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Episode 126: Applying to College, or, How to Both Get in and Keep the Family Together

This is another of Historically Thinking’s occasional series on higher education, collectively titled “Higher Ed: A Guide for the Perplexed,” and it could hardly be more timely.  There are few things more genuinely perplexing to any outsider, let alone a prospective undergraduate and said undergraduate’s parents, than the college admissions process. If you have any doubts about that, then you don’t know what the words “Varsity Blues” signify.

It’s not only perplexing, it can feel demeaning. When you’re in the admissions process, you begin to feel like poor Oliver Twist, queuing up for a bowl of gruel. Only it’s not a bowl of gruel, it feels like your entire future is on the line. And that’s just what parents are thinking. The tensions of the modern admissions process can turn nice families into a tribe of malevolent bickering hyenas.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Brennan Barnard and Rick Clark have co-authored The Truth About College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together. As a professor of mine used to say of someone who had not only read a lot, but thought a lot and one a lot, “They have a right to their opinion.” Brennan Barnard is the director of college counseling at the Derryfield School and US Performance Academy. Rick Clark is the director of undergraduate admission at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

I think this is one of the most important and helpful episodes of “Higher Ed: A Guide for the Perplexed” that we’re ever likely to record, and I think you’ll agree. Once you’ve listened to this conversation, you’ll want to go back and listen to the all the others from the beginning. Together they are themselves a unique guide to college, and to keeping sane about higher education.