A DAY FOR HELICOPTERING

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land…even those of you who usually take pride in letting your kids fend for themselves. The Neurotic Parent trusts that all of you will make your voices heard in this historic election. But I don’t have as much faith in our millennials. Now is the time to bug them, and to get them to bug their flaky friends, particularly those in the battleground states.

So text your sons and daughters NOW and threaten to take away those Bose headphones that they stole from you the last time they came home. Tell your flaky offspring that this is their chance to influence the country that they will inherit. Send them a quote from President Obama’s November 2nd speech to a group of college students at UNC:

“You have a chance to shape history. What an amazing thing that is….Don’t let that chance slip away. Young people, it’s not often that you know your voice will have an impact. Don’t let it slip away. Don’t give away your power….Fairness is on the ballot. Decency is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Progress is on the ballot. Our democracy is on the ballot right now. This is the moment where America stands up for our best selves. Stand up and reject cynicism. Stand up and reject fear. Choose hope. Choose hope. Choose hope. Choose hope. Choose hope.”

Waitlist Donor Bank

A senior in VA lies awake, agonizing over her decision between Bowdoin and Vanderbilt. A lucky young man in CA vacillates between Brown and Columbia. And twins in CT think about a coin toss for their decision between Tulane and Northeastern. Once they decide, who will get the spots they give up? This week the Neurotic Parent answers questions from readers about those elusive waitlists, guaranteed to provide false hope to families all over.

I have a niece who got into Middlebury off the waitlist and gave up her slot at Hamilton and her brother got into Emerson off the waitlist, which opens up a slot at Northeastern.  How long do you think it will be before you know who got their spots?

and

It was actually our Oberlin-bound DGC (Dylan-Ginsberg Clone) who happily gave up his Vassar space for the Santa Barbara girl.

These comments reflect a new trend that is unfolding for students who are admitted to their dream colleges from waitlists. Mere acceptance was once cause enough for celebration. But now many waitlist recipients feel a need to know the identity of the anonymous donors who made it possible for them to enroll at their reach schools.

With this in mind, the Neurotic Parent Institute has started a new foundation, Waitlist Donor Trace. Using cutting-edge research methods, we will locate the girl or boy who gave your child the gift of matriculation. And for a nominal fee, you can receive periodic updates about how your donor is faring at the better school that let him or her in at the last moment.

We are also starting a Waitlist Donor Bank. Top students can now be proactive in giving a lucky girl or boy their hand-me-down acceptances.

So, if you are someone like Mr. 2400, CJ’s friend who just achieved a perfect score on the SAT, here’s a simple strategy that could potentially touch the lives of thousands of students all over the world:  Apply to eighteen colleges. You will probably be accepted at sixteen. Send in deposits to every college that accepts you. Then, when you get the call from Harvard or Princeton, you can provide places to sixteen lucky waitlist recipients. Not only do you get to go to a prestigious school, but you can also help other human beings in limbo, like the Middlebury and Emerson kids mentioned above.

This act of selflessness will take much less effort than going to Namibia to work with the baboons, and will give you the incomparable satisfaction of having made a difference in the life of an eleventh grader who has had to overcome the misfortune of having been born in 1998 or 1999.

Who Not to Talk to Until April 1st

Once college applications are completed, high school seniors enter a lull period, an interminable limbo, worsened by the pressure to keep their grades up.This time can be even more terrible for parents, who need to remain cheery even though they can no longer ‘make things right’ for their kids….as they contemplate aging, separation and financial doom.

If you’re the parent of a senior, you can feel productive during this stage by selling your embarrassing large library of SAT prep books on e-Bay and ordering Twin XLsheets on sale.

And, to maintain your sanity, here is a list of people NOT to talk to until after April 1st:

- Parents of kids who went to college ten years ago, when everything was different.  Not so very long ago, a 4.0 was a stellar GPA. Now, thanks to APs, honors and other weighted classes, it is possible to have a 5.8. And back then it was a good thing to be the captain of the soccer team or the editor of the school paper. Today’s high school seniors have discovered galaxies and invented antibiotics.

Parents of Intel Award winners, oboe soloists and any sort of national semi-finalist, especially if their kids are applying to the same schools as your child.  Colleges are not fans of helicoptering by parents. But helicoptering by kids is another story. In a bizarre metaphorical coincidence, our son actually met a teen helicopter pilot – the only one in our state – who was also applying early to his chosen school. Yikes!

- Parents of recruited athletes, whose kids have already decided between three Ivies. You didn’t start those squash lessons at age three? What were you thinking?

- Parents of relaxed, grounded kids who are only applying to two public schools, a match and a safety, and would be thrilled to go to either. Luckily, we don’t have many of these kids or parents in our neurotic city. But they are annoyingly ubiquitous in the Midwest.

Parents whose kids got letters of recommendation from the Dalai Lama and Stephen Hawking.

- Parents who say that “they all end up in the right place”, and go on to tell you how much they themselves hated Princeton. My sons’ high school was filled with all sorts of alumni of top schools who secretly wish they had gone to Slippery Rock State. And, expertly self-effacing and braggy at once, they say the same thing about their kids once they’re admitted: “Virgil likes Columbia, but I think he would have been happier somewhere that was less of a pressure cooker.”

- English teachers who believe your child should not have used any forms of the verb “to be” in his/her essays. In the old days, kids could trust their high school teachers to provide valuable feedback on their college application. But now, because the passive voice has become a no-no, educators despise Hamlet’s favorite verb and cause parents to spend all day thinking about how their students could have reworded their personal statements.

