Be Ready to Listen, Book Parents Weekend and more: Next Steps for Parents

As parents, we know that sometimes the best advice can come from fellow parents who have successfully navigated some developmental step or landmark -- or land mine -- in their children's lives. Here are two of the savviest moms we know -- Lisa Endlich Heffernan and Mary Dell Harrington of the excellent blog Grown and Flown -- on next steps for parents of seniors.


This is a moment to rejoice.  Your child was accepted to college and all of your effort and his have resulted in this success. There may be some small disappointments, there may euphoria and there may be some big decisions ahead, but this is one of life’s big moments and it should be noted and celebrated. Let your nearly grown child know just how proud you are and acknowledge how much of his effort it took to get to this moment. 

Once your family has taken a time to savor this special moment, there are a few more practical matters that need your 

Book the revisits.

Your child may be making a very real decision between two or more schools they have not seen in a year, or more.  See if the school has official revisit days when pre-frosh return for an organized program.  If such a program exists, make certain to book a place in the program and hotel reservations if needed.  If there is not official program, make plans for your teen to take another 

Get ready to listen, talk, then listen again.

For many seniors, they are facing the single biggest decision of their lives.  Each school has its pros and cons and it soon becomes clear that, while the options may be exciting, as in life, nothing is perfect.  For teens this can be both confusing and frustrating and parents are at their best as sounding boards in this 

Orientation dates are scheduled.  See how they work into your calendar.

Orientation dates will be in the summer, fall, or both, depending on the school.  Look now and see if you, again, need to book air and hotel rooms.  Maybe your kid will go on her own, maybe this is a family adventure, either way, once the college decision is made, it is time to start 

Seek hidden funds.

While your child’s chosen college may or may not offer merit scholarships, some exist for the parent who goes looking.  Employers, local service organizations and others offer support for deserving students.  Your child may be in a swirl of AP exams, Prom prep and end of year activities, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot be researching scholarship 

The road ahead will have some bumps.

It seems that once the good news has arrived, once both parent and teen are assured that the latter is going to college, the stress should fade and it should be smooth sailing until move-in day. This is the fantasy. The reality is that a massive life change is ahead for both parent and child.  And while this period will be filled with many of life’s highlights, it is also filled with some pain and dislocation.  Teens getting ready to leave have (despite their protestations) mixed feelings about going out on their own.  Some take it in stride, others can become difficult (but you knew this!) as they push us away.  Anger and frustration can rise up in us as we attempt to mask our own sadness at their departure, as excited as we are for 

Academic requirements and advance placement are no longer theoretical.

If your student has not already poured over the pages of the academic requirements and AP policies, now is the time to do so. Colleges vary widely on what they accept for course credit and placement (which you may already know.) AP, SAT and SAT II tests (again, depending on college) might be used to give credit for requirements, and your child still has time to sign up for  the May or June SAT II tests, if they are relevant. Additionally, official scores for these tests may still need to be sent to your child’s chosen 

Book Parents Weekend for the fall.

Many small college towns have limited hotel and restaurant facilities.  When your child has pushed the button on their college of choice, be sure to book what you need for Family Weekend in the 

Get ready to cheer.

Football fans? Take a look at the calendar of home and away games and see if any of the dates work into your schedule. Might not be easy at all to score tickets but it could make for a fun, non-official parents weekend with your freshman and their new 

Avoid Thanksgiving traffic jam.

If school is a plane trip away, take a look at the academic calendar around Thanksgiving and book airline, train or bus tickets. Amtrak often sells out weeks in advance and flights to small towns can be limited.  This moment of practical activity will help you remember that it isn’t very long before your freshman will be right back 

Wait to go shopping.

Every kid will need provisions for their dorm room but you may be tempted to overbuy as you desperately want your child to be prepared to manage….without you. Other than two sets of extra-long twin sheets (a true dorm necessity) it is best to wait on buying big, bulky things until you know the configuration of your child’s dorm room.  Bunk beds? Underbed storage? If so, what is the clearance? Knowing this will make a big difference in determining true “dorm room essentials.” In the meantime, locate the Container Store, Bed, Bath and Beyond, or Target closest to your child’s college.  You can order online and arrange to pick up all your son and daughter needs (and them some) without overstuffing your car for the drive from 

Take a deep breath and exhale.

Your family is about to make one of its biggest changes.  It is a wonderful, heart wrenching and seminal moment.  While we watch out kids pass into the next stage in their lives there are more than a few little matters we can attend to help them on their 

As two moms getting ready to say goodbye to their youngest kids this fall, we have also learned the deep support that friends can give in dealing with the big change that is coming into our lives as our days become our own and our houses get much quieter.  As deeply proud as we are of our young adults, this transition can be tinged with a bit of sadness. Good luck to your high school senior and many congratulations to you for helping her on the way.


Lisa Endlich Heffernan and Mary Dell Harrington are co-founders of the blog Grown and Flown: Parenting Never Ends, covering all things kids aged 15 to 25. The parent of three boys, Lisa has an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and worked as a Wall Street trader before becoming an author of three books including the New York Times Business Bestseller, "Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success."  Mary Dell is a graduate of the University of Texas and Harvard Business School and parent to a son and daughter, ages 23 and 17. After a career in the media with NBC, Discovery and Lifetime, she began a decade-long stint as a school volunteer and certified animal therapist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital


Parents' Weekend Advice. Go your child's Freshman year. It's a tradition, and, like Visiting Day at sleepaway camp, it is a coveted connection with Mom and Dad that is to be cherished.

After that first year, of fighting the traffic, staying in a motel miles away from campus, endlessly searching for a parking spot, and waiting hours on end for a table at a local restaurant, visit your child during an off weekend. Avoid the crowds and the hectic pace. Besides, as a seasoned veteran, your child probably has other plans for Parents' Weekend, Sophomore Style.

Haha! Good advice, but have to admit, we couldn't resist attending every year. And we made some wonderful friends by doing so. And if you can't make Parents' Weekend, there are so many other opportunities these days -- Mother-Daughter Weekend, Father-Daughter Weekend, Homecoming, Volunteer Week, and the list goes on! Christine

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