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If you have a college-bound kid, I know you’re feeling it. The anxiety. The competition. The intensity. The bombardment of well-meaning but sometimes conflicting advice from other parents. I almost lost my mind trying to keep up with the list of do’s and don’ts of college admissions.


The fact is, requirements vary radically across campuses. Some schools focus on the SAT, some on the ACT, some on both. Some want stellar essays, some really don’t care.

But there’s a few general parent misperceptions swirling about that are worth correcting.

Colleges want “well-rounded” students

They still do. But colleges prefer students who are a combination of “angular” (focused in one area) and “well-rounded.” Translation: “passionate.”

As a general rule, incoming freshman should have a number of extracurriculars (but not a ridiculous amount) that are somewhat related.

“Beyond the most selective colleges, well-rounded students are still being told that they are welcome, but they are warned not to get involved in too many activities,“ writes Fred Thys in his Boston NPR piece, “‘Well-Rounded Versus Angular’: The Application Colleges Want To See.”

I pushed my daughter Taylor to join a variety of clubs in high school to fill in her glaringly thin college resume. But college admission offices were probably more interested in her obvious passion: kids.

She took four years of high school early education classes (which included being a teaching assistant at the onsite preschool), volunteered as a camp counselor for three years, joined Best Buddies to assist special needs students at events, and baby sat for countless families.

It’s a good idea to encourage your elementary and middle-school child to try out a variety of extracurriculars to get a feel for what they like and don’t like. But once they find a passion, encourage them to join clubs and activities that are at least loosely related (e.g., 4-H science + engineering club + robotics competitions).

“My perspective is that there has been a shift from, ‘We want a kid who is so well-rounded they check off 25 boxes,’ to ‘We want to know what you’re passionate about,’” said Stephanie Bode Ward, mother of a senior at the Boston Latin School.

Lots of advanced classes are a good idea

Of course kids need to be challenged. Lost potential is tragic and gifted kids can fall through the cracks. But advanced classes – the wrong ones or too many – can backfire.

“If you are truly interested in the subject, there’s a good teacher and you’re surrounded by other motivated students, then you’re probably going to have a good experience from taking a more advanced class,” explains Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.

Pope reviewed more than 20 studies on advanced placement (AP) courses. “But if you’re pushed into it without good preparation and without a safety net in place at the school to help you if you get in over your head, then it may be more harmful than helpful.”

The second week of Taylor’s sophomore year in high school, she told me her AP American History was so ridiculously hard she guaranteed it would lower her GPA. So she dropped down to honors-level instead. Her work ethic has always been strong, so I knew she wasn’t just being lazy. She was being strategic to protect her GPA.

Encourage your kids to take advanced classes, but be sure they set themselves up to succeed. Trust their instincts. Feeling overwhelmed isn’t the same as being a slacker. An academic schedule that is unduly difficult might sabotage your child’s high school transcript, or worse, harm her emotional and physical well-being.

For some kids, taking all advanced or college-level classes is the right work load (if they don’t have a ton of after school activities). But for others, it’s a guaranteed recipe to lower their GPA and increase stress.

“Many high-achieving high school students are really stressed out,” says Pope. “They have a lot to do between extracurricular activities and homework and trying to get the sleep they need. They need to be prepared for what an AP course involves. The extra tests, extra homework, on top of an already demanding schedule, can be brutal. And a very low grade on your transcript from an AP course may hurt you more in the long run than not taking an AP in that subject at all.”

Skipping grades and starting college early is bad for kids

We all know children who skip a grade (or two). They leap frog over their peers and start college early. But is this a good idea? It depends.

“There are two sides to every coin,” says Susan Assouline, co-author on the report, “A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students”. “One side reveals that acceleration is the most effective intervention for students who are ready for challenge and advanced curriculum.

“The flip side isn’t as shiny. Students who are not challenged become disengaged from school and their joy of learning goes away. Skeptics would have us believe that acceleration is not good for students. They will have gaps in their knowledge, they won’t make any friends, they won’t be able to keep up, or it’s a very costly intervention. None of these reasons are substantiated by research; they are nothing more than excuses.”

Flash forward to what this means for college students, and it gets a little complicated.

A 2011 study out of Bocconi University found that younger college students did better than their older peers. The younger students were less socially active so researchers think they spent more time hitting the books. Good news, right? Well, yes and no.

The younger students got better grades, but earlier psychological studies suggest being the youngest in a group may slow the development of personality traits such as self-esteem and leadership.

