#20 Teaching Your Teen “How to College Transcript



I think there is a misconception that if my kid’s IQ is X, they don’t really need a first year experience program. Right. They’ve got all the skills, but so many of those skills are developmental and it doesn’t matter your IQ, if you’re an 18 or 19 year old, you have developmental needs. For sure. And this is a big transition for most.


if you’ve ever worried about your high school students, successful transition to college, you are not alone. Today’s guest on the podcast. The college transition expert, Dr. Andrea Malkin. Brenner’s 25 years at American university as a professor of sociology and a college administrator has given her insights.


She shares with you today on how both you as the. And your team can have a successful transition to your teens. Future college experience. Our conversation gives you a sneak peek into her coauthored book, how to college, what to know before you go. And when you’re there and we have two special bonuses today, Andrea is generously giving away a copy of her book to a lucky podcast list.


You can grab the link to enter in the show notes. And our second bonus is Andrea sharing about the field of sociology. It’s an often misunderstood college major and career. She gives us helpful insights about her own experiences and other opportunities in the field of sociology. I’m Lisa marker Robbins.


And I want to welcome you to college and career clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation.


Well, it’s my pleasure to welcome Andrea Malcolm Brenner sociologist and supporter of first year freshmen and their parents. So Andrea, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for having. Oh, it’s a pleasure. I think you have something for our parents and our students, and that excites me when we can help everyone on that journey.


For sure. You lean into your work at American university that you had for 25 years as a sociology professor in college administrator, to really help families on what you call, how to call it. You got it? Yes. So tell us a little bit about, well, I think a lot of people don’t even know what a sociology professor really is doing or the field of sociology and how that relates then to teaching people how to college.


So that’s a great, a great question. And one I’m actually asked quite a bit. Every time. I mentioned, I’m a sociologist. Somebody will always say, oh, I took a sociology class in college and I loved it, but they don’t necessarily know what the discipline is all about. So in a nutshell, there are multiple social sciences.


Sociology is one of them. Sociology refers to itself as the queen of the social sciences. Not because it’s sort of the top of the mound, but because it sort of borrows from the other social sciences. So we take study of the individual from psychology. We take study of government. From political science, we take social class and any quality studies from economics.


We have a bit of history in there. So sociology is really the field that studies the interaction of the individual and society where psychology focuses specifically on the individual. So we do a lot with groups, some small groups like families and some large groups like countries or races, entire affinity group.


And for me, it was a natural transition to sociology of education, which studied the individual students and then their relationship with their community about their home community and their new community of college. So you had these 25 years of American university and you tied this, we’re gonna use this, uh, base really kind of for our conversation, our listeners on the podcast, can’t see this, but on video, I’m holding up your book, how to college.


And so you captured. This in your experiences as a sociologist, what you witnessed from first-year freshmen into this book, addressing both before they go and once they get there. That’s right. So let’s kind of tackle it in that. Before students go. So while they’re still in high school and oh gosh, it’s, there’s a lot of moving pieces to that college bound journey, but you would say in those moving pieces, what should they be focusing on so that they have a positive first year experience?


Absolutely. And I, and I do want to just take a step back cause I am, it’s a co-authored book. It’s not my sole authorship. It’s co-authored with my colleague, Laura Schwartz, who is a professor at American university, still in the school of public affairs. The two of us together worked with thousands of first year students, but realized that we had this wealth of knowledge that we shared with students in our office hours.


But when students came to our office hours, yes, they came about the content of our classrooms, but really they came about other stuff too. The adulting. And we shared so much with our students and we started speaking to each other and said, we need to get this into a book. We have all of this information to share.


So we did just that. And we’re thrilled that McMillan picked. So the really the book does focus on what to do before you go. And then of course, when you’re there, and the idea is that this is a student facing book. There are a lot of great books about the transition of college out there. Many of them are for parents.


And this one is written a very student centric. It’s got humor that runs through it, which was important to us. And we were really dealing sort of with the development of the 18, 19 year old brain and wanted to reach those students. So the goal was not to have a crash course the summer before the student leaves for college and learn every single bit of adulting.


