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The Question All Bloggers Should Ask



Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 | 2 comments

The question all bloggers must ask



If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I’m in trouble.


If you’ll indulge me, can we first look in the rearview mirror?

Way back when, I was a daily blogger, no big deal at all. I would roll my eyes when NANOWRIMO came around, not because I had zero interest in writing a novel (which I don’t), but because people complained about writing daily and I was like What’s the big deal, people?! There’s nothing to it…!

Karma laughed and bided her time.

For  y e a r s  it went like that. My friends and family were acutely aware that anything they said or did could and might be blogged about them. Sometimes I asked permission, and when I didn’t, well…sometimes there was a price to pay. Those were the Hard Lesson days, and I’m afraid I was too often a remedial student.

One night when I was curled on the pretty chair in our den with my laptop keeping me warm, seeds of change were planted.


My husband asked an irksome question – “Do you really h.a.v.e. to respond to every comment, visit every blog, and comment there, too?”

He knew that was my practice.

It was a silly question to me because of course I did–it would be rude otherwise (I’m Southern for heaven’s sake!). Keep in mind this was ages ago, before Facebook was common practice for anyone not in college and before Twitter was even born.

In the Golden Era of Blogging, we actually read and commented to one another’s blogs.


Imagine that.

Interestingly, a blogging friend had posed the same question around the same time, and between the two of them asking, something began to change in me. Their question picked away blinding scales and I eventually saw the truth:

I was a slave to my blog.

If I asked myself, “Do you own your blog or does your blog own you?” I didn’t like the answer.

It held me hostage, this little webular space o’ mine, and she was as demanding as a two-year-old; insatiable for what she wanted, when she wanted it, and that was at least once a day.

I was beholden to her, and I didn’t appreciate that one little bit.

So… s l o w l y …and with a lot of wrestling…I let her go.

Fast forward to now, and it’s clear this is no longer an issue. Certainly, a lot of the time I’m not publishing on my site – instead, writing for another – but most of that time I’m either writing quietly and privately…or maybe not even at all.

This was my way of rebelling against a personal tyranny, effectively sticking out my tongue and declaring YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME. This was me taking control of my writerly life.

Bless my heart: this is how I rebel….

I do like the practice of daily writing, detached from an addictive need and while cultivating a healthy balance. It was with that motive I decided to join 31 Days.

Harkening to my daughter’s senior year in high school, I’ve wanted to write an ebook about Demystifying the College Process. We learned a lot going through the process ourselves. Times have changed considerably since my husband and I were high school seniors, and I wanted to pass along helpful hints for parents and their students at this crossroad; the type things I kept finding myself wishing I had known beforehand.

I figured I could knock it out in a month of dedicated writing, offering it free to readers who wanted to follow along, and then, later, packaging it in a pretty format with added content.

But guess what? It’s boring writing. It’s boring writing, and, what have I already established?

My blog is not the boss of me!

So, my sincere intention was to write during the month of October and complete the content for a subsequent digital book of some sort.

I am not a fan of not honoring commitments, even if they’re self-imposed and no one really cares, anyway.


Shame on me.

While I’m not languishing under a blanket of guilt – because why? Say it with me: My blog is not the boss of me! I do plan to finish what I’ve started. But rather than continuing to post the complete series on my blog, I’ll continue writing the content for an ebook release, and I’ll let you know when it’s done. I’ll offer an additional post or two here in the next few weeks, but the remainder will be saved for the book.


So…your turn. Have I stepped on toes? Does any part of this resonate with you? Tell me about it. If you’re a reader and not a writer, are there other life parallels holding you hostage from which you need release? Addiction is a sneaky master of disguise and I’m curious how it’s crept into your life. Feel like being honest and open? Answer in comments. Need a little more privacy? Feel free to email me at pensieve(dot)me(at)gmail.

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Your Best Friend When Applying to College



Posted by on Oct 30, 2014 | 1 comment

A secret for college-bound students


I was surprised to learn something I hadn’t realized with our first two children, and now that I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it multiple times. And if we didn’t know this when we went through the college search with our oldest two, there’s a good chance some of you didn’t realize this either:

Admission Counselors want to build a relationship with your student.


Make no mistake, in a competitive environment where schools have more applicants than spaces, you want them to know who you are. You may need them to know who you are. I’ve had AC’s tell me it matters if they remember you. 

