What Parents Need to Know About Sending Their Kids to College
To the Editor:
Re “Cutting the Cord: What Parents and Teenagers Need to Know” (news article, Aug. 23):
Judith Newman’s obsessive advocating for “adulting” books in her article was sending the wrong message to new college parents across America. While it is agreeable to get a better understanding of how to send your incoming college student off prepared, Newman shoved down the reader’s throats a multitude of “adulting” novels. In the end, these idealistic books will not improve the readiness of a new college student.
As a freshman college student myself, I have been thrown into the unknown pool, but it is experience that is what teaches us how to swim. I can personally say that if my parents used parenting advice from a book, it would be too forced or experimental and I would not feel prepared at all. Parenting in this specific situation should be setting guidelines to be careful with certain aspects of college, but the rest should be learned by physically doing. As usual, the internet and popular parenting trends take over and create a false narrative that a book can give all of the answers. This is simply not true as my parents and grandparents were not granted this form of parenting when venturing off to the real world, and they figured it all out by being on their own.
Most parents are scared of sending their children to college because they are force fed negative statistics by the media. The article states that 30% of college students dropout within their first year, but what it does not mention is that according to most recent college stats, most schools enjoy a 81-96% retention rate, depending on the school. Where a select amount of schools may have a 30% dropout rate, most of those students transfer to a better fitting school. They do not simply dropout. If parents keep falling for the negative statistics and following advice from a book, their children are going to continue to be less prepared. Most life lessons come out of experience and if students are too afraid to go out and try life skills for themselves, those skills will never develop.
We, as college students must explain how we would like to be taught valuable life lessons. Parents owe it to their children to give them truthful and natural advice and allow them to experience the world. They will begin to understand the correct concepts and quit focusing in on the negative statistics. It is our job to spread the positive and look into the negative stats a little deeper because there may be more than meets the eye.
You show a lot of spirit and attitude here. I like that you’re not bashful about bashing the author. but I wonder if it’s really her you want to criticize or the self-styled life gurus who think they’re qualified to fix everybody’s life. To me she doesn’t seem to be pushing these books or swearing by their effectiveness, merely reviewing them in as a collection that have “adult behavior” as a common theme. Consider re-directing your ridicule.
Some specifics, paragraph by paragraph.
P1. You make a vague claim and then don’t clarify it. We never find out what “wrong message” Newman sends, at least in this paragraph. You declare the message is wrong, then admit parents could benefit from some good advice, then misidentify the books Newman reviews as “novels,” then declare that the books won’t help. Is that “sending the wrong message” or failing to deliver on their promises? Your first paragraph should accomplish more than it does.
P2. You credential yourself as a college freshman, which is good, but if you’re going to use yourself as an example, we’ll need details about how well you’re coping with freshman stress. That goes for your parents and grandparents too, if you’re going to cite them. As it is, your anecdotes aren’t anecdotes at all.
A note about wordiness, Piano. This sentence might be a rare lapse, but just in case it’s a tic, I’ll call it out for you. Your sentence contains this word string: “it is experience that is what teaches us.” We can eliminate it, is, that, is, and what: [
it is] experience [ that is what] teaches us.
New sentence: As a college freshman myself, I have been thrown into the deep end without a self-help book and am learning to swim by experience. (or something like that)
You’re completely entitled to this opinion, but it’s hard to see how you can justify it. Are you sure you’d recognize advice they had gleaned from an article?
The author herself admits humorously that she’s personally terrified of her son “learning by doing.” For parents not quite so apprehensive, you might be able to claim that guide books make things worse by suggesting perils the parents never even considered (like medicated students deciding to liberate themselves from their dependencies).
Here’s your second “non-anecdote” that fails to completely convince us because it’s so sparse with the details, Piano.
P3. You say:
The quote appears to come from a US News & World Report article published in 2009. “Thirty percent of college and university students drop out after their first year. Half never graduate, and college completion rates in the United States have been stalled for more than three decades.”
I’m in no position to adjudicate the statistics, but if half of college students don’t graduate, parents’ fears seem justified.
If they transfer, they wouldn’t be dropouts, Piano.
This is a perfectly reasonable thesis, Piano, but saying it several times does not convince your more skeptical readers. You’ll need some evidence either personal or statistical.
P4. Little is new in the last paragraph. But there’s plenty of potential to drive your point home. You could, for example, suggest that what parents and their college-bound students need more than a self-help book is a frank conversation between adults. Parents need to express their fears and concerns. Students need to assure their parents that they are capable of coping or finding the resources to get help if needed. That sort of thing.
I hope you find these Notes helpful and not too intrusive, Piano. You’re on the right track and just need to focus your objection and provide more compelling evidence.
Please let me know how you feel about the feedback, Piano. Much as I like to give advice, I very quickly start to ignore students who don’t keep the conversation going.
Thank you very much for the feedback! I find it very helpful and clear as to which parts of the letter I need to improve. Would you suggest that if I add personal anecdotes to drive my point, I should eliminate the statistics completely? Also, once I finish my first revision, should I just replace the revision with the original draft on the web page?
Thank you again!
Thank you for engaging in a feedback conversation, Piano. I appreciate the give-and-take.
I would suggest that both statistics and anecdotes can be effective without being lengthy and that you’ll have room for both.
Open your post in Edit mode, make revisions, and Update. You will publish a new post only when I’ve assigned the LTE Revised task. Until then, you can revise your LTE Draft as often as you like, with or without feedback.
If you want another round of feedback following your revisions, just drop me another Reply right here to let me know.
May I have feedback please? Thank you!
You may, of course, but it won’t be until quite late. I’m off to UPenn to teach my afternoon classes, then PDC Dramatists Center to meet my playwriting group. An ordinary Monday. I’ll check out your draft when I get back.