It’s a slow and steady process. So, you know, I would certainly encourage students to start that transition, learning all about adulting skills, either through my resources or others or on their own. I don’t know, I would say the summer after sophomore year of high school, there’s so much to learn. And so the book starts tackling some of those really important skills with online exercises that students can do well in advance of going to the college campus, as well as prompts for discussions between those college bound students and their parents.


So this is a book we can hand to our student, not just as a parent, read it and then regurgitate it to our kids, which teenagers don’t respond well to that. Anyway. Yes, I would agree. Sure. And we should mention when we. Publish this episode four, you’re happily giving away a copy of this book. And we have details in the show notes on how to share this episode to enter, to win a copy of your book.


And we’ll run that contest for the four weeks from our published date of this. So we’ll be getting this in the hands of. Perhaps a parent that could gift it to their kid. I’m thinking about the students that I work with because my kids are all in college or beyond at this point and thinking, I need to give this to the students I’m working with.


And I am thrilled that a lot of college counselors purchase it and I hand write it. I could lock it, you know, Penn state Elizabeth. And it’s, I’m happy to do that for, for the winner of this contest. Fantastic. So if we put this in the hands of a kiddo who is just, and that’s the same age, I like to start really talking about the future, my focus on college majors and careers and how that aligns with the college choice.


I like that sophomore benchmark. So we’re putting this in the hands of a child or a teen. What are some of the. Pieces of advice that you would give them to be working on during high school. Some of them are chunked, right? So it might be something that seems overwhelming, but if you break it down, it’s doable.


So some of this more simple tasks that students should probably know by the end of their summer, after sophomore year, How to write a professional email. We have a template in our book. I think that’s really important. I’m surprised that so few high schools actually teach this because it’s so important.


And when the student is going to start engaging with their guidance counselor at their high school, the financial aid counselor at their potential college admissions officer from their region, they really need to know how to send a professional email. So that would be. Totally agree. I, I actually recorded a solo is my first ever solo podcast episode and it was on student email tip.


Oh, I love that. So I, that is at the heart of it because not only do they not check it, they don’t know how to write it. So we will link to. Podcast episode, because it supports the work that you’ve got your book. So probably between the two of those, we’ve got some kids that could write some really fantastic emails after they resource each other.


And that would be the first thing to tackle. So then going into junior year or so, what would you say? Yeah, I mean, leaving professional voicemails, I think are also really. We have grown our kids up in this pretty high tech generation, but they don’t use the phone as we used to. However, when they enter the campus sphere, that’s going to be expected.


A lot of professors do expect a phone call to ask a followup question or set up a meeting, things like that, certainly academic advisors. And that’s something that makes students nervous. I noticed. So there’s ways to chunk that I work a lot with parents. And they say, oh my, my kid can’t make her own dentist appointments or he can’t make his own haircut appointment.


He’s used to me doing that, especially if your child has social anxiety, I think it’s really important to break it down into manageable chunks. One thing I suggest is this is, this is a great use of speakerphone, right? So your child sits next to you. They hear you make the appointment. They hear the interaction with the person who’s taking any appointment.


And then the second time. The parent is still sitting next to the student, but the student is dialoguing with that person making the appointment, but they can be there for any questions they might have. And hopefully by the third time that student can make the appointment by themselves. So I would say to answer your question by junior year, all appointments should be made, could be a teacher, could be a dentist haircut, whatever the student should be able to handle that on their own.


For sure. That’s a fantastic model. We actually follow a similar model when we onboard a team member at our company. Right. So we do it for demonstrating, do it with, and then fly solo. Exactly, exactly. And there’s so many things that can be done like that kitchen skills, knife skills, cleaning. A lot of students end up on a college campus and didn’t realize they needed to clean their own residence hall room.


Then that’s the difference between a glass cleaner and a surface cleaner? How often do you need to take out the trash and vacuum? What’s the shelf life of food that you’re going to be leaving in your fridge or leaving out, keeping your personal possession, safe, secure cyber security, understanding on secured wifi networks, passwords.