People who put down the liberal arts. This year’s college anxiety is not just about whether one’s child will get in. Instead parents are panicking about the existential dilemma of whether college is even worth it at all in the long run, especially if their kid’s passion is history or literature. But, take heart, parents of non-STEM students: The one recent Google hire we know was an English major and a Visual Studies minor. There is indeed room in the marketplace for fans of Socrates…and correct apostrophe usage.

9 Holiday Gifts to Get Your Kids, Instead of Paying Tuition

In the spirit of the holiday, how about getting your kids something more special than yet another pair of ear buds? Instead of plunking down $240,000 on a college degree that will probably lead to a position as a Cleanse Consultant at Cold-Pressed Juicery, here is a list of gift ideas that will truly bring joy and financial security to your high school seniors:

1. Five Teslas: One every five years for the next 25 years.

2. A “starter” co-op in Brooklyn. Yes, it’s on the top floor of a walk up and needs ‘minor changes.’ But your kid will get to live in Bushwick, a burgeoning neighborhood. And at 590 square feet it’s larger than most dorm rooms.

3. A trip around the world in a private jet: A tad indulgent, but just think about the networking options with fellow passengers, all retired CFOs. And because the tour is only $108k, you’ll have enough left over for a paid internship at the Weinstein company (yes, you can pick this up as a charity auction item onine).

4. Two Birkin bags: Use them in health, then sell on ebay.

5. 3000 shares of Uber (exact amount to be adjusted when it goes public): If you invested $1,000 in Amazon at the IPO, it would now be worth $239,045, a much more impressive ROI than most college educations.

6. A 3-D Printer : A decent one, the kind you can use to make a burger or an extra kidney.

7. A marijuana farm in Humboldt county.

8. A VIP event hosted by your daughter or son at Coachella, with plant-based catering and the chance to mingle with Skrillex. Other guests will include Brazilian models, Elon Musk, Evan Spiegal and a bevy of angel investors, ready to incubate your kids’ ideas.

9. Airfare to Sweden, where a great college education is free. You will need to provide your child with a good immigration attorney and a high-quality seasonal disorder lamp, but he or she will end up with a degree, a talent for making meatballs, plus more than $200,000 in the bank.

How to Secure Inconvenient, Overpriced Holiday Flights for Your College Student

Helicopter parents are so last decade. The have now been replaced by snowplow parents, who roll in and smooth everything over for their children. Like calling the professor to complain about an A- (a true story – it happened at BU).

The Neurotic Parent, though still overly involved, does not hover or plow. But I am a control freak when making flight arrangements. I do not trust travel agents because they care mostly about booking finance types on flights to Dubai and do not have the patience to spend the day hopping from kayak to expedia to SouthwestAir, looking to save $25 or so. And although my boys are pros at procuring sold-out tickets to Coachella, if I let them reserve their own cross-country flights, they would route themselves through Ibiza. So, for as long as I can read the tiny font on kayak, I will be a Booking Engine Parent.

I generally do a fine job and have even gotten us to Nairobi and the Galapagos using miles. But I inevitably fail over the holidays.

Here are some helpful tips for completely screwing up your kids’ holiday reservations:

1. Book on the same dates that the entire country is flying. The website Cheapair.com suggests that fliers avoid traveling on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the Sunday after winter break. Of course, these are the dates that most college kids have to fly because they have good intentions of not missing Monday classes… although they probably will still be in the vacation mode and sleep through them anyway.

The Neurotic Parent technique is to start looking for those return Thanksgiving and winter break flights the previous April, when the prices are already outrageous. Next step in the process is to decide to game the system and wait until summer. Then in late October, suck it up, accept that the fares will never go down and hastily snap up the last seat on the plane.

2. Believe that the travel dates your kids give you are accurate. Bribe your children with extra legroom if they provide you with correct final exam dates. You will have to text them incessantly for 3-4 weeks before they respond with those dates because it is a real effort on their part to log into their online schedule. Once appropriate flights are booked, be prepared to pay a hefty change fee to leave two days earlier because it turns out that “My last exam is a actually a research paper and I’d rather work on it at home.”

3. Buy into the urban legend that Wednesday is the best day to book flights. Cancel your conference call. Abandon your pilates class. Reschedule your therapist appointment. Then devote a solid block of time each Wednesday morning to booking, canceling (within 24 hours) and re-booking. Wednesday, you see, is supposed to be the primo day for deals. But sadly, Jet Blue, Virgin and American have yet to hear about this legend. Or about the clearing-your-cookies, incognito approach to travel planning.

4. Try to find decent times, short layovers and good seats on reputable airlines. You might hate redeyes or center seats or discount carriers, but students can deal. They will even happily fly on airlines called ‘Spiritually Turbulent’ or ‘No Snacks for You.’

5. Assume that they will get to the airport on time.  Most college leave for the airport at the exact minute that they’re supposed to be going through security. So it’s not a great idea to book them on the last flight of the day, even if you have lots of Starwood points.

6. To make flights extra unbearable, forget to remind your kids about the two essential carry-on items: sinus meds and phone chargers.  Odds are that they’ll develop a debilitating upper respiratory infection the morning they are supposed to travel. Without Sudafed, which is now harder to purchase than crack cocaine, they will spend six hours feeling as if their heads are about to explode. And assume that they will leave their chargers at school, so you won’t have a clue about when or where they’re landing once they have missed their flight and rescheduled.

Of course, nothing beats the joy of having them home for the holidays, even if you ended up spending $1098 on a roundtrip excursion that usually costs $287. Next year, of course, you’ll think about employing those Booking Engine Parent skills in January. But after checking out the fares, you’ll probably move on to reserving your own off-season package to the Turks and Caicos.