Golden Retriever

College Prep for MilParents

Remember when you were a new parent delirious from the newborn slog, and another experienced parent would say something like, “You think this is hard? Just wait until he’s a toddler.” Super annoying, right? But for the most part, true.

When you have a new, squishy baby, you’re so in love that you don’t fully realize that you’ll age right along with your child but even faster because getting older while managing military life is like aging in dog years. By the time you have a junior in high school, exhaustion has set in when it’s least welcome.

Now is when I put on my senior spouse sweater and tell you, “You thought the tween years were hard?” Ha! Your kid’s junior year will introduce you to hair loss if you’ve not met already. I say this not to one-up your struggle but to let you know what’s ahead so you can laugh and learn.

Meet Our Family

We’re an active-duty Army family of three that’s moved around the National Capital Region for years. My daughter has lived in Northern Virginia all her life. Everything here is a competition, from navigating traffic and winning tiny tots’ soccer to attending the best school. The perceived stakes are high.

Our NCR bubble is a little extreme, and listening to some of the stories parents have shared about college prep is next level. A level that my kid doesn’t even want to consider or that we can afford. So, somehow, we’re grateful for her lack of motivation and our lack of resources!

Gen X Vs. Gen Z Attitudes About College

We want our girl to find the “perfect fit” college. That’s what all the college entrance gurus say to aim for if yours isn’t destined for the halls of the Ivy League. The perfect fit is in the eye of the beholder, which is challenging if you’re born into two vastly different generations.

Part of why I wanted to go to college was to get the heck out of my small hometown and onto bigger and better. I handwrote my college apps and essays, and my parents never even considered taking me on a college tour. Waiting for that “fat” acceptance envelope in the mailbox was a big deal.

My daughter, on the other hand, well, she’s more of a wait-until-the-last-minute-and-we’ll-see kind of kid. Gen Z has had an enlightening look behind the curtain and now knows that success after high school can take shape in many ways, including not suffocating under mountains of college debt. In theory, I know this too, but it’s a hard philosophy to follow if you think your child is banking on becoming a social media influencer to feed themselves and pay rent.

I do think our girl will seek higher education. However, she will do it her way, which I struggle with. How much do I intervene? How often do I let her flail or even fail? If I nag about homework and the National Honor Society application, does it really matter at her college graduation?


My Recommended Resources

Thanks to my Gen X “raise yourself” upbringing and my hard-earned military spouse resourcefulness, I knew I needed to start early to understand how to help my daughter get into a college she loves. So, since she was a freshman, I’ve joined multiple online groups, followed experts and read thousands of pages about the dos and don’ts of college acceptance.

I urge you to dip your toe into the ocean of college prep. It’s better to learn slowly than cram for information at the last minute — there’s a lot to learn.

I’m so grateful that we have the world’s first and only immortal golden retriever to keep me company while she is attending her pick of junior college, vet tech school, a far-flung West Coast Division I campus, or one of the traditional (insert a founding father’s name) institutions in our area.

Please tell me junior year gets easier. What has your experience been?

Tanecia’s children

A Year in the Life

I find myself in disbelief that another year has come and is almost gone. Next thing you know, it will be the holiday season and we will be making our New Year’s resolutions. Acknowledging this simple fact allows me to try to make the most of each day. I do my best to plan outings that I hope will become new family traditions. Traditions provide memories that will last a lifetime. While this duty station may be temporary; the smiles, the laughter, the joy and the quality time spent together should not be.

What does a year in the life of a MilSpouse look like?

Honestly, it looks different depending on where our service member is in their career. If they’re on sea duty, those years can be filled with deployments, workups, early days and long nights. Let’s not forget the months and months and months of checking our emails and looking for our special someone’s message. Or keeping the phone volume on 24/7 in the hopes of not missing a phone call. Planning date nights that consist of attempting to eat the same meal, watching the same show or even working on your individual goals together.

