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Get by with a Little Help from Your Fred

October 13, 2016

I recently had lunch with my friend Fred, whose daughter (now out of college) attended the same school where my son just started 9th grade. I asked him whether he had any advice for my son about having a successful freshman year. “Nope,” he replied, “no advice for your son. I do, however, have advice for the parents of a 9th grader. Would you like to hear it?” When I nodded my assent, he offered, “Keep your own counsel.”


I should add that not only is Fred the proud father of a wonderful recent college grad, but also he has, for several decades, been Dean of Admissions and Dean of Students of some of the finest universities in the nation. In his role, he has counseled thousands of students and their families and has witnessed first-hand the extremes of those same folks. It isn’t always pretty.


His advice of “keep your own counsel” is advice I am inclined to suggest to anyone running the gauntlet of applications, college visits, classes, extracurricular activities, standardized tests, and whatnot that can make junior and senior year so crazy-making. Part of what makes this time of year so challenging is that, in many cases, nearly everyone is equally stressed, for most kids and parents are facing the same pressures and deadlines at the same time. And, stress can be contagious.


Keep your own counsel. Or, if you seek advice or solace, consider seeking it from someone who has an abundance of wisdom and modicum of stress. Most likely, those will be people who have already weathered the storms you face, know the landscape well, and can with assurance help you see how things will turn out all right.  My friend Fred is just such a person, which explains why he has been both a great friend and great dean. Ideally, you have your own Fred, and if you don’t, consider his advice.

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