you know, ask why like, Oh, why did you choose to put this activity on? But absolutely, I saw you doing this over here? Why? Why are you making the choice? Have a conversation about it? You know, we in our newsletter every week, which anybody can get right off of our website, I get a conversation queued us with your team. And it’s all about like curiosity, right? And you can always feign confusion, like, yeah, that’s a great tool. And so leaning into like, Oh, I thought that this would have been on that’s interesting to me. Can you tell me more about that? So,

Kristina Dooley 23:49

yeah, that’s great. That’s exactly it that that I love that fading confusion. That’s awesome. That would be I’m gonna steal that. But that’s a great, that’s that y piece. You’re right. I mean, instead of jumping to or even post, I know, we’re talking about campus visits right now. But when I have families go on campuses, it’s I tell my families, do not get in the car and start telling your child what you thought of that campus. That is the worst strategy ever, because you’re not going to hear their their authentic view about it, the students not going to share with you because if it’s different than what instead say, What do you like, what do you think about this? And don’t leave them to answers, you know, don’t say, oh, wasn’t the rock wall really great. You know, there’s there’s other things that they might have really liked that you totally just walked right by, but for them is, is pretty important. So I think that that, you know, that piece of it, and probably on the application, the activity list. One of the things we get all the time are parents who say, Oh, but they but they quit that activity. Why? Why would they put that on there? And again, I think asking the question, why do you want to put that you were on the soccer team in ninth and 10th grade if you you know why? Why do you want to do that? And the student may say, well, because that was a big part of like myself. Show life that was a big part of my leadership or, you know, whatever fitness, whatever, they’ll have good reasons why

Lisa Marker Robbins 25:05

they did it. Well, they, they, and they may have learned something deep that informed that decision to invest their time elsewhere. And that’s a college admissions officers love to hear those lessons. So as we’re wrapping up, what happens if your child gets a no at their dream school, or, you know, the school that they just had confidence, it was a great fit, they felt like it was a target or a safety school for them like that. It’s spring of the senior year, and they’ve got some disappointments, what advice do you have? Because I am sure that is for sure. Something that we’re not staying hands off on as a parent. And so what’s the parent process and that, and

Kristina Dooley 25:48

that’s probably one of the hardest things as a parent is to watch your child have some kind of, you know, something that doesn’t work out in their favor. And I know, we can’t see the listeners right now. But if I said raise a hand, if you’ve ever experienced a rejection in your life, everyone would raise their hand. And I think giving students the the the ability to start to learn how to react to those kinds of, you know, I don’t call them failures, because it’s not a failure. It’s a redirection. I mean, I hear that all the time, that rejection is redirection, you know. And so, I think for parents, I think empathy, you know, understanding why your child is upset about is important. You should not be more upset than your child in front of them. I should say that that’s probably a personal thing. Yes. And so I think, you know, just acknowledging why they’re upset about it, but again, with the redirection part of that, you know, if, if, if they have schools that they’ve been accepted to redirect to those, I mean, and I, you know, I think one of the hard things for parents is not placing blame or not, you know, making excuses. So oftentimes, we’ll hear parents say, oh, you know, but why did they let in so and so in your class, they don’t have the same profile as you please don’t do those comparison things, you have no idea what’s happening in the admission review process and why a student is or is not accepted. Don’t compare, don’t just, that’s not, you know, it’s not helpful in this situation. Instead, focus again, on just the moving forward, give them time, but then move forward, you know, don’t let them dwell all that long on it. Because the reality is, we have so many options, there is not just a one fit school for a student. And if a school accepts a student, then that’s a match. You know, that’s, that’s often that’s where they should put their, their time and energy. And then you know, hugs and that kind of stuff are always nice, too. And again, but please steer clear of the blame piece, because I think that’s probably the biggest mistake is saying, Oh, well, they did it, you know, they don’t appreciate you. And I don’t know why they did med Suzy, and not you, you know, please don’t do that. So there’s so many

Lisa Marker Robbins 27:52

factors and who gets in? And yeah, I mean, it’s Wow. And, you know, because we are gonna put this out there in the spring, even though this isn’t the episode, and I’m getting ready to have Marty Marty Levine on to talk about like, how do you make that final decision. But there are options like you’ve got other schools that you’ve probably got into, but you know, it is possible that you didn’t have the right college list, maybe for somebody, especially if they’re not working with an IEC or their school college counselor inside their school. If you didn’t, you know, gap years are a fantastic option to apply to some different schools and go get some experiences, we have two previous episodes on that that I’m going to link to in the show notes because I think that’s a good resource. You and I know that NASDAQ always releases a list every spring and have space available still, they might find a school that’s still accepting applications and April, May, June. So there are options. So I can tell that the families that have you in their corner are very blessed to have you, Christina. If somebody wants to learn more about how you work with families, where’s the best place to for them to get in touch with you.

Kristina Dooley 29:08

So our My business is Estrella consulting, it’s actually fun fact it’s Estrella, which is the Portuguese word for star. It’s so it’s in Australia with one owl versus the Spanish spelling. So Australian consulting.com We have a monthly newsletter that goes out. We do lots of free webinars. So we just want families to know, you know, to remove some of the a lot of these things that are really opaque. We want to be able to clear a lot of those things up with families and we work with kids all over the world. So yeah, we’d love to, we’d love to hear from

Lisa Marker Robbins 29:39

folks. Fantastic. And I’m just gonna say your blog that is in your newsletter. I’ve been a longtime reader is a fantastic resource. You do blogs, I do podcasts. We’re just trying to get the word out to help families. Thanks for making the time, Christina.

Kristina Dooley 29:54

Yeah, you’re welcome. Thanks for having me, Lisa.

Lisa Marker Robbins 30:02

Many thanks to Christina Dooley is clear that the journey through the college search and applications is a partnership. One where the right balance of support and independence is key. We’ve given you a path forward for listening, empathizing and guiding without overstepping, so you can make the right difference in your teens path to college. For parents looking to dive deeper into how you can effectively support your child’s decisions on college majors and colleges, ensuring they make choices that align with their future without the stress of deadlines or regret. We have a resource for you. Our complimentary on demand video, how to guide your team to choose the right major college and career offers comprehensive strategies and insights to navigate this major decision with confidence. You can access this video at flourish coaching co.com forward slash course, and we’ll put it in the show notes. Along with our other resources. It is designed to empower you and your team with the knowledge and clarity needed to make these life changing decisions. Thank you for tuning into College and Career Clarity. If this episode has been enlightening for you, please share it with other parents in your community. Your support through following our podcast reading and reviewing helps us reach and assist more families on their journey to college success. I’m Lisa Mark Robbins reminding you that with the right information and approach. Getting your team through the college bound journey can be a rewarding experience filled with growth and discovery.