Enjoy the Ride: 9 Actions Parents Can Take to Survive the College Admission Roller Coaster

College Confidential

By Cindy Muchnick and Jenn Curtis

Picture a roller coaster. Not a small, beginner-level one but an epic, change-your-life, go-through-all-the emotions one. Envision one with the most stunning twists, the most jaw-dropping peaks, and the most stomach-churning drops. Got that picture in your head? Good, because those crests, valleys, and loops, in truth, can also represent the daunting nature of the college admission process. But they don’t have to.

Whether it’s your first time parenting through it or it’s your fifth, approaching the college admission process can be stressful and downright intimidating. But we believe that with some planning and practical tools, it doesn’t have to be, and we’re here to help. . .

Kids Under Construction: Authors of ‘The Parent Compass’ help parents navigate middle and high school

ABC4 Salt Lake City

When it comes to raising children, it is crucial for parents to understand their role in navigating them to appropriate emotions and conceptions. 

On May 7, Parenting expert Donna Tetreault and Author Cindy Clumeck Muchnick join ABC4 to explain the value of navigation amidst a competitive academic environment.

According to Tetreault, a great guide to understanding this parental role is book, Parent Compass.

All We Needed Was a Dollar and Some Wind

Moms Don't Have Time to Write

By Cindy Muchnick

No, we were not out frolicking on a family vacation this spring break. Instead, like many families around the world, we stayed local and made the best of it.

My fourteen-year-old daughter signed herself up for a one-week golf clinic to learn the basics; she was masked, outdoors, with social-distance guidelines in place — the whole drill. I’d been relegated to my role as her chauffeur, something I happened to relish after a year-long absence of extracurricular activities. . .

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How to reset your 'Parent Compass' with Jenn Curtis and Cindy Muchnick

Deirdre Fitzpatrick

KCRA NBC 3 Sacramento


Have you seen "Operation Varsity Blues" on Netflix yet? It's one of the network's most-streamed shows these days and it's full of Sacramento connections.

It's shocked viewers for two reasons.

One, it's still hard to believe Aunt Becky did what she did. Two, it's truly sad to find out how much stress high school kids face trying to get into the college of their dreams. 

And, that was pre-pandemic. . .


Parenting Best Sellers, February 2021 | Most In Demand in Libraries & Bookstores

Library Journal

The list of the Top 20 best selling titles in the parenting category includes titles most in demand by libraries and bookstores nationwide (as tracked by Baker & Taylor). 


Feeding the Mind and Soul

Southbay Magazine

By Cynthia Muchnick

. . .In pre-COVID-19 times, our family dinners looked very different. They were often frantically squeezed in between extracurricular activities, homework, social media distractions, playdates and carpools. But because our kids have been spending more time at home since the start of the pandemic, sharing family meals with them has been easier. . .

It's the Journey, Not the Destination

The Vine

By Emily Ball

Two years ago, the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal shocked the world. Well, most of the world. Some, like independent college admissions counselor and author Jenn Curtis, saw the scandal as an inevitable extension of college admissions fervor.

“I would say I was certainly horrified,” says Curtis. “I was angry that things like this were going on, but I can't say that I was surprised. . ."

How to Limit Screen Time Without Conflict

Smart Social

If screen time becomes so out of control that teens and tweens experience headaches, erratic sleep patterns, or cannot disengage from their tech, here are some suggestions:

1) Model good tech behavior as an adult. Put down your tech and connect with your teen.

2) In our book, The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World, we resolutely recommend helping your teen shut down all devices for a full hour before they go to bed. Collecting cell phones, iPads, and laptops are a necessary nightly habit. Store them in a common area like a kitchen or house entry area. Studies do show that sleep patterns are negatively impacted by the use of tech too close to bedtime.

College Waitlists Are Longer Than Usual: Here's What Waitlisted Students Need To Know

College Confidential

By Joy Bullen

After months of researching, applying and waiting, college-bound high school seniors are hearing back from colleges, but more students than usual may find that the waiting game isn't over yet — they've been waitlisted. Cynthia C. Muchnick, M.A., long-time college admissions expert and co-author of The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen's Wellness and Academic Journey in Today's Competitive World tells College Confidential, "I have never, in my entire 30+ year career, seen anything come even close to the waitlist experiences I have heard about and guided families through this last year."