Have you memorized your social security number? There’s a lot of stuff that can be done early that will be needed for college. That’s fantastic advice. So as they’re thinking about going. And then when they get there, I know you created a fantastic and actually very unique first year experience program while you were at American university.


A lot of colleges do have a first year experience program. I think the one that you have at American, from what you shared with me previously, is that on steroids doing it much better than many universities do. This is something that when families are doing college visits, they perhaps should ask about how are they supporting first year freshmen when they get their.


Tell us, first of all, give American a plug. I know you still love American, even though you’re not there. Tell us a little bit about first year experience programs at the college level period. And then what makes Americans unique? Sure. It’s about 80% of colleges and universities in the U S have either a first-year experience, which is called an FYE program or a first year seminar and FYS program.


They have similarities and differences. First year seminar program deals with a specific content area. So it might be first year seminar in chemistry or environmental science or psychology. And built into that course are sort of the adulting skills, learning how to onboard with college academics, a first year experience program, which is more common at colleges and universities in the U S deals actually with the transition to college.


So all of the developmental needs, and that’s something that I encourage parents and students to learn. Lots of schools have an opt-in they’re not mandatory. And I think there’s a misconception that if my kid’s IQ is X, they don’t really need a first year experience program. Right. They’ve got all the skills, but so many of those skills are developmental and it doesn’t matter your IQ, if you’re an 18 or 19 year old, you have developmental needs.


For sure. And this is a big transition for most kids. American university reached out to me, knowing that I knew a few things about the first year experience after having taught for at that point 20 years, mostly to first and second year students, and really committed to create a mandatory full year first-year experience program, which as you said, is pretty unique.


Most schools have just a first semester. But data shows that second semester of the first year of college is a really tough time. And when students come back after that winter break, they’re really expected to fly solo. There’s a lot more handholding in the fall. Hey, you committed to this. And I was thrilled to be able to take that on and, and create and develop this program, which we grew from 15 students in a pilots to 60 to 300.


And now I left several years ago, but the program American university experience it’s called Aus. Is bigger and better. And it services all incoming students, including transfers in a full year course, the first semester, a fairly typical first-year transitions class, everything from learning about your environment, the resources on campus and using your academic skills and the library.


And second semester is a much more of an in-depth course on sort of community living than a, you being a, quite a diverse community. What does that mean? Who am I identity development, lots of stuff. That’s a big part of anybody’s for semester and first year of college. Sounds fantastic. Actually, it would sounds like it’d be so much fun to teach.


Yes. And it’s taught by faculty and staff at American university, which has. So families, for sure, as they are getting ready to figure out where to apply, they’re looking for that college fit. Those would be great things to ask about. I would agree with you don’t underestimate the need for this because there are many smart kids that struggle greatly when they get to school.


We can not really make any assumptions about what the success of our students going through. I’m saying that as a mom and the college counselor, having watched some of that. So if a student doesn’t have such a robust program or even if they do, what do you address in your book about what to do when you get there?


So a lot of the book talks about themes that are in a first year experience program. So I think the book is a wonderful resource. Regardless if you have an FYE or. I’m thrilled that colleges have started to pick it up as a welcome gift for incoming students instead of a water bottle, the student is receiving this.


I’m sure there’ll be happier with a water bottle. Really it’s taking a look at the college you are attending and digging in before you arrive things like learning about the campus community, downloading the shuttle app. So you have an idea of how to get around looking online in advance and all the clubs and organizations and thinking.


Do I want to hone the skills I already have? Do I want to continue as a tube? Or do I want to try something I’ve never tried before? How many acapella groups are there? And then the book encourages the students who go the extra step now that they have had the template for sending a new. Reach out to the junior or senior, who’s the lead of that club.


Introduce yourself. Tell them you’re an incoming first year student. I think it’s tough when students wait till that student activities fair to start learning about the organization so it can feel completely overwhelming. So if you go to college, armed with knowledge about all of the opportunities that are there, you can then set your mind out to explore certain things.


