& A with Deb Shaver, Director of Admission
After advising parents
of college-bound kids for a quarter century, Deb Shaver,
director of admission, found out it’s
easier said than done to keep from becoming overly involved.
Shaver blends her years of experience in admission with her
firsthand parental guidance in an essay she wrote for a new
a compilation of short pieces by parents
of the college-bound, edited by Jennifer Delahunty, the dean
of admission and financial aid at Kenyon College.
essay, titled “The Kids are Alright (with Apologies to The
Who),” (she insists she came up with the title before Hollywood
released a popular comedy by the same title) comically pans
her perspective of her son John’s circuitous search for post-high
school education, including: his ill-advised basketball star
fantasy; an out-of-the-blue interest in culinary arts despite
lack of interest in cooking (“I like to eat,” he argued);
a decision to skip college and be a rock star (not just a
musician, a STAR); and finally his finding the right college
Shaver joins authors such as
Anna Quindlen, Jane Hamilton and Neal Pollack in documenting
her experience, as well as several writers with backgrounds
in admission. She recently responded to questions for the
Gate: What is the biggest challenge,
from your perspective, to parents with kids heading to/searching
Deb Shaver: One big challenge
is the anxiety parents have about the process. I tell parents
that they need to acknowledge their anxiety, understand where
it comes from and then get over it. It comes from the right
place—we all want our children to be happy
and successful. However, our kids are under enormous pressure
and need our support...as well as a reality check concerning
the hype around the process. Our kids shouldn't have to add
our stress to theirs. Our job is to provide perspective...we're
the parents after all. Our anxiety leads to boundary issues.
How much involvement is too much? When do you push and when
do you step back and just support?
Gate: How do you look
back on the process of guiding your child beyond high school?
DS: I went
through the process three years ago with my son. He's currently
at UMass, Amherst (although is contemplating taking a leave
to pursue his dream of rock 'n roll—see the essay).
through the process with my son was the best professional
experience I've had in admission. As you might imagine, I
lived for this moment—especially because
I'm the first in my family to go to college and didn't have
any guidance through the college process. Yet, even an "expert" like
me can find the process to be a wild ride. The lesson I learned
is that it'll all work out in the end. Kids land where they
belong and there's a place for everyone.
Gate: How did you
come to pen an essay for I’m Going to College—Not You!?
A staff member told the author that I had a good parent story.
I sent it to her and she loved it, and used it as one of
three chapters to shop the manuscript around.
is your most frequent advice to parents of college-bound
DS: It's all about fit—it's not about the name, it's
about the match. My favorite quote is by Frank Sachs, a college
counselor: "Admission is a match to be made, not a prize
to be won."
Remember, you are not going
to college, your child is. This is not a do-over for parents.
Stay quietly to the side and let your child control the process.
In other words: back off! Expand your horizons, look at lots
of different colleges. We obsess over the top 50 colleges
yet there are many wonderful places for our kids. The sticker
on the car is not your grade as a parent. This is your opportunity
to serve as a role model around disappointment...be a good
role model to help your child negotiate the disappointment
that will come with this process.
Above all, do not call
the director of admission and call her a "stupid woman" if your
child does not get in.