How a Young Book Lover Becomes a Writer and Teacher

Moms Don't Have Time to Write

By Cindy Muchnick

In 2006, my eight-year-old son, our firstborn, stuffed fourteen library books into his suitcase for a one-week family vacation in Hawaii. The weight pushed his luggage over the airplane’s fifty-pound limit. We had to move the books into a carry-on so that he had room to pack clothes, too. . .


Behind the Book: The Parent Compass

Familius Blog

By Cindy Muchnick and Jenn Curtis

In March 2019, Operation Varsity Blues (also known as The College Admissions Scandal) erupted. At the time, we were professional colleagues—educational consultants who devoted our careers to guiding teens on their academic journeys. Shocked as the news unfolded, we called one another lamenting the stories of bad parenting behavior overtaking the headlines before our eyes. That very day, the idea for The Parent Compass was born. . .


Rejected?: Rethinking College Admission Decisions and How to Support Your Kids

By Jenn Curtis

If I’m being honest, sometimes I feel as though I wake up every morning to a dream job.

As a college counselor, I have the privilege of watching my students experience growth, self-discovery, and mastery; become empowered; and develop their own unique voices alongside critical self-advocacy skills. Cheering my students on as they stretch themselves and offering an enthusiastic thumbs up when they embrace a challenge punctuates my work life. But the reality is that one single month of the year also dominates so much of our work together. That’s because it’s in that month—March—that most college decisions are released.

As a result, March becomes the one month of the year that I associate with the most tumultuous roller coaster I’ve ever braved: extreme, exhilarating highs (“I got in!”); utterly confusing, head-spinning twists and turns (“Wait . . . what does ‘waitlisted’ even mean?”); and gut-wrenching, stomach-churning lows (“I was rejected”). It’s on these final three words that I want to take a hard pause because, really, that overused triad is what I intend to focus on here.

So, I’ll repeat it again: “I was rejected. . ."

The Book of Mistakes and Reading Aloud

LitWorld: World Read Aloud Day

By Jenn Curtis

My house is littered in white printer paper, and it’s been like that for years. Clear Ziploc baggies made colorful with ragtag hodgepodges of crayons, pens, markers, and colored pencils are tucked away in every single room. Both my girls love the creative process, whether it involves writing stories about The Friendship Club (modeled after the Babysitters Club) or coloring for hours. . .

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How Earplugs Can Help You Parent Better


By Jenn Curtis

. . . Much like my husband’s snoring, the outside noise—peers, co-workers, friends, family—can eat away at our peace so much that we need earplugs to maneuver through our everyday lives. As a college counselor, I witness the disastrous effects of the noise every day. Students shuffle into my office burned out, stretched thin, and molded awkwardly into mutated versions of who they really are. Their desire to be the “perfect” college applicant, as defined by what they hear from friends, parents, even online message boards, renders them exhausted. Worse, it stifles their ability to explore with curiosity (there isn’t enough time), to learn for learning’s sake (there isn’t enough space), and even to take risks (there isn’t enough wiggle room in their GPA). . .

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Seeing My Teenager Build Resilience: A Pandemic Silver Lining

Your Teen Mag

By Cindy Clumeck Muchnick

. . . I begin to fantasize about the evening ahead, when all of my birds are in the nest, under my roof. I plan a large meal, pull out the Scrabble board, and prepare for an evening of togetherness.

That night, when I look around the dinner table, I start to tear up. Moments like these are harder to come by now that my oldest two are in college. To have them home, along with their two younger teenage siblings—what could be better?

But as the week progresses, and the news of COVID-19’s emergence and initial spread in our country begins to increase, our household receives big news for all of our kids. . .

Following Your Kids on Social Media: 24 Tips for Parents

By Smart Social

. . .We encourage you to dialogue with your family about what tech rules will be upheld in your household and to best determine how your devices won’t divide you. Reflect on your parenting practices as they relate to tech, and determine your own dependence on your devices. . .