Here’s how 16-year-old college freshman Petra describes her experience:

“In comparison to my educational experience, my social life dwindled through murky waters. After I had written my op-ed for my college paper (admitting her age), I felt as though all eyes were on me. I had many people come up to me while I was walking around campus, asking how I felt being younger than most, and if I felt the pressure to fit in more now than ever. Being asked that question made me feel intimidated. Because one of my greatest struggles has been fitting into the ‘crowd.’

“…By the end of my second semester, I no longer felt guilty about writing my article. I surrounded myself with people who encouraged me and accepted me for exactly who I was. Without the support of friends and family, I would certainly have not felt the enthusiasm and motivation to attend college this coming fall like I do now.”

The bottom line is that kids need to be challenged to a level that keeps them engaged. But when skipping grades translates into being the youngest in a college peer group, students may feel tremendous social pressure to act like someone they’re not – at least until they find their identity and footing.

Starting college “Undecided” is undesirable

My sense is high school kids today feel intense pressure to start college with a major and a career in mind. There’s a practical argument to support this. Colleges appreciate focused, passionate students.

Also, being “undecided” can get expensive. Dan Johnston, Regional Director of Pennsylvania’s Higher Education Assistance Agency thinks entering college without a major is a bad idea. Students might take too much time (and too much money) to figure what they want to do.

Johnston recommends kids explore careers during high school and occasionally audit college classes. This way they’ll be ready to declare a major as an incoming freshman.

But a 2011 study out of Western Kentucky University found that students who begin college without declaring a major (and choose within the first two years) have the best chance of graduating in four years. Students who waited until their junior year did the worst.

Researcher Matthew Foraker suggests this is because early undecided students took time to explore majors, gather information and choose a field that genuinely interested them. While students who declared a major right away might have done so based on poor or incomplete information, or parental pressure. Many then drop out.

So is there a compromise between declaring a major right away or being undecided for too long? Absolutely.

Incoming freshman can take the required general education classes alongside a variety of electives (this might mean taking one or two summer classes on campus or online). At the same time, they can strategically narrow down their interests. Being strategic means students complete several free or paid online career assessment tools and regularly meet with a campus career counselor.

After a couple years, most students get a pretty good idea of majors (and possibly minors) that genuinely interest them. From there, they’ll naturally narrow down related careers.

After my daughter finished her freshman year in college, three weeks into her summer job as a camp counselor she told me she wanted to drop her Education major. She was 100 percent sure she didn’t want to be an elementary school teacher anymore.

After she told me, I full-on panicked. I told Taylor she wasn’t allowed to graduate on the five-year plan. I told her she had better figure out a major where she could actually get a job.

I thought, she’s already behind.

But behind in what? Underclassman are supposed to explore what they like and don’t like. When I went to college, that was called going to college.

So I got a grip and told her it was okay and, in fact, better to decide now to switch majors. Students do it all the time. In fact, half of all high school graduates change majors by their sophomore year. It’s not the end of the world or a guaranteed pathway to delayed graduation.

There’s no question the college admissions process has become ridiculously intense. Parents and students lose sleep over it. But rest assured there’s a spot out there for your student. It might not be her first (or third) choice, but in time it will be the right choice.

The most elite schools aside, most colleges and universities simply want passionate kids with a track record of decent grades, a solid work ethic, and a mind open to exploring who they are, one day, meant to become.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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While you're gearing up for (or in the middle of) back to school season, Halloween may seem like it will never get here, but it's only a couple of months away. And if you can barely wait for the leaves to fall and temperatures to drop, Disney and Amazon are here to get you in the spooky spirit.

Enter: Disney's Halloween shop on Amazon. 🎃This curated collection features tons of items for the season and we love that many are nods to some of our favorite festive movies. Think: Hocus Pocus and A Nightmare Before Christmas.

From Halloween costumes for kids to ghostly mugs for mama, these are the best items for the entire family:

1. Disney Jack Skellington Mug

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If you're a fan of Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas, this will be your favorite mug to sip your coffee or tea from.

Price: $12.99

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2. My First Halloween Board Book

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Halloween doesn't have to be scary, mama. This touch and feel board book introduces baby to the season.

Price: $8.99

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3. Anna + Elsa Costume

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Get a head start on your costumes by adding this one to your cart. Bonus points for having accessories that can be used for playtime year-round.

Price: $16.01-$28.99

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4. Minnie Mouse Sequin Ears

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If you don't want to fully dress up to trick or treat, add on these ears to feel festive for less.

