Survival Tips for Empty Nesters

How to survive the unbearable separation anxiety when the kids leave for college? Many parents, suddenly feeling obsolete and arthritic, move to farms in Oregon, attend yoga retreats in India, become fanatic cyclists, design outdoor living rooms, organize the old shinguard collection, or even foster a teen. Here are some other suggestions in all budget ranges:

1. Cleanse. You no longer will be tempted by the ubiquitous leftover pizza crusts.

2. Invest in a pied-a-terre in a cool college town…which just happens to be the one where your kid goes to school.

3. Adopt a puppy. Name it after your son or daughter. How sweet it will be when Virgil comes home for Thanksgiving and finds a furry little Virgil in the house, one that obeys curfew and is always fast asleep by 9 p.m.?

4. Stalk your children on Instagram. (They all ditched Facebook when it became overpopulated by boomers.) If you don’t “like” any of their photos, they’ll never know that you’re tracking how often they’re holding Solo cups.

5. Get rid of those age spots with a laser treatment. No potlucks or carpools, so you can finally hide out while you recover.

6. Revive your relationship by indulging in a couple’s ionic foot bath.

7. Because every penny is now going to educate your child, you probably don’t have funds for much of the above – or anything else. So find an affordable sport or hobby, taking advantage of all that expensive equipment you bought for the many activities your child quit after several months. Try French horn lessons, skateboarding, lacrosse, or building a robot.

8. Take risks. Become a senior triathlete or set the loftiest goal of them all: Inbox Zero. Start with the 21,589 e-mails in your old AOL account.

9. Continue micro-managing your children. Be available 24/7 to edit essays, book flights, replace lost iPhones, provide laundry instructions, and secure internships that will one day help them be rid of you forever.

10. Remember, you might be in a catatonic state, but they’re having the time of their lives. They’re joining squirrel clubs, celebrating Nitrogen Day, and running the Naked Mile.

College Essentials You Won’t Find at Bed, Bath and Beyond


1. A decent mattress.
Forget the memory foam topper, feather bed and bed bug protector. Face it, no matter how many bedding enhancers you invest in, that saggy, smelly dorm cot will just never be comfortable. Instead, just spring for a brand new mattress, which will cost $89 compared to the $400+ needed to alter the yucky one in the dorm. But remember to get Twin XL. Even though kids manage to fit into normal-sized beds at home, the colleges have conspired with BB & B to scare you about the dire consequences of too-short sheets and force you to purchase all new bedding.

2. A dress up box – College students always seem to be going to themed parties, so the equivalent of the dress up box from preschool is a must.

3. A pitch pipe
A capella competition is so fierce these days that your son or daughter will want to practice on the way to class.

4. Unlimited text plan
If your child has been sending 10,000 a day, he or she will now send 20,000. If you have a girl, you will be the lucky recipient. If you have a boy, look forward to one-word responses to your cheery questions, such as Yaaa.

5. Parking Permit
Much cheaper than a car. Can be bartered for free rides from all the students who have brought vehicles to campus but have nowhere to park.

6. Settlers of Catan
College students spend so much time playing this board game (a Germanic combination of Monopoly and Risk, but with sheep) that you will wish they would go back to playing video games.

7. ‘Find my iPhone’ App
The most essential possession of them all. Just be sure that your kids know not to harrass the residents if the phone is located in a crack house.

8. Rainbow Hair Color
College students like to show their individuality, by going for the sand art look… like everybody else.

9. Fake ID
Although highly fraudulent, it’s at the top of most students’ checklist, even above the shower caddy.

10. This phone number
To deal with the consequences of #9, the phone number of a local attorney.

11. A subscription to the Wall Street Journal
So students can keep track of all their high school friends who have dropped out of college after receiving seed money from angel investors.

Full CORT Press: Stress-free Student Furniture Rental


We are still recovering from our sons’ move-in three years ago. Both attended the same college, so we had less of a logistical challenge that sweltering August weekend than other families. Our younger son was a freshman. Getting him settled in his dorm room was relatively hassle-free, once he recovered from a killer mosquito attack.

But then we received a distress text from our eldest, a senior. He needed to spend an extra week at his faraway internship and would not have time to furnish his room in his first off-campus apartment before his classes started. Could we please find him a queen bed? And while we were at it, a night table, small sofa, cool rug, modern desk and large dresser? Eager to make ourselves useful, we accepted the challenge.

For three straight days and nights we schlepped from mini-mall to mini-mall, where inventory had been picked over by every kid moving back to campus. We finally found a mattress at We-Pressure-U, a rug at Low-Quality Liquidators, a sofa at ShabbyNotChic, a desk at Junk Depot and a dresser on Craiglist from @creepyredneck. For most of these items we had to arrange delivery through Deodorant-Free Movers, although we were able to haul the particle board night table that came in 28 pieces, with only three missing.

