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University prep podcast for parents

I listened to a great podcast episode the other day that I thought many of you will enjoy. I decided to share it here because it has so much great information (and inspiration!) for parents of university-bound high school students.

College Essay Guy helps high school students with the college admission process, and (surprise, surprise!) his main area of expertise is the college admission essay. Lisa Heffernan is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, a source of information and inspiration for parents of high school and university students.

Both Ethan Sawyer, who is the College Essay Guy, and Lisa Heffernan are American. Although the admission information in the podcast is specific to American students applying to American colleges, the topics they discuss are universal to many parents of high school students.

Note: Because the content is American, Ethan and Lisa refer to the “college” process. People in the US collectively refer to universities and four year colleges as “college” because they are—in a way—quite similar. In Canada, colleges and universities are quite different (although this is changing). But when they refer to the "college" process, for us it is the university process.

Here are some of their discussion points:

At 3:30 – Lisa talks about why the high school years are some of the most challenging for parents

At 6:00 – how can parents help their child without putting more pressure on them

At 7:30 – why kids need to find one university they’ll get into, and that they like and want to attend

At 9:00 – why parents should restrict the amount of time they talk about the college process

At 10:35 – don’t talk about how easy it was “in my day”

At 11:10 – don’t rely on outdated information; get current information from a reliable source

At 12:00 – when is it too early to start talking about the college process?

At 12:50 – don’t gather useless and inaccurate information; get expert advice

At 13:40 – best places to look for real information. Lisa discusses American sources but for Canadians, I suggest blogs from admissions and faculty members, e.g. check out the blog "A Professor in Waterloo Engineering" at

At 15:00 – what are some things Grade 9 and 10 students can do to prep for the college process?

At 16:45 – some causes of stress and what parents can do to help. Hint: summers are golden

At 25:00 – the thing Lisa is least proud of as a parent (can you relate?), and what she thinks parents can do to avoid it. In relation to this topic, please check out my blog “How to Partner with Your Child for Scholarship Success”.

At 26:29 – what she wished she’d done differently. Hint: create expectations and make agreements. I discuss this in my "How to partner with your child" blog.

At 28:20 – how does working with an expert help students with the college process? I love this sentiment from Lisa: “Our kids think we’re idiots. They’re more likely to follow instructions and listen to the advice of a professional.” I have found this to be true with some of the students I work with. This is not because we’re bad parents, or we don’t know anything, or our kids don’t love us. It’s simply the way some students think, so don’t take it personally. Parents can still be helpful in the process but, if your child feels this way, you probably shouldn't be the one to lead the process.

At 30:30 – some of the best – and surprising – benefits of working through the college essays process

At 34:25 – rejection is common, and parents can help students prepare for and deal with it

And a final piece of advice from Lisa and Ethan to help your child deal with the seemingly endless questions from family and others around their decision about where they will go to college.

I hope you enjoy listening to the interview as much as I did!

Want to learn more about how I can help you win scholarships? Please visit my services page.

About the author

Janet MacDonald is a Scholarship Coach with mycampusGPS Education Consulting. She is a former Canadian university admissions officer. For seven years, she was the coordinator of a scholarship program at a major Canadian university. Janet has helped her student clients win hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

You can find her online at, and on LinkedIn.

Learn more about Janet MacDonald by visiting the About Page.

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