What to expect when you’re expecting college

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The new issue of Denison Magazine is arriving at homes all over the country this week, so we thought we’d give you a little sneak peek. Here’s an excerpt from one of our feature stories, written by Nancy Woodward Berk ’81, a comic and author with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. She is trying to help readers get their teenagers out of the house and into college without breaking the bank—or losing their minds.


Time flies when you’re a parent. One minute the minivan is stocked with juice boxes and action figures, and the next it’s loaded with duffle bags and dorm decorations. Once upon a time, I thought I had the whole parenting thing figured out. Then my older son applied to college, and I learned there is another process as challenging as childbirth.

It’s not a coincidence that a teen’s senior year is about nine months long. Obsessing over prepping, searching, applying, and waiting, parents who survived three trimesters way back when sit at another nail-biting crossroads, with even less control.

The college expectancy period involves at least three trymesters. The operative word is “try.”

Try, v.: to make an attempt or effort to do something. Ex.: I will try to stay sane during my child’s senior year.

The problem is, there’s no Lamaze class for the bumpy college-bound journey. And parents deserve more than a sugarcoated handbook for what to expect when their kids hit the college circuit. So after two tours of duty, I decided it was time to write one.

Please note: College-bound trymesters can differ, depending upon whether your child applies early decision, early action, or regular decision, but the course is still the same—trauma, drama, nagging, and success. Ironically, you’re required to keep your high-school senior on track at exactly the same time that those “What did I walk into this room for?” senior moments start hitting you. Like childbirth, however, the pain is fleeting and, in the end, well worth it. Your baby’s going to college.


For tips from Nancy about what to expect when you’re expecting college, keep your eye out for Denison Magazine, arriving in mailboxes this week. Or check out the mag’s new digs at denisonmagazine.com.

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