How to Overcome Test Anxiety: Educators and Students Comment

Outwit Trade

By Katie Holmes

"[Cynthia Muchnick advises to]. . .avoid people who are alarmists. If you have classmates who panic and are completely stressed out themselves, their stress will rub off onto you. Block out the panic of others; don't let the fear expressed by others bring you down. Avoid these folks, especially leading up to the testing periods. 

"Have a positive mindset: if you have prepared to the best of your ability and learned the material as best you can, then you can succeed and do well on the test/exam. Positivity can make or break your mindset."

Reinventing the Slumber Party: Social Distancing Sleepover

Your Teen Mag

By Cindy Clumeck Muchnick

"Since Covid-19, I’ve had to find creative ways to try to replicate some of the more basic pre-pandemic activities that we once took for granted. As I write this, with heavy bags under my eyes and hundreds of calories burned bringing food and supplies from my kitchen to the backyard again and again, I am proud that my eighth grade daughter’s first Covid-era backyard sleepover was a success. . ."

How to Apply to College During COVID-19, According to 5 Experts


The virtual world still allows for several ways to get to know colleges according to Jenn Curtis, an educational consultant and author in Orange County, CA. . .“Students can take virtual tours that are posted on schools’ websites and also via virtual tour websites like Lots of colleges and universities are also offering live guided virtual tours and even including  Q + As with Deans of Admission. There are also many virtual college fairs going on right now, which are often free. Participating in them allows students to listen to roundtables on topics of interest to them, learn about major and minor opportunities, and ask questions of admission officers. Another easy approach is to identify the student’s regional admission officer, which can be done in the Admission section of a college’s website, and email that individual with specific questions about the school. Many students are intimidated by that approach at first, but answering questions about the school is what admission officers are there for!”

How Much Should You Pay A Tutor for Your Child? It All Depends


By Jennifer Parris

Tutors typically teach for 60-90 minute blocks once or twice a week depending on a child’s age, the grade they’re in, and the subject being taught. You can receive anything from homework help to study prep in subjects that are challenging to your child, and will have the opportunity to dictate the course of study with the tutor (whether that's to help your child understand critical concepts or ace that upcoming English exam).

...“Tutoring should be a last resort,” advises Muchnick. “Before investing in a tutor, ask your child/teen and yourself, has your child exhausted all of their other options for help before hiring a tutor?” You can find out if your child’s school has any support services — such as the teacher, peer tutors, or even tutoring sessions — before turning to a tutor for help.

New book, The Parent Compass, helps guide parents toward healthier relationships with their teens


By Linda Hubbard

When the Operation Varsity Blues scandal erupted in 2019, Menlo Park resident Cindy Muchnick‘s phone 'started exploding,' she recalls. 

That wasn’t surprising given that she’s an expert in the college admission process, having run a private study skills and college counseling business for over 15 years in Southern California before moving north in 2018. Since closing her private educational practice in 2011, she’s focused on public speaking to student, parent, school and business groups on a variety of education-related topics.

Along the way, she met education consultant Jenn Curtis. "We talked while the scandal was still unfolding and decided we needed to do something to re-educate parents and help get them back on track," Cindy says.


The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness & Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World

Publishers Weekly

In an earnest and instructive guide, educational consultants Muchnick and Curtis offer strategies to help parents navigate their kids’ challenging adolescent years. The authors include anecdotes, input from experts, and their own observations as parents themselves (Muchnick is a mother of four, and Curtis of two) while warning parents to avoid overbearing parenting styles and to mind how social media and academic competitiveness place pressure on teens’ emotional health. . .

Book Talk

Palo Alto Weekly

Menlo Park author Cynthia Clumeck, a graduate of Stanford University who is an expert in the college admission process, is set to release her latest book, The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen's Wellness and Academic Journey in Today's Competitive World in September. She and co-author Jenn Curtis, who owns an educational consulting company in Orange County, wrote the book to help parents understand their appropriate role in navigating a competitive academic environment that has resulted in overparenting and even fraud and bribery. . .