When you’ve decided where you’re going to apply to college, there are at least two compelling reasons to pursue a relationship with the institution’s Admissions Counselor:

1. They are your human link to the school.


During the application process and after acceptance, you’re going to have questions. If you’re AC doesn’t know the answer, he’ll be able to connect you with the person who does. Some schools are more complicated that others, and it’s the AC’s role to help you navigate their system. They’re there to recruit and serve potential students, so do not discount their motive and ability to help YOU.


2. They’re watching you.


Seriously…Admissions Counselors are tracking your contact with them. And know this: it’s the student they’re interested in hearing from, not the parents. They’ll track contact by email, phone, text, campus visit, conversation at a College Fair–virtually every way a touch can be made.


Set yourself apart by demonstrating sincere interest.


As I’ve already said, it matters if your preferred colleges’ admissions counselors remember you. It’s in your best interest to make a good and lasting impression and there are simple ways to assure their notice. Most students aren’t going to bother with the little things; you’ll stand out when you do.

1.  Return phone calls. Yep, if they call you, call them back. This is not the time to exercise your phone aversion.

2.  Return emails. Yep, if they email you, email them back. It doesn’t have to be long but pay attention to good grammar, punctuation, and typos.

3.  When you take a campus tour, be sure to meet your area’s AC. Campus tours are often led by student ambassadors, which is great because you’ll hear the perspective of people just like you. But while you’re there, don’t miss a chance to meet the people in the admissions office. It might feel awkward to continually put yourself out there, but it can only help you and it’s worth the extra effort.


An admissions counselor cannot help you gain entry if you don’t meet the college’s requirements, but their job is to find and recruit the best and brightest for their school. They’re there to serve and support you and it would be a crying shame if you don’t take full advantage of their help.

Next time we’re going to talk about one of the most frustrating things when it comes to the college search. Stay tuned as we discuss an issue of “world hunger” proportion :).

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Why You Should Attend a College Fair



Posted by on Oct 21, 2014 |

Note: Due to technical issues I haven’t been able to access my blog for several days. My apologies for not being able to publish new content! Believe me, it’s been a vigorous exercise in frustration. Thanks for your continued interest and for sharing this series with others!

College Fairs - Why the ARE worth your time and how to make the most of them - A Guide for Parents of College-bound Children by Robin Dance


Last time, we began a conversation about how to choose the best college for a child, and today we’re going to talk about one of the best ways to learn a little more about a lot of choices: a college fair.

In case you aren’t familiar, a college fair is where a group of colleges and universities exhibit at a central location, staffed with admission counselors and school representatives who serve as goodwill ambassadors of their respective campuses. Think cheerleaders without a megaphone or short skirts.


Whether or not attending a college fair is beneficial begins and ends with you–it can be a total waste of time, or, attended with deliberation, an incredible tool for identifying schools for which you’d like to pay a subsequent visit. Especially if this is your first go-round as a parent of a college-bound student, I’d recommend attending at least one with your child.


A personal note: When my oldest was beginning the college search, we attended a large college fair.  I’ll admit, it was a bit awkward going into a venue full of exhibitors, many representing schools I had never heard of. At first I was hesitant to ask questions, feeling like they might be used car salesmen poised to pounce. That was silly and unfounded. As I relaxed and decided to use this opportunity for fact-finding, I found helpful advocates for the schools they represented, eager to answer our questions; and in the process, they provided clues to the personality of each campus.

When should you attend a college fair?

In my opinion, the best time to attend a college fair is fall semester of a student’s junior year.  If you go before junior year, impressions and information will fade with time, even those things you thought were unforgettable. Wait until senior year and you might not have time for a campus visit before applying. Also, there’s a sense of urgency during fall semester of a student’s senior year and too much information might lead to confusion and second guessing. That being said, if you’ve never attended one prior to 12th grade I’d still recommend going.


