Dear Neurotic Parent

We have received many inquiries about our radio silence since the election. It turns out that we were hacked by a highly-rated Russian university interested in gaining insight into how there is little correlation between intelligence and the ability to graduate from a US college and get a job in the government. (You can read more about it on NavianceLeaks.) The hacking issue isn’t resolved yet, so please let me know if you end up on an email blast about investing in the Trans-Siberian Pipeline.

Here are the most pressing questions from readers:

Q: Dear Neurotic Parent, According to my calculations, your sons have both graduated from college. How did it work out? And what about all their friends from the college tours?

A: Thanks for asking! Indeed they did graduate and now both have cool millennial jobs with free lunch in distant cities. One travels to Buenos Aires and Amsterdam and has his phone plan covered by his company. The other hangs out with influencers in the epicenter of the Hipster Republic of America and rides his bike to work. Sadly, that’s all I can tell you. Unlike their more open high school selves, they never approved me posting about their adventures in college or as young adults.

Their friends are all (!) gainfully employed, several in impressive entrepreneurial endeavors. Many work at start-ups, and one actually lives in a start-up, Silicon Valley style. One racked up several million in an IPO. A few are changing the world, a few are in talent agency trainee programs and several are making a nice living in art (!) or design. One went to law school and one to medical school. And two are in PhD programs in philosophy – I will let you know if they find meaning in any of this. There has been no correlation between college major and happiness or job placement; a sociology major works at Microsoft and an art major landed at Google. So, the short answer is go ahead and let your kid study the liberal arts.

Q: Should we pay our child for good grades? In our neck of the woods, the going rate is $50- $100 for As, although we know of one Dad who is taking his son to the Super Bowl for an A in AP Calc.

A: Not a good idea. Even if you think you live in a Banana Republic, there are better ways of incentivizing your slacker. Instead start in Pre-K and put $10,000 in a REIT every time your darling offspring gets an ‘outstanding’ or an A. By the time your child applies to college, you will have enough for a substantial bribe to the university that really needs it for its Immigration Law program.

Q: Help! I found a vape in my son’s room!!! What do I do?

A: A mom on a parents’ forum just posted that she sold a bunch on ebay. True story.

Q: What about screen time? Do I still need to limit it in high school?

A: Good news! If your child wants to work in television, film, video games, techy VR or digital media that hasn’t been invented yet…or the growing political parody industry there is no longer a need to limit screen time. But if he or she wants to track lemurs, you might want to impose certain rules. (However, with few exceptions, the college essay should be about the lemur experience rather than hours/days/months spent playing League of Legends.)

Q: What kind of scholarships are available for swimmers?

A: Good question! For starters, there’s this Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship: But if your swimmer is turned down, you might want to contact our new online BFF, expert swim mom at


Come mothers and fathers throughout the land…even those of you who usually take pride in letting your kids fend for themselves. Here at the Neurotic Parent, we trust that all of you will make your voices heard in this historic election. But we 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 and threaten to take away those Bose headphones 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?


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.