With the recent introduction of gender reveal lasagna, it's clear that people love including their friends and family — and, at times, the entire internet — in their families' big moments.
So maybe it's not altogether surprising that now — approximately 18 years after they found out the gender of their children — parents and their high school seniors are asking us to participate in a different kind of reveal: their college decisions.
Parents and teens often post about acceptances or college decisions on social media, holding up acceptance letters or pennants or a T-shirt bearing the name of their future alma maters. But in a college reveal, the students go farther, eliminating choices one by one until they finally announce the college where they have chosen to actually commit.
Stacy Dale, a mathematician, and Alan Krueger, an economist, collaborated in two large-scale research studies (Dale & Kruger, 2002 & 2014) in which they effectively controlled for background characteristics of students attending colleges that varied in selectivity (based on average SAT scores of the entering class).
"College reveal" posts on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are growing more and more common, and even entire parties centered on college reveals are starting to become a thing. But like gender reveals before them, the idea does not appeal to everyone.
Heather Doyle, a Florida mother of two current college students and a high school senior, said that when her children decided where they were going to attend college, she made a social media post to congratulate them on the decision, but she cannot imagine posting an entire "reveal."
Pick your battles. Kids can't absorb too many rules without turning off completely. Forget arguing about little stuff like fashion choices and occasional potty language. Focus on the things that really matter - that means no hitting, rude talk, or lying.
"I just find it extremely obnoxious when people list every school they were accepted to," she said. "Who cares? Yay, you!"
Grown & Flown , a website and social media community for parents of teens and college students, ran an editorial by Marybeth Bock — herself the mother of two college students — deliberating the pros and cons of the college reveal trend.
"It’s hard not to admit that those college-colored cake pops are actually adorable, and that table display with hand-painted letters is very clever," Bock wrote. "If someone can afford to go over-the-top for this event — that is obviously important to them — who are we to roll our eyes and share that we think it’s just ridiculous?"
College Dreams Dashed
Bock also notes the downsides of the idea. "But it’s also easy to acknowledge that this trend is yet another opportunity for people to be a tad insensitive. First of all, the indulgence of a college reveal party that is posted online is another in-your-face example of the disparity between the Haves and the Have Nots."
For Dena Mielke and her husband Jason, a college reveal party for their youngest son, Carson, made sense. They had every reason to celebrate Carson's graduation from high school in 2018: He was class valedictorian, a varsity swimmer and soccer player, and he played the jazz trumpet at his high school near their home in the Seattle, Washington, area.
Put on your own oxygen mask first. In other words, take care of yourself or you can't be a fully engaged parent. Parents who deprive themselves of rest, food, and fun for the sake of their kids do no one a favor. "People feel guilty when they work a lot, so they want to give all their free time to their kids," says Fred Stocker, a child psychiatrist at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, in Kentucky. "But you risk getting squeezed dry and emotionally exhausted." A spa weekend may not be realistic, but it's OK to take 15 minutes for a bath after you walk in the door. (A tall request for a kid, yes, but a happier Uno player goes a long way.) Running ragged between activities? Ask your child to prioritize, says Taylor. She may be dying for you to chaperone a field trip but ambivalent about your missing a swim meet—the ideal amount of time for a pedicure.
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Though most seniors decide where they will attend college in the early spring, Carson made deposits at two different universities while he waited to find out about honors college options at each of the two schools. He was still waiting late into the spring to make his decision.
"It got so close to the date of his graduation party that I told him he should just do a college reveal party much like a gender reveal party," Dena told TODAY Parents. "I think he was getting really tired of everyone asking him every day where he was going, so we thought we put a fun spin on it."
What Dena didn’t expect was that Carson would keep his decision a secret from her as well. "I wrapped a big appliance box a few days beforehand, and his grandma was the only one in on the secret," she said. "She drove him to the party store that morning to buy blue and gold balloons — which signified he had chosen Montana State."
Dena had two different sets of college gear on hand so she would be prepared with gifts no matter which college Carson chose. It was hard for the mom to wait, but she was kept too busy at the party to peek ahead of time.
Treat media as you would any other environment in your child's life. The same parenting guidelines apply in both real and virtual environments. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Know your children's friends, both online and off. Know what platforms, software, and apps your children are using, what sites they are visiting on the web, and what they are doing online.
When Carson opened the box for the partygoers and the Montana State University colors emerged from the box, they were met with applause and and cheers. "Everyone ultimately knew that’s where he wanted to go, but it was so fun to see it be official," said Dena.
The Mielkes felt the reveal was a positive way to wrap up the college admissions process. "So much stress goes into the senior year that this was just a fun way of saying, 'Hey, you finally made it! New adventures are ahead!'" said Dena. "He had worked so very hard for his four years that this was just a wonderful addition and a way to celebrate his accomplishments!"
And just as a gender reveal is only a first step in the adventure of parenthood, the college reveal is only a precursor to the real transition of going to college.
"He ultimately chose a college out of state, which was for me as a mother harder to accept," said Dena. "But he absolutely loves where he is, and it is the right fit. Seeing him there and flourishing warms my heart in so many ways. He has found his new home and a family there."