There are countless reasons to attend a college fair:

1.  You’ll discover schools you’ve never heard of.

A large fair will attract attendance from all over the country. There are close to 3,000 four-year institutions alone, so you don’t know about more of them than you do know. This may be of particular interest and value for students who don’t score as high on standardized testing because…

2. Entry requirements vary greatly among 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities.

For the majority of colleges, students gain acceptance if their SAT/ACT scores and GPA in core classes are high enough; while other factors are certainly considered – college essay, extra- and intra-curricular activities, interview etc. – these two criteria typically matter most. In light of this I was stunned to discover colleges who are willing to work with students who wish to go to college but whose grades and/or test scores are a challenge; yes, there are colleges who will work with you and spend time getting to know a student and consider additional factors for acceptance if they see genuine interest by the student. An equally surprising discovery was learning…

3.  Think you can’t afford college? Think again.

Just as surprised to discover there are colleges with “creative” acceptance criteria, I was astonished to learn there are some colleges who waive tuition based on your income or at least offer it very affordably. While you can research this information online, nothing beats talking face to face with a person who can explain the process. Don’t mistake great value for poor education, either. Just as paying a lot of money doesn’t guarantee a good education, finding a bargain value doesn’t mean it’s inferior. (Do your homework.)

4. You’ll learn what the institution values.

Listen carefully to what the admissions reps stress; this will provide clues to the school’s culture. Are they all about sports or committed to research? Do professors value building relationships with students or are classes auditorium-style? Come right out and ask the reps why you should consider their school; what sets them apart from every other exhibitor in the hall? Invite them to sell you on their benefits.

5. You’ll make meaningful connection with admissions counselors whose job it is to help guide you through the process.

Getting to know your area rep could make the difference in getting accepted. That was another surprise for me to learn. Admissions counselors are recruiters, looking for the best and brightest, and they want to know you’re interested. Especially if you’re a borderline student, it can only serve you to make darn well sure the reps know who you are (give them your email at the college fair, look them in the eye, shake their hand, ask a question or two). Meeting at a college fair is a first step; we’ll talk about more soon.

6. You’ll eliminate some choices from further consideration.

 Maybe there’s a college you’ve always thought was one you wanted to attend, but learning more about them at a college fair will give you enough information to scratch them off your list. Save time and money from not making the trip to campus.

7. You’ll identify choices for campus visits.

If you’re open to options, if your heart isn’t set on one school regardless of good fit, class offerings and a dozen other criterion, you might just discover a new place you want to visit. In your home state there are schools you’ve never heard of and one of them might be just perfect.

8. You’ll get new ideas.

There’s a lot of information and energy at a College Fair. OF COURSE there is with hundreds of teenagers crammed in one place. Aside from that, just talking to representatives, looking at displays, and noticing exhibitor details will stimulate new thoughts and seed questions.  You’ll begin narrowing the focus of what’s important to you, a helpful exercise when it comes to deciding which schools you want to visit.

Next up, assuming my technical issues have concluded their reign of terror, we’re going to talk about little things that matter. Stay tuned.


Got questions? Have topics we’ve yet to discuss?
DO chime in and let me know your thoughts. I’m listening.

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Good, Necessary and Right :: a WONDERFUL guest post for #31Days



Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 |

College advice for parents and students - a guest post by Shelly Wildman - Robin Dance - 31Days

While I’m on the road today, I am tickled pink to introduce you to a wonderful friend of mine, Shelly Wildman. Shelly and I were brought together in a magical way — I’m pretty sure she was searching for something about Kiawah Island and landed on my blog– and we’ve been friends ever since. Her daughters are very close to the ages of my children, and she and I always seem to see parenting and marriage issues similarly. That is precisely why I thought she’d be a fantastic guest poster during my 31 Days series, and I’m certain you’re going to appreciate her words and wisdom. Visit her site and you’ll find more of the same…she’s one wicked schmart lady. ~ Robin

The youngest of my three daughters is a junior in high school, and while I joke sometimes about never letting her leave me, the fact is, she will be leaving home. Sooner than I’d like, perhaps, but she will definitely be leaving.

What I know is this is good, this is necessary, and this is right. It’s been the mantra that I’ve recited over and over again for the past several months, if not years, as I’ve raised three daughters who are ready to leave my nest and make a difference in the world.

Last summer the oldest of my three girls moved out of our house for good. Since May she has graduated from college, started a new job, and moved into an apartment with a group of friends from school. And while it was, admittedly, a little hard for me to pack up my car with most of her personal belongings and help her move them into the city that’s thirty minutes away, I continued my mantra:

This is good; this is necessary; this is right.


Next May, my middle daughter will graduate from college, which will bring even more changes to our home. And while yet more change isn’t easy on my mama-heart (I really struggle with change), I still believe that it is good and necessary and right.