Diving into the differences between high school and college academics. There are lots of differences that people don’t know. I talk about that in a lot of the webinars I do with parents, a typical high school week has about 35 hours of classroom study. Students are actually in a classroom or in the school building for 35 hours a week, which is, which is a lot of time.


In college student is in class maybe 12 to 15 hours a week, which allows for a lot more free time. Of course, there’s a lot more studying and work that needs to take place, but that free time can be spent wisely or it could be spent sleeping and gaming and watching Netflix and wasting time and time management are, are, are really tough things for a lot of students as they transition.


And so some of the knowledge and advanced knowing how much free time you’re going to have thinking about what you want to do. And joining time alone, perhaps getting along with roommates, these are all things we talk about in the book. Fantastic stuff. What would your message be to parents? You gave some very practical advice as far as okay.


Do for do with, let them shine on their own. I always talk about parents. If you’re in the driver’s seat, it’s our time to first move to the passenger seat and let’s get to the back seat. Now let’s get out of the car. What evaluate what seat you’re in currently. Start moving out of the car. So you love supporting parents as well.


You just to mentioned that you do parent webinars, you are serving the family, not just the student. I feel the same way inside my college major and career course. So what are some other actionable advice you could give to parents as well? Sure. Yeah. I love working with parents. There’s not a lot of how to manuals.


For how to be a college parent as high school, parents were encouraged to be involved in our kids’ school, right? We have access to their grade portal. It’s not a big deal for us to email the teacher. It’s not only legal, but it’s something that is in many ways. The parent is, is the student’s best advocate and often feels they need.


And then the student enters college and there’s no transition for the parent who has often been over-involved and the, and the college says, look, this is a young adult and we’re kind of cutting you out. So I do, I try to do my best teach high school parents, sort of how to transition to the role of a college parent.


And it’s that college transition is a transition for everyone in the family, but it’s a different transit. Um, so as you said, ultimately, the goal is for the students to fly on their own. Students are not going from dependent to independent overnight. And I think that that is a fear that both students and parents have.


I hear parents say a lot. My parent, my kid will never fly. They need me. And so what I encourage parents to do over the last couple of years of high school, and certainly that summer before college begins is to back up. But as you’re backing up. Help to encourage your students to use the campus resources.


So you don’t have to be your students, everything. You don’t have to be their first line of defense. You don’t have to be their first phone call and an emotional breakdown. There can be resources on that college campus and your tuition dollars are paying for those wonderful resources. And those resources are plentiful so much more plentiful than they were 30 years ago.


And so every absolutely so everything from counseling centers on college campuses, many, many colleges have counseling center hours that are included in your tuition, six to eight counseling centers, hours, or visits for each, for each person. So that’s, that’s really important resource wellness centers.


There are health centers, tons of academic support from tutoring and librarian. Help reading drafts help for students with learning disabilities help for students whose English is not their first language for help for first-generation college students, there are so much support, but just because a college campus has the support doesn’t mean the students can eat.


College is certainly tout how many resources they have, but at the student doesn’t enter the building or go over that threshold. They’re not going to benefit from that. Right. They have to be the ones to take action. Yes. I know you have your college cards. So tell us how that resource can be used as well.


It’s a fantastic resource. And as a mom, I’m like, ah, so if the book is written forward facing to the kids or the cards that you have. More parent or family. What does that, how would you share it? So I would, so the cards are for both for college bound students and their parents, they’re called the talking college card deck and the cards came out of.


Many of these parent workshops and parent webinars that I was doing when I would hear from parents, the part of your book that I like the most are these prompts for conversations. I want more, I want more prompts for conversations either. I didn’t go to college, or I went to college 28 years ago and I don’t know what to talk to my kid about.


So what I did that was my COVID project was I spent about nine months in focus groups and interviews again, wearing on my sociology. And I talked to faculty and staff on college campuses across the country. I spent a lot of time with sophomore college parents and I said, tell me what you talked about before first year.


