Connecting Parents, Students, and Post-Secondary Experiences with Colin Pears
July 4, 2023
Connecting Parents, Students, and Post-Secondary Experiences with Colin Pears

Parenting is challenging. We go from being caretakers to teachers to mentors to travel companions and there’s a learning curve at each step of the journey. The one that sticks out to so many is the transition into releasing young adults into the post-high school world. There’s an entirely new language for parents and students alike and it’s not easy to navigate.

This week on the podcast, I’m talking with Colin Pears, founder of Highpoint Education. Colin saw a communication and development need for new college students and created a resource to bridge this gap. So many high school graduates go into college not having the maturity and sense of self to make the most of it. They need support in the transition.

A circle of care is necessary for these young adults, and Colin and his organization have created a resource to make that happen. Tune in for our conversation around what post-secondary education preparation should look like; how parents and students can find the right tools for their needs; how we can reimagine the relationship between students, parents, and institutions; and more.

About Colin Pears:

Dr. Pears is the founder and executive director of Highpoint Education, a company dedicated to providing students and families with the support they need to navigate the transition from high school to college and ensure that students are successful once they arrive on campus.

Dr. Pears was formerly the University Director of Academic Support and Advising and Co-Director of The Center for Academic and Career Success at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He is an expert on student success and retention and has teaching experience at the primary, secondary, and university levels of education.

As a higher education administrator, Dr. Pears developed support frameworks and retention initiatives for high-risk, under-represented, and underserved students, served as a professional consultant, and trained faculty, advisors, and academic coaches on important aspects of student engagement and pedagogy. He holds an MA in Political Science and an MA in Philosophy from Boston College, and a PhD in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America.

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:45] – Colin’s story of school transformation
[4:39] – What happens in transition to college
[5:45] – We’re asking too much of college students
[6:35] – Creating circle of care with public health model
[7:40] – Students need to be prepared for questioning their beliefs and figuring out who they are
[9:38] – What post-secondary education preparation looks like
[15:01] – When parents and students should get started
[19:25] – Students can’t be effective without the right skills and tools
[20:55] – Parents/student relationships have changed
[24:21] – The greatest success for parent/child relationships
[26:33] – How to shift the thinking that college is the path for everyone
[31:07] – The reality of 4-year to 2-year colleges is vastly different
[32:37] – Educational access is important
[34:09] – Turbo Time
[44:20] – Colin’s Magic Wand
[46:12] – Maureen’s takeaways

Links & Resources



Maureen 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen 1:07
Hi Colin, it is so good to have you on Education Evolution today.

Colin Pears 1:11
Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Maureen 1:14
And listeners. today I’m chatting with Colin Pears, founder of a platform that prepares both students and parents for the transition into college with a focus on making them successful and empowered. As an academic with an outsider’s view of academia, he is countering the risk of our US education slipping into complacency and nudging others to take a new view of students and family support. Let’s dive in. Colin, I’d like to start with a Genesis story. You know, we know our schools must evolve to serve learners and and the supports we provide has to evolve. Where did the story of school transformation begin for you?

Colin Pears 1:57
Well, I had a non traditional educational upbringing myself. So I had a non traditional educational upbringing myself, I was a homeschooled child for the beginning period of my education. And when I went to high school, I went to a very non traditional liberal arts high school. And I did very well I was an AP student throughout. But when I got to college, I struggled. My first semester, I had a 1.2 GPA, and I was really at risk of failing out. And it was a blow and I felt lost. Fortunately, I had educators who took an interest in me and helped me find my way. But it still took some time for me to develop the maturity and the perspective, the sense of self, and to find the opportunity to discover something that I was willing to work hard on. And then it took even longer to figure out how to reapply those skills to things that didn’t pique my interest. Over time, I was able to gather a sense of myself and to reapply myself into education. But all of that period of time taught me that education is more than just the basic preparation that we think it is. It’s also about cultivating who you are as a person, and making sure that you’re situated in a support system, a center of care, or a circle of care that allows you to flourish. In my professional life, I started to reapply those things as a teacher and then as an administrator, and I surrounded myself with people who had a similar view of education, all of us had very, very different backgrounds. We came from all different places in the United States and from different educational avenues. But what welded us together was this view of what education can and should be and how it needs to be centered on the student, and attached to what I call an ethic of care. That ethic of care is this moral belief, if you will, that the student needs to come first and that we need to bring all resources to bear to celebrate and and move that student towards success.

Maureen 3:55
I completely agree. I’ve been able to have a part of this conversation with others, and human centered relationship based focusing on love and belonging, all of these things. I keep hearing that theme in different words over and over again, it’s like, come on world cramming math and English and socialize down a kid’s throat is not going to work if we don’t have that, as you say, ethic of care. Super important. So we know a high school to college transition is rocky for many. I mean, they’re 18. And a lot of times we’re they’re not under the parents roof anymore. So they have all this freedom and all of these illegal lawyers out there and everything. So what do you see in this transition? And what have you created to address it?