Just after we finished rearranging the sofa cushions to hide the stains, we ran into the relaxed parents of one of our son’s friends, sipping mojitos at the hotel pool. The told us they too had furnished their son’s place, but had done so by renting a package at CORT for the incredible student discount of $99 a month. As we headed off to the chiropractor to recuperate from the heavy lifting, they were planning their empty nest trip to Sicily. And now, three years later, we are still kicking ourselves for not knowing about CORT (Can we have those three days back?)

Here’s why CORT’s student rental program can be a game changer for the college move in:

  1. CORT’s rental furniture is comfy and stylish. In fact, it’s showroom quality. Cinder blocks and upholstery with the stuffing coming out are things of the past.
  1. CORT delivers. On the date they say they will. It’s guaranteed. No need to rent a U-Haul or pay someone to wait around for days on end.
  1. Your son or daughter (or you) can do the whole transaction online on, including customizing your order. Pillow top? An easy add on. Dishes and linens? Just a click away.
  1. No assembly required – Yes, putting stuff together is appealing in theory, brings back those Lego moments. But you’ll need some pricy power tools. And it is so time consuming that you’ll need to spend two extra nights in your hotel, making it so not cost effective.
  1. CORT is way cheaper than buying new or scrounging around the flea markets. No hiring movers or calling around for storage units (and dealing with the yucky mildew after a summer of storage). CORT delivers, sets up and when students are ready to move on, CORT picks it all up again.
  1. Yup, CORT did compensate for this post, but let it be known that the Neurotic Parent Institute is very selective about whom we promote. In fact, in eight years of this blog we never have featured a sponsored post before. We have now made an exception because CORT is truly an AWESOME service which will improve the quality of your child’s college experience…and make your life easier, even if you’ve cut down on your helicoptering. And we guarantee that CORT is kind to animals and not involved in fracking.

So get thee to CORT. And check out their furniture rental and used furniture programs for when your kids ultimately get that first job offer. Because once they’re in the real world living in that fifth floor walk up, fixing up the flat should be the least of their worries.

Summer Conundrum

Everybody knows that the colleges care about more than GPAs and standardized testing.  They look at curriculum strength, essays, teacher recs and, in particular, extracurricular activities. It is no secret that the admissions committees are very concerned about what you do with your spare time – be it volunteering at an IT call center in India or interning as a trapeze artist with Cirque du Soleil.

And it is equally important that you do not begin a brand new extracurricular activity during your junior year. The admissions committees will not be impressed with your story unless you have demonstrated a lifelong passion for your extracurricular of choice.

This makes it a challenge to choose a summer activity for the summer between junior and senior year of high school. We remember when our younger son GC has brought up several possibilities, but we were wary about which would help his college chances. Theoretically, it is best to be chosen for a prestigious, competitive program related to your passion, a program that ideally you can position as an award or scholarship on your application. Unfortunately, there are only seven of these programs, and four are for New Jersey residents only. And, if you’re anything like our son, you missed the deadlines, and your hang-gliding skills are so rusty that you probably wouldn’t have qualified anyway.

That means you will have to choose between the following:

– A CHALLENGING SUMMER COURSE AT AN IVY. Schools like Brown, Columbia and Cornell offer fascinating classes for pre-college students – courses in Great Books, Genomes or Globalization. Unfortunately, these programs cost $5000-$8000, and although the colleges like keeping their dorms filled, they are not particularly impressed when they see these classes on your resume. They assume you’re a rich kid who settled for Genome Studies because you couldn’t get into a more prestigious program.

– A LIFE-CHANGING TRIP TO A WAR-RIDDEN, DEVELOPING COUNTRY. These excursions, which often involve performing bunion surgery in Mongolia or training villagers in Guam to grow sustainable kale hydroponically, take high school students out of their comfort zones. The participants live with local families in mud huts and come back with a new appreciation for the after-parties they attend at home.  But sadly, the colleges don’t like to hear about these adventures. They want you to wait until you’re IN college to go on expeditions to the rainforest, because then the profits will go to their own institutions.

– AN OUTWARD BOUND EXPERIENCE BACKPACKING BLINDFOLDED IN WEST VIRGINIA. Again, the colleges once respected students who spent their summers eating bark. But now they look at these programs as magnets for troubled teens.

– AN INTERNSHIP AT YOUR UNCLE BRAD’S NEW STARTUP. Don’t even think about it. Stinks of privilege, especially if the show is picked up.