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5. Hocus Pocus Women's Tee

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Hocus Pocus will always be a favorite. For a humorous take on being a mama, add this one to your wardrobe.

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Ashley Graham is having a baby! The supermodel recently shared the exciting news on social media — and it didn't take long for her to make an important statement about pregnant bodies.

Ashley shared a beautiful photo featuring something nearly every woman on the planet has: stretch marks. The photo, which features Ashley nude and seemingly unfiltered, is kind of revolutionary—because while it's completely normal for a woman to have stretch marks (especially during pregnancy), we don't often get to see celebrities rocking this reality on magazine covers or even in social media posts.

That's probably why Ashley, who will welcome her firstborn with husband Justin Ervin, is earning so much praise for the photo, which she posted on Instagram. The images shows the model's side with the caption "same same but a little different".

One follower who is loving this real look at a pregnant body? Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, who writes "My Lord, THANK YOU for this."

Ashley's post touches another user in an unexpected way: "I'm such a wimp. I'm pregnant, hormonal, and going though so many body changes. This made me tear up. I really needed this today," she writes.

Another user adds: "I showed my husband this photo and he said, 'See! She's just like you' I am almost 21 weeks pregnant and I've been struggling with my changing body. I love how much you embrace it. I've always looked up to you and your confidence. ❤️ Congratulations on your babe!"

Yet another follower adds: "This is what girls need to see. We need this as a reference for real and relatable. Women young and old. Thank you!"

Of course this is social media we're talking about so a few hateful comments make their way into the mix—but Ashley's many advocates shut that down. We have to applaud this stunning mom-to-be for showing the world how pregnancy really changes your body.

Women everywhere can see themselves in this photo of a supermodel (and how often does that happen?). That's powerful stuff—and it just might make it a little bit easier for the rest of us to embrace the changes we see in our own bodies.

One follower sums it all up best, writing: "I CANNOT WAIT for you to be a mother and teach another human being that ALL bodies are beautiful. You're going to be such an amazing mother."

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For a lot of families, summer is a season where rules relax and bedtimes get pushed back a little later than usual. But with school starting, weekday mornings are about to start a lot earlier for many kids, and parents might be wondering how to reset the clock on bedtimes.

According to Terry Cralle, an RN, certified clinical sleep expert and the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, a new school year is a good opportunity for families to get a fresh start on sleep routines.

"We have to start with really making sufficient sleep a family priority [and] having some discussions about the importance of sleep with our children," Cralle tells Motherly. "It shouldn't be at bedtime when everyone's cranky and tired. It should be during the day that families really discuss the importance of sleep for all family members."

If you need to have a conversation about getting enough sleep for school, try the following tips from Cralle.

1. Be positive about sleep

Make sure that younger children, especially, understand that sleep is a positive, not negative thing, and don't use the threat of bedtime as punishment.

"What we want to do is, ideally, change how children perceive sleep because children can see sleep as a great big timeout where they're missing out on things," Cralle explains, suggesting that parents instead try to present sleep and bedtime routines as "with positivity and as just a non-negotiable part of our lives."

Cralle wants parents to make sure they're talking with their kids about how a lack of sleep can impact one's mood, health and academic ability. Just as we teach our kids about the importance of eating healthy, we should be teaching them about the importance of sleeping healthy, and from an early age.

2. Empower your children with choices

According to Cralle, it's really important to empower children with choices around bedtime, because the one thing they can't have a choice in is the fact that they do need to go to sleep.

"They're going be more accountable, more responsible, and hopefully, develop good sleep habits and practice good hygiene early in life," if we empower them through simple choices, Cralle suggests.

"So we can say, what pajamas do you want to wear to bed tonight? What book do you want to read? Let them participate. If they can pick out their color of their pillowcase, let them do it. Whatever's age appropriate."

3. Let them do their own bedtime math

Instead of just telling kids when they need to go to bed, involve them in figuring out an appropriate bedtime.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists how much sleep kids need depending on their age. Have them look up how much sleep a kid their age needs, and then show them the National Sleep Foundation's online bedtime calculator. Kids can choose how many hours of sleep they need and when they want to wake up, and it will show them when they need to go to bed.

It's not an arbitrary decision mom and dad made, it's science and math, and you can't argue with that.

4. Add one sleep item to the back-to-school shopping list

Cralle says adding one sleep-related item to the back to school shopping list can really help children understand the importance of sleep as they head back into the classroom. A conversation about how getting a good night's sleep is important for school success, combined with a shopping trip for a new pillowcase or comforter can really help children see sleep as an important priority, and give them something to look forward to using at bedtime.