Colin Pears 4:44
That’s a great question. You know, I come at this from another angle. You know, I speak to a lot of people who are in the high school field who are guidance counselors who are high school teachers. But I come to it from the college side of things. I see what students are doing once they arrive on campus and when What I’ve seen is that we ask too much of students too soon, the students are still adult children when they arrive in college. And they’re still growing and developing and maturing, acquiring a sense of themselves and trying to find their place in the world, when they enter the college environment, college compounds this because the college framework of education is about unsettling their beliefs and about encouraging them to jettison unfounded opinions. And, you know, go through a really deep period of self questioning self discovery, that will ultimately bring them to a firm foundation and allow them to really move forward confidently in their education and their career. But it takes time. And so when we bring students into that environment, and they haven’t had the opportunity as high school students to really build those not just academic skills, but those personal skills and pre professional skills, we’re asking too much of them. And colleges are in a difficult position because they have very robust learning goals for their students. But they can’t always meet students where they stand much as they may want to. And it’s difficult for them to anticipate exactly what those students needs will be. And over time, we’ve seen the need for college remediation tick up. But interestingly, we also see that more students need support in the collegiate environment then need support in high school, right. So what we’re seeing here is that students acclimate to one system, and they can become very successful in high school, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into college success. And so what we’ve tried to provide is actually based on a public health model that brings all different resources to bear on student success creating that circle of care around the student, but it still has to be guided by student driven learning. And the platform that we’ve built tries to address this from different angles, the parent angle, the student angle, and then of course, by supporting educational organizations.

Maureen 7:03
Wow, I am so glad you’re looking at it holistically. And it’s giving me pause to because when you said that we’re unsettling, the students, it’s like, I’d never looked at it as a K 12. I look at it as launching our kids into that. But when I think about my younger daughter, she got into college and found Women’s Studies. And she started coming home and telling me all these things and changing things up and did you know, and I could see, she was tinkering with her identity, and it’s guided her she’s 26. Now it’s, it’s guided her it’s stuck with her. So that’s right, that’s an extra piece that we’re throwing into the mix that I really didn’t have an awareness of.

Colin Pears 7:42
It’s very exciting to see students go through that process of questioning their beliefs and questioning who they are. For many students, it’s also exciting for them. However, it can be traumatic for students, if they’re not prepared for when they start to see things from a different angle. When they’re confronted with points of view, or people with cultural backgrounds with him, they’ve had very little exposure, that can be challenging. And you know, all of this goes into the making of a student at the collegiate level. Just as it’s true in high school. In college, the goal of education is for the learning experience to overflow the classroom and to move out into the hall, and the dorm room and into the internships and every other opportunity where students have to grow and develop themselves, both academically, personally and professionally. But there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that students are well equipped to take on those academic personal and pre professional challenges before they arrive in college. As an administrator, what we discovered was that while colleges are truly doing their best work to try to support students, a lot of what they do needs to happen in that interim between high school and college. In high school, students aren’t always receptive to a lot of the work that they need to do in order to be successful in college. But something somewhat magical happens once they’re accepted. And once they’re freed from their high school responsibilities, they know that they’re moving into a new phase of development, and they start to really think about how they’re going to build themselves up and move themselves forward. And it’s in that window of time, when they’re now receptive to these, these platforms, these media, these opportunities to learn about themselves and their their coming future. That’s when we can make a tremendous difference in student success.

Maureen 9:33
So tell me more I have, say I have a child that’s getting ready to, you know, do their final quarter of high school. What does your platform do? Or how can you make this preparation for post secondary education smoother and give kids more tools in their toolkit?

Colin Pears 9:51
Well, that’s a great question. And I want to start by saying that the junior and senior years of high school are far and away the most intense academic and personal develop In phases of a student’s career, and possibly of their entire life up until that point. And so while it’s very important for them to make good use of that window between high school and college, we do not want to overwhelm them, they’ve just been through a gauntlet, and they’re exhausted, and they should have cause to celebrate when they’re finishing high school. So we want to give them that that opportunity, we want to give them the opportunity to take a breath to celebrate and to relax. But we also want to very quickly move them into that transitional phase, what we do is we bring students together and parents together with the type of information and materials that they’ll need in order to weather that transition successfully, and hit the ground running when they arrive in college. For parents, a great deal of that is, is explaining to them student development phases, and how this the student transition looks, what they can expect across the next, let’s say, six to 18 months. Our timeline for parents runs all the way through graduation, but we find that parents find the first part the most valuable, they many parents are still learning what to expect of their children as their children move from late adolescence into early adulthood. And so matching that with the framework of the college experience really helps them orient themselves to their students needs. We also help parents understand how to negotiate that university environment and how to become a participating member in that student support team. And that’s crucial because parents know a lot, and they know a lot about their student, but they don’t always know how to fit in to that framework of student support that students are entering into when they become college students. And so parent education is crucial here. And giving parents those resources before they need them, as opposed to the fire hose of orientation makes a world of difference for parents peace of mind and for students success. With students, we come at this from another set of angles, we very overtly start talking to students about the transitional experience, we walk them through all of their own developmental, developmental anticipations, and what they can expect moving forward. But while we’re doing that, we’re also starting to help them elevate their academic skills. We want them to recognize that entering college, they know how to do a number of things they know how to read well, they know how to write, they know how to take notes, they know how to pay attention in class. But in college, we have to take those skills to another level that will be appropriate to the demands that they’ll face in their college classes. And that takes some time. But it’s something that students again, are more open to once they realize that they’re entering into a new environment, a new educational environment. And then alongside their academic skills development, we also provide a thorough course in personal formation. And this is really where students have the opportunity to learn about themselves, how they work, and to go through a period of self discovery that takes them to that maturity and perspective that allows them to have a concrete sense of self, to understand their values, to tap into their motivation, and to even use things like design thinking to start creating a vision of their future that they can latch on