See, when my girls were very little, God began preparing my heart for these days. Maybe He knew that these days would be especially hard on me. Maybe He knew that the process of letting go would take a while for all of us, so He got us started early. I’m not sure why, but I’ve had a sense for many years that God has wanted me to be a “letting go” parent.

It’s not that I don’t love my daughters fiercely: I do. But letting our kids go and helping them prepare for life outside of our home really has nothing to do with how much we love them. In fact, I love them enough to allow them a life apart from me. I respect their ability to maneuver through life’s challenges enough to not step in every time they hit a road bump.

So as I’m in the process of letting go, I remind myself of this:

It’s GOOD for our kids to have an identity separate from ours.

It’s NECESSARY for them to know how to manage their relationships, their time, and their finances on their own.

It’s RIGHT to give our kids the freedom to move on without guilt or shame or regret.

So how do I let go? I remind myself over and over again that I have prepared them well, by God’s grace, for the days that lie ahead.

I remind myself of God’s promises to never leave them and to never forsake them.

And I remind myself often that letting go is good and necessary and right.



shelly wildmanShelly Wildman is a wife to one busy husband and mom to three amazing daughters. She is hardly ever late, but sometimes she might forget to pick you up (just ask her girls). With three daughters (one out of college, one in college, and one in high school), Shelly spends a lot of time laughing, eating, and shopping, but she also finds time to teach college level writing and to speak to women’s groups. Shelly dreams of living in England someday, but for now, she’ll settle for the occasional visit.

Shelly blogs at Life on the Wild Side ( where she writes about family life, travel, and cooking. She is also a monthly contributor to the Mothers of Daughters blog ( and a member of the Redbud Writers Guild (

You can find Shelly on Instagram (, Twitter (@shellywildman), and, of course, her blog (



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How to Choose The Best College (Part 1) #31Days



Posted by on Oct 13, 2014 | 2 comments

How to choose the best college - Part 1 - by Robin Dance for 31Days

With 2,870 four-year colleges in the US and an additional 1, 700+ two-year institutions, is there such thing as the “best” college for a student? When you’re in the throes of making a decision, it sure feels that way. Choosing well is important because the college years determine or at least gives shape to our future; vocation, world view, whom you’ll marry–decisions that follow you throughout life.

Before panic or a fear of making the wrong choice sets in, let me offer you a word of truth and encouragement:

When you identify priorities for college choice and then make a thoughtful, considered decision in light of what’s important to you and your child, your choice will be the best one.


Typically, where to attend college is based on some combination of several factors:

  • location
  • cost
  • family legacy (parent alma mater or sibling already there)
  • academic rigor
  • course offering
  • reputation
  • sports affiliation
  • size
  • familiarity and friends’ choice
  • housing (on campus and off)
  • dining
  • activities

and many more….

Thinking back to my own reasoning for choosing a college horrifies me:

  • It was 75 minutes from home.
  • It was not the college my sister attended (I lived in her shadow my first 18 years of life and was not going to repeat that in college).
  • I liked the campus. Mind you, it was the only campus I visited, although I grew up in a huge college town and figured I’d end up back there after a year.
  • The Tiger paws on the roads were friendly.

Oy. Seriously…at the time, it didn’t even have a good option for what I wanted to major in, so I found something close. But I fell in love with the college and eventually the man I’d marry and have three (pretty amazing) kids with, so it turned out okay. Still…I shake my head over my father paying out of state tuition for four years.

I was resolute about making better, more informed choices with our own children.

One of the most helpful resources that helped us accomplish that goal (and mentioned earlier in this series) is the dynamite-in-a-small-package book, An Educated Choice: Advice for Parents of College-Bound Students by Frank Brock. I can’t say I agree with everything Brock suggests but there is no doubt it influenced how we approached college choice and helped us to consider a much broader view of education and what we were hoping for our children to accomplish. (It’s cheap and basically you’re only paying to have it shipped; a used copy is just fine….)

One of the finer points Brock makes is “getting a degree is not the same as getting a good education.” (p. 13) Wow…that idea alone was revolutionary. Another profound conviction of his: “…nothing is more expensive than a failed college experience and nothing is more valuable than a good education.” (p. 20) Brock challenged us to consider the  learning environment of each college and helped us realize “breadth of programs [do] not necessarily translate into quality programs…” (p. 31, emphasis added). By visiting several schools, we’ve noticed the wide disparity among different institutions in these areas and the factors listed above.