5. Provide an environment conducive to sleep

When our kids are infants we're really good at setting up rooms that can help them sleep. But as our children age out of cribs and start to accumulate a lot of possessions and playthings, their rooms can become a less ideal sleeping environment.

According to Cralle, it's not uncommon for kids to get up after bedtime and start playing with toys in their room. She recommends removing stimulating toys or storing them in another area of the home, and never putting televisions, tablets or smartphones in a child's room.

6. Enact a media curfew

At least an hour before bedtime, screen time should come to an end and other, more relaxing activities can begin. Cralle says families can designate a certain hour as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time, or move from away from brightly lit screens and towards a board games or puzzles, "things to do to get that blue light out of their eyes."

A family-wide media curfew can be a good thing, says Cralle, as it helps parents "walk the walk" when it comes to sleep hygiene. "Don't be looking at your iPad and tell your child to put it away," she explains.

7. Remember: It's never too late for good sleep habits.

According to Cralle, age 3 is the ideal time to start reinforcing the importance of sleep for a child's health, but older kids and even mom and dad can reverse bad bedtime habits if the whole family buys in. That may mean curtailing your kids' (and your own) caffeine consumption, says Cralle.

"We're seeing younger and younger age groups of school children walking around with their Starbucks cups, with coffee, late in the afternoon," says Cralle, who thinks a lot of parents just don't have good information on how caffeine consumption can impact sleep—for our kids and ourselves.

She recommends limiting the number of caffeinated beverages available in the house if you've got tweens and teens at home, and watching your own consumption as well.

"We have to say 'Here's how we're all going to approach it.' It's sort of like seat belts with children, we never would buckle them in and get into the car, and not do it ourselves."

This may be the season to tweak your own sleep habits mama. Here's to a well-rested September.

[Correction: August 24, 2018: The sleep calculator was created by the National Sleep Foundation, not the Better Sleep Council.]

[A version of this post was originally published August 23, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Learn + Play

Finding out that you are having multiples is always a surprise, but finding out that you're in labor with triplets when you didn't even know you were pregnant, well that's the mother of all surprises.

It happened to Dannette Glitz of South Dakota on August 10. The Associated Press reports she had no idea she was pregnant and thought the pain she was experiencing was kidney stones.

"I never felt movement, I never got morning sickness, nothing!" Glitz explains in a social media post.

"Well this was a huge shock"

When Glitz posted photos of her triplets to her Facebook page last week one of her friends was confused. "What? You really had triplets?" they asked.

Glitz (who has two older children) started getting pain in her back and sides in the days before the birth, but it felt like the kidney stones she had previously experienced so she brushed it off. Eventually, she was in so much pain all she could do was lay in bed and cry.

"It hurt to move and even breath[e]," she wrote, explaining that she decided to go to an Urgent Care clinic, "thinking I'm going to have to have surgery to break the stones up."

A pregnancy test at Urgent Care revealed Glitz was pregnant—that was the first surprise. The second surprise happened when a heart monitor revealed the possibility of twins.

'I need another blanket, there's a third'

Glitz was transferred to a regional hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota. "And in about 2 hours they confirmed twins as there was 2 heart beats," she writes.

Glitz was 34 weeks along and four centimeters dilated. She was transferred again, rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Rapid City and prepped for a C-section. When the C-section was happening she heard the doctor announce that Baby A was a boy and Baby B was a girl.

"Then [the doctor] yells 'I need another blanket, there's a third' ....I ended up having triplets, 1 boy [and] 2 girls," Glitz writes.

Glitz and her husband Austin named their surprise children Blaze, Gypsy and Nikki and each of the trio weighed about 4 pounds at birth. Because the couple's older children are school-aged, they didn't have any baby stuff at home. Friends quickly rallied, raising over $2,000 via a Facebook fundraiser to help the family with unexpected expenses.

A family of seven 

The family is getting used to their new normal and is so thankful for the community support and donations. "It's amazing in a small town how many people will come together for stuff that's not expected," Glitz told KOTA TV.

Her oldest, 10-year-old Ronnie, is pretty happy about a trio of siblings showing up suddenly.

"One time I seen a shooting star and I wished for a baby brother, and I wished for like two sisters for my little sister because she always wanted a little sister, I knew this day was always going to come," Ronnie told TV reporters.

Ronnie may not have been surprised, but everyone else in this story certainly was.

Congratulations to Danette and her family! You've got this, mama.

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