20 Ways Students Can Avoid Oversharing Online

Ask yourself this question before you post: would you feel comfortable if your post was seen/read by your grandparents, teachers, or coaches? Or your parents? If your answer is, “No,” to any of those questions then do not post it; it is oversharing!

Posting text or photos on digital media is like getting a permanent tattoo. The words you write-whether on a quick Snapchat or in an Instagram post or in a “private” text message- are anything but quick and private. Screenshots can be taken on anything you post thereby making everything that you think is private actually public.

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Trade Schools Might Be A Better Option Than Colleges. Here's Why.

Verizon Media

By Justin Chan

Ultimately, trade schools can provide the necessary space for many who are trying to figure out a career that works best for them, said Cindy Muchnick, a former high school teacher and co-author of The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World.

“Students can blossom at different times. Some cruise though high school ready to tackle college, while others need more time to marinate and grow," she told In The Know. "A generation ago, a high school graduate who attended a trade year might have been perceived as a student that did poorly in school or was not mature enough to leave home and go to college. Attending a trade school, though, offers teens time to learn a craft, some time to decompress from the pressures of a traditional academic or school classroom.”

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When SAT/ACT Scores Still Matter

Gannett//Gatehouse Media: College Prep Guide 2020

By Melissa Erickson

As colleges across the country announce they are no longer requiring SAT and ACT scores or de-emphasizing their role for admission, students and parents wonder why they should bother with these standardized tests.

"The standardized test landscape is on the precipice of significant change," said educational consultant Jenn Curtis, owner of FutureWise Consulting and Co-Author of The Parent Compass: Navigating your Teen's Wellness and Academic Journey in Today's Competitive World, available mid-September. . .

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Don’t focus on college rankings lists, which are misleading and easily manipulated by colleges

LA Times

By Cindy Muchnick and Jenn Curtis

When the college admissions scandal news broke, we called one another in extreme concern, lamenting the crazy circus that our beloved profession has become as a result of a hyper-competitive college admissions landscape coupled with inappropriate parenting madness.

But alongside our shock, echoed by so many around the country, at overreaching parents who resorted to fraud and bribery to help their kids get into college, something more important — more positive — emerged from our conversation.

How to Help Kids Speak Up for Themselves in School

By Larry Bernstein

If you could simply wave a magic wand, what traits would you wish your child to possess? Confidence? Responsibility? Perseverance? Any of these would prove useful in life, but each of these is especially important because they enable a person to self-advocate, which is essential for independence. So when should a child be able to self-advocate?

...The ability to self-advocate needs to be developed. "Self-advocacy is a learned skill, and it takes time," says Jenn Curtis MSW, an educational consultant and co-author of a forthcoming book on appropriately parenting kids through the competitive landscape of college admissions. . .

Why Are Parents Still Behaving Badly?

By Cynthia Muchnick, MA, and Jenn Curtis, MSW

“A classmate’s mom got her two kids into [insert any Ivy League school name here.] I don’t actually know her, but I was told that she personally coached her kids and was super on top of the whole college admissions process." Wait, did we just read that correctly? A classmate’s mom got her kids into college? What?

This anonymous comment, posted to an online parenting message board just days after the recent sentencing of Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, forces us all to ask ourselves: Have we learned nothing from Operation Varsity Blues?

Considering the tremendous pressures placed on families due to Covid-19 school interruptions and modifications, one would think that — now more than ever — parents would want to prioritize their kids’ well being, not pile more stress onto their already stressed-out teens. But, in fact, the case is unfortunately quite the opposite. . .

Family Night: 17 Ways to Have Fun Without Screens

"Try a 'disconnection diet': Cindy Muchnick, Educational Consultant, Co-Author of The Parent Compass.

“'Get your family to try a 'disconnection diet' or a mini-vacation from technology. Start small with an hour, then grow to a half-day, full-day, weekend, or even a month. Can you give up tech for Lent or another special occasion? Maybe make it a family competition, but define what is included in your tech diet...'”