We’re going to break “How to Choose The Best College for Your Child” into several smaller discussions; next time we’ll discuss How To Make the Most of a College Fair.

Thank you for sharing this series with your friends and family; whether by sending them an email link or using the social media icons below, I’m grateful. What I’m sharing with you is the information we’ve accumulated over three children and five years of going through these motions! Keep with the series and you’re bound to gain new insights! 

Click here for a listing of all posts and be sure to
subscribe free to receive an email when the series is updated.

Helpful Hints and Tips for College Bound Students by Robin Dance


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What to Expect When You’re a Parent of a Senior



Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 | 6 comments

What you can expect when you are a parent of a high school senior - by Robin Dance - 31Days

As I mentioned at the beginning, my October series will alternate posts for the senior in high school who’s in the throes of the college application process AND for the younger students who have a year – or five – before they have to start thinking about it. While I’m writing it with the parent in mind, students will gain insight as well.

Today I’d like to give you a sort of warning, what you may experience when you have a senior. I’m inviting you parents of seniors (and those who’ve had children previously graduate) to add to this post in comments; by no means is my list exhaustive.

1. You’re going to be an emotional roller coaster.

This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a normal thing, and it will serve you well to anticipate it coming.  The day your child begins her senior year, you’re going to begin a series of what I call “First Lasts,” and they’re cause to celebrate, even if tears companion them.  You’ve been preparing 18 years or so for this year, and it’s good and right if your child is on track to graduate on time. Suddenly, formerly insignificant things take on greater meaning because you’ll sense the eventuality of your baby leaving home. Be on guard not to rain on your son’s or daughter’s senior parade, however; your baby is eyeing freedom and independence, and celebrating accomplishment and new adventures. Let them.


2. Your child will likely hurt your feelings.

This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a normal thing, and it will serve you well to anticipate it happening. And remember above everything else, your child doesn’t mean to and will probably be oblivious. You’re both going to be very aware of time but with very different perspectives: you’re going to realize how little time you have with your baby living (primarily) under your roof, and that child of yours, maybe for the first time, will feel how quickly time flies. And this is where hurt feelings are bound to arise: you’re going to want to spend as much time with your kid as possible while he or she is going to be busy (what feels like) all of the time! Hold fast to this truth: it doesn’t mean you aren’t loved but children have no idea how much they are loved.


3.  Your senior will revert back to his toddler days.

Remember when your little one acted as if the entire world revolved around her? Well, if you managed to get that under control for most of the preschool, elementary, middle and high school years, be prepared for its return.  High school seniors are the Big Men on Campus and they’re celebrated for good reason: high school graduation is one of the most memorable milestones in our lives. It’s the passage from youth to young adulthood. It’s both an end to a beginning and a beginning to a (new) end.  Schools offer special events and celebrations throughout the year and culture feeds that.  Even the best kids who never behave with an entitlement mentality may act with little regard for how their choices are affecting home (see #2 above).  They aren’t being jerks, they’re just seizing their moment.


4.  You might find yourself in crisis.

Ever heard of mid-life crisis? I’m here to tell you it will not “look” like what you think it will. If this is your first senior, you’ll begin to have your first taste of empty nest; if it’s your last senior, well, you’re almost there.  Your life has been wrapped up for decades in taking care of your children and managing their physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs and training. Years in the making but suddenly overnight, they won’t be there for you to manage on a daily basis and WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW? What has defined you for the majority of your adult life, no longer does. It’s bittersweet pill to swallow. Your best bet is to anticipate the changes that companion your children leaving. If you’re married, invest in your relationship with your spouse. Be proactive in returning to the workplace or learning a new hobby. Do not be passive. Surround yourself with others who understand and talk about it. Find ways to give to others with your time and talents.

5.  Celebrate.

Above all, enjoy this season! Regardless of any sense of loss, there is much more gain in this time of life. What a privilege and joy it is to launch your children into the world, to become who they’re destined to be. Praise God for their brains and abilities, for their uniqueness, for all they have to offer. You touch the future through the lives of your children, and your impact lives on in their lives!  Remember, you haven’t been raising your children to be your babies forever; it is best for both of you for them to move to next things.


Your turn:
What advice or encouragement do you have for parents of seniors?
Let’s help them know what to expect when they’re expecting…a senior!

Helpful Hints and Tips for College Bound Students by Robin Dance

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