Then there is shore duty, the days are still crazy early, but some are shorter than others, and depending on the command, you even get most of the weekends to spend as a family. Those years are filled with making those everyday memories together. I would dress up and remind my spouse why he comes home to me for date nights. We would attend parent-teacher conferences or pick up the kids from school. The toddlers’ eyes lit up as they saw their daddy’s uniform. Even attending scheduled doctor’s appointments and catching the colds that are going around from daycare and school.

My year has been filled with everyday memory-making moments. You know the kind filled with days spent staring at your kids in awe, the way parents do when we just can’t believe how big they have gotten. Memories of the first day of school, or last day of school, birthday celebrations, first and last days of summer, and so much more. This year we taught my 3-year-old how to ride his big boy bike with training wheels. He and I both had our first real birthday parties surrounded by friends. His party was filled with friends and bounce houses. Mine was spent surrounded by ten of the most amazing women I’ve ever met, and I am so grateful to call them my friends.

We cemented a San Diego family tradition by returning to Gator by the Bay for the second year in celebration of Mother’s Day. I mean how could you go wrong with gator tail, crawfish, BBQ, peach cobbler and powdered sugar covered beignets all in one place? And all of that mouthwatering food is accompanied by amazing music and vendors as far as the eye can see. The spring saw my 18-month-old participate in her very first egg hunt. The summer brought Gemini and Leo seasons. Fall brings festivals, adorable costumes (even the scary ones), and perfect material for dozens and dozens of pictures to be taken. Before I know it, the big holiday season is upon us to round out the year. These days are spent sipping hot chocolate, taking family holiday card photos, three months of changing holiday décor, and the sweet scents of holiday favorites that fill the whole house. Next thing you know you find yourself making your New Year’s resolutions.

Do yourself a favor: Slow down and make everyday memories. That way you’ll never find yourself with a New Year’s resolution to spend “more quality family time” due to not taking advantage of the past. Trust me when I say I know how hard that can be with all the different schedules that fill a home, including deployment schedules, work schedules and kids’ extracurricular activities. Take the time to sprinkle in “strictly” family fun time. The best part of looking back on a year in my life is the smiles that find their way onto my face when I think back on the memories made and precious time spent together.

Notepad, pen and glasses

Mastering Your Resume

Resumes can be a point of contention for a lot of people. It’s not a skill we learn in school or college. Hiring managers can be oddly specific on what kind of resume they like to see, which makes it harder to know how to hit it out of the park. If you add in a lot of military spouse-related issues, it gets complicated fast. Gaps in employment, short stents at jobs and a wider set of skills instead of a narrow focus on a career are just a few hurdles we may face when putting together a resume. I recently went to work to find a career and the resume was something I knew I had to tackle. Here are three things I learned along the way.

  1. Get help! There are a lot of free resources out there for military families, and those free resources are really a wealth of knowledge that you should tap into. SECO’s resume writing module is a great resource to help you get started. I highly recommend reaching out. I learned a lot of tips, like don’t use the word “I” in the resume summary, and a lot of other random bits of knowledge that I would have never gotten by researching on my own.
  2. Write a directed resume. Hiring managers these days are looking for directed resumes. That means they want your resume to be tailored for them and the position you are being considered for. It means a lot more work on your part. But, when HR is seeing directed resumes out of all the other candidates, it makes it worth the time. You can even pull keywords out of the job description and use the same vocabulary when articulating your experience and skills.
  3. Be honest about work gaps. It’s incredibly frustrating that some companies are blind to the talent our community brings to the table. I know people who don’t disclose being a military spouse even after being hired by colleagues because they fear it will negatively affect them. But there is a big push going on right now to highlight all the value that service members and their families bring to the job market. When we can be honest in our resume about why it seems sporadic then it makes more sense to the hiring managers. Use the employment gaps to showcase how adaptable you are.

Writing a resume is truly a grueling process. Or maybe that’s just me. But it’s one of those things that gets you through the gate to an opportunity. I knew that if I could just get someone in HR to get me through the first look of the resume and into an interview, then I could show companies the value that is just missed on a piece of paper. When people see us as capable, adaptable and resilient individuals, then they start to see the potential military spouses bring to the table. I know you bring a lot to the table. So don’t give up and keep pushing. Reach out for help, do the work and just be honest.

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