Six Easy Ways to Earn MVP on Turkey Day

Six Easy Ways to Earn MVP on Turkey Day
Bartley Sides, Christ Church Episcopal School (SC)

This is an updated blog that Bartley originally wrote for SACAC many years ago. However, even as the college admission landscape has changed, the advice remains the same.

In a few days, roughly 46 million turkeys will be consumed when our country pauses for a day of thanks with family and friends. However, one thing will certainly not pause this Thursday: the nagging feeling of anxiety and worry for the millions of high school seniors awaiting college decisions. While their younger cousins play football in the front yard, seniors may very well be cornered in the dining room answering endless questions about college from aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  

I’ve had students share with me that they often dread family gatherings because of the questions, the unsolicited advice, and the comparisons between other family members, friends, and neighbors. To be fair, college is an easy conversation starter. It’s relevant, it’s important, and everyone feels like they have a little something extra to add. However, I beg of you: please allow the seniors to relax and enjoy their pumpkin pie in peace!  

PARENTS: Maybe you’ve felt out of the loop on the college process or maybe you feel like you’re stuck in a loop. Whatever the case may be, now is your time to shine as a perfect example of what it means to be the parent of a high school senior.  It’s your chance to intervene, redirect the conversation, and protect your child from the barrage of questions that will inevitably begin before the green bean casserole comes out of the oven.  Here are six easy responses to questions that will earn you MVP on Turkey Day:

  1. “We’ve decided not to talk about college today and give him a break!” This may be the best answer of all! Taking a day off from college applications is most likely exactly what you and your high school senior need. 

  2. “I don’t know where he will end up next fall. The possibilities are endless.” Again, well-intentioned friends and relatives are genuinely interested and that’s a great thing! However, the truth is that many seniors don’t know the next step. And even if they think they do, it could change. 

  3. “I know that everyone in our family has always attended that college. She has different thoughts though on where she sees herself, and we support that decision.” Family connections to a college can run deep. However, your senior may very well be the family member that chooses another path…and that’s ok. 

  4. “That’s interesting that you’ve never heard of that college. We visited and absolutely loved it. Plus, it’s where the school’s English teacher attended!” This is my favorite comment to hear regarding someone’s knowledge of a college. As someone who lives and breathes in the college admission world, it’s always surprising to me the colleges that my own friends and relatives have never heard of…amazing gems of colleges that I would attend myself or send my own children to. Be confident in your research and in the college fit you’ve found, regardless of what your third cousin once removed says.

  5. “She doesn’t know what she’s going to major in yet.  In fact, did you know that nearly ⅔ of college students will change their major at least once?” I love responding with statistics. Who doesn’t love sounding smart at the Thanksgiving table…especially when it can divert the attention from your senior?

  6. “It’s true that college is expensive! However, he’s applied for lots of scholarships, and his counselor is helping with that process too.” College should be an academic, social, and financial fit (I frequently borrow this line from Forrest Stuart of Lafayette College). If one of these fits isn’t right, it could impact the entire experience. However, if politics and religion are off-limits at family gatherings, college finances should be a close third! 

When in doubt, change the topic completely.  Let your child relax for the day.  Offer them an extra slice of pie or another helping of a favorite dish.  Your senior will be thankful for you.  

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