posted on January 14, 2019 11:25
Sending Your Millennial to College: A Parent’s Guide to Supporting College Success. (2018). John Bader, John Hopkins University Press. 136 pp., $17.95, (Paperback), ISBN #978-1-4214-2582-5, https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/sending-your-millennial-college .
Dr. Don Presnell, Associate Director, University College Academic Advising, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” from the musical and cultural phenomenon Hamilton, the eponymous hero gets some short and simple advice from Aaron Burr: “Talk less, smile more.” In the coda to Sending Your Millennial to College: A Parent’s Guide to Supporting College Success, author John Bader offers simultaneously firm and gentle similar advice to parents who are either already piloting the helicopter or who are struggling with not being able to take control: “Learn to listen more and talk less, as listening will give you a more accurate read on that line, and you will show them that you respect their choices, opinions, and voice” (p. 118).
In his previous work—Dean’s List: Ten Strategies for College Success (2017)—a companion volume of sorts, Bader writes and offers advice to students from the perspective(s) of an experienced academic professional; whereas in Sending Your Millennial to College, he writes and offers advice directly to parents from his very real and personal perspective of a vulnerable yet wise (or vice versa) parent of a college student. It is this perspective that lends the book an extra level of authority, supported and enhanced b y a genuinely empathetic individual whose experiences as educator, administrator, and parent sound and feel authentic. There are no pat answers or comforting platitudes here; instead, the author addresses the emotional complexities of “letting go” and how to navigate conversations (p. 8) with their children/college students instead of instinctively dispensing advice: “You need to find a path that gives you room to show your concern and love, engages you when you are most needed, but gives them the opportunity to make and learn from mistakes. In effect, I’m not suggesting you change your motivations—to be sure they are happy, successful, and healthy—but your methods” (p. 28).
Bader provides ten chapters or “strategies” and concludes each with a section titled “ Around the Kitchen Table,” a focused set of questions or conversation starters that parents can (try to) use instead of launching into well-meaning but often misguided and futile “advice.” It is also validating for academic advisors who may read the book to hear Bader bluntly tell parents the equivalent of what advisors consistently tell students: “Allow your son or daughter the freedom to choose coursework and majors in which they will succeed. Do not force them to be practical or career-savvy based on your impression of what fits those criteria” (p. 60).
The only glaring weakness of the book, at least from the perspective of academic advising, is that it doesn’t communicate the critical importance of academic advisors. For example, in the strategy/chapter “Understand Where They Are,” Bader specifically names “persons” or resources that students should be very intentional about contacting and utilizing: resident assistants (RAs); teaching assistants (TAs); directors; deans; and provosts. The only time that academic advisors get a direct mention is a brief reference to assisting with college requirements: “But it is smart and healthy to ask your daughter or son what the college asks them to do. Those requirements, with the help of a good academic advisor, can be managed over time” (p. 48).
That shortcoming aside, this book should be required reading for higher education professionals, both those who regularly interact and communicate with parents of college students, as well as those who do so rarely or only intermittently and jokingly reference “helicopter parents” with no real awareness of the challenges facing parents of today’s college students. It would also make an excellent choice for a book group study or professional development workshop for academic advisors, who would come to appreciate the perspectives and concerns of parents whose contact and presence continues to increase. All readers of the book can come away with some inspiration and ideas for (re)defining, creating and sustaining student success.