That leaves just one desirable summer activity:

– A JOB AT FRESH PRESSED JUICERY.  This, my friends, is what the colleges want to see. All the better if you don’t actually get to blend the juice and you spend eight full hours a day peeling carrots and mopping up. But landing one of these coveted assignments is not as easy as it sounds. I’m sorry to report that all of the summer juicing positions have already gone to recent cum laude neuroscience grads from UCLA.

That’s where the Neurotic Parent Institute comes in: For a mere $6500, less than it will cost to go to Ghana or Cornell, we will personally arrange an UNPAID INTERNSHIP at Fresh Pressed for your high school student. Although there is no compensation, we will make sure that your son or daughter encounters severe traffic, indecisive customers and rancid protein powder – a plethora of excellent essay material….and all in all, the kind of experience that jumps off the page.  Apply soon – opportunities are limited. You don’t want your kid to end up spending his or her summer studying International Relations at Columbia!

College Vs. Coachella

The dean of college admissions at a top west coast high school recently posted the following as her Facebook status:

I’m tired of hearing from parents that their kids cannot go visit a college, a college they are considering going to in the fall, because they’re going to Coachella. Am I the only one thinking priorities are out of whack?

Moments later, the director of admissions at a leading west coast university commented:

Not with AC/DC heading it up

This provided food for thought for the neurotic parent. Kids these days have clear priorities. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is simply not to be skipped, even if it means missing an accepted student weekend, postponing the ACTs or blowing off a ceremony to pick up a MacArthur Genius Grant. So perhaps, if students are more passionate about three hot, smelly days in the desert than collecting degrees, parents should pay attention – they may be onto something.

Let’s look at the benefits of attending Coachella instead of going to college at all:

1. Cost – College can currently cost $240,000, more if you include airfare, study abroad fees, twin XL bedding and four years of North Face at retail prices. Even if you splurge for VIP admission at Coachella and take an Uber round trip, you can still put a couple hundred grand in the bank.

2. No Pretentious Essays or Unfair Exams – Coachella attendees do not have to play the stressful admission game. Students of all abilities can get in…as long as they have the foresight to sign up in January or the resourcefulness to sort through the scams on Craigslist.

3. Bragging Rights – Parents can still impress their friends with their kids’ accomplishments. A mom stopped by today and told me that her son had gained acceptance to several Coachella parties, including one that included Victoria Secret’s leading model, Miley Cyrus’s sister and Justin Bieber…before he got expelled.

4. Schedule – No annoying early classes. Bands never begin playing until after lunch.

5. Weather – Many prestigious universities are situated in places with truly dreadful weather. At Coachella, your child will be comfortable shirtless or in a Forever 21 sports bra during the day and a hoodie at night. And when s/he loses that hoodie, there just might be a cool Barbour in the Lost and Found to replace it.

6. Greek Life – No elitist sororities or misogynistic fraternities at Coachella. This means no worries about rushing or pledging rituals. Unless you’re Drake – then you might have to make out with Madonna.

7. Sensible Style – None of the preppy obnoxiousness you find on most college campuses. No shorts with whales on them. Instead, to look cool, all you have to do is snack on a giant slice of watermelon while wearing a Boho chic sundress.

8. Meal Plan – No awkward auditions for exclusive eating clubs. Instead anyone who can cough up $225 can indulge in octopus confit or blackened vegan cauliflower at a popup restaurant.

9. Fitness Options – Top colleges do have massive gyms stocked full of rock climbing walls and Trailmasters, but working out at Coachella is so much more fun. Enduring a couple hours in the Sahara tent is at least equivalent to running a 10k.

10. Intellectualism/Finding your Passion – It’s all there: liberal arts (80s lyrics are so deep, baby), STEM (genius holograms), new media (Snapchat stories), sociology (rap is such a mirror of society, dude), photography (unless your phone falls in a Porta potty), and of course, musicology. And, as a bonus, Rolling Stone reports more accurately about music festivals than about college life.

11. Fostering Independence – A clear win for Coachella here. Kids are more likely to handle those lost phone and fake ID incidents themselves because otherwise their parents might not let them go again.

12. Internship and Career Contacts – In a word, limitless. It’s possible to run into everyone from Skrillex to AMC’s Head of Unscripted to Peter Theill and his team of angel investors. Entrepreneurial Studies at Stanford seems such a hassle compared to meeting up for frozen mojitos in the VIP tent with these guys.

And the best reason to go to Coachella over college:

13. Positive Values: Coachella has officially banned selfie sticks. Unlike college, here’s a 21st century opportunity to be zen and live in the moment. A plus for angst-ridden parents who have had it with resume padding and insanely-priced tutors. But they can still micromanage their kids’ lives, stalking them on Instagram while having massages a few miles away at a La Quinta resort. All this while their children learn real-life lessons about how to thrive in the desert.