That was beneficial. Tell me what you wish you would have talked about that you didn’t. And then I said to faculty and staff, if you are going to have a better prepared first year students, what kind of conversations should be had in the home before the kid leaves. And so I gathered all that information and created these cards.


And so there are 11 themes. They deal with everything from health and safety and relationships. To the big questions, things like, you know, why are you going to college? How much does your college costs? Really big questions that I think sometimes they’re not discussed and families to everything from spirituality and money, drugs, and alcohol, really key themes.


And they are cards that actually offer the prompts for student led discussions, parent led discussions. There are some instructions in the deck that says, in a nutshell parent, it’s not a time to lecture. It’s the time to have an adult conversation. Of course you can be an educator and some areas, for example, defining what a copay is when you’re talking about health insurance.


Right? So there, there, there are things where clearly the parent has more knowledge. There are instructions that say to the student, this is not a time to grunt and give one word answers. This is a time to show that you are college ready and actually engage in adult dialogue. And so I’ve been hearing wonderful things, which has been really exciting from families who said, my kids didn’t want to read a book.


These are tactile. They work really well for kids who are neuro divergent. They work for kids who don’t want to spend a ton of time with their family. Want to have a one and done conversation. I had thought that they would be useful at kitchen table dialogues and they have, but something I’m learning.


And I didn’t even realize is a lot of families are taking these now on college tours junior year. And they’re saying, this is the time where my teen is locked in a car with me and we’ve got college on the brain. And so this is a great opportunity on, on the way to the school. We talked about health and on the way home we talked about.


That’s fantastic. One of the things that I teach, the families that I work with is we as parents, this is top of mind all the time. So we could talk about their future planning. If we just put it in that bucket constantly, right? It’s on our mind. It’s we want the best for our kids. It comes from a place of love, even though we’re totally annoying them sometimes with those discussions, but for our students, This is, and you referenced this earlier.


This is an overwhelming stage of life. There are big things that can feel scary sometimes. So I’d say dial it back and have a family college-bound or future planning, meeting weekly. If you’re getting ready to release. Your student financially and heading to college, it’s your right to say, we’re going to carve out time to be intentional with this.


And I’ve heard from the families that I work with, the parents share to me regularly when they adopted that. It’s not like their kid every week is like, yes. It’s time to have our, our future planning or our college bound conversation. But they know it’s an expectation and they’re doing great things in those usually take place on the weekend.


Cause families are like with teens are two ships passing in the night until the weekend hits. And so being intentional, having that expectation, but your cards would be a fantastic tool to use in that time that I’m encouraging families to set aside each week in my newsletter, I give them something for me, a curated recent.


And a conversation queue. I’ve been doing that for a year and a half since I started that newsletter. So I love meeting like-minded people and supporting families. Andrea is fantastic to have you on this episode. Thank you for the donation of the book. We will put how to share this episode and enter to win the book.


And you’ll be sure to sign a copy for our lucky. Absolutely. Thanks for having me really stuff. I have to believe the insights Andrea shared will save both parents and students sleeping. To me. It’s interesting how the advice Andrea gives aligns with former Stanford university Dean of freshmen and New York times bestselling author, Julie lift Scott Haimes.


Julie was on episode two of college and career clarity where she talked about how to raise an adult I’ll link to that episode in the show notes and strongly suggest that you listen to that episode, to both of these experts lean into. Experiences on campus with thousands of freshmen over their careers.


My encouragement to you is to take to heart their advice and start planning. Now how you can set your team up for successful transition to college. My college bound challenge of the week for your family is to compare first year experience programs at the colleges. Your student is considering the easiest way to find the programs is to.


Google the name of the college, then the words first year experience program, maybe add the word freshmen to then you should be good to go. If today’s episode was helpful to you, please share it with a friend who needs this to sharing. Following the pack test rating and reviewing helps us resource more students to launch into a successful.


Thank you for listening to the college and career clarity podcast, rye help your family move from overwhelmed and confused to motivated, clear and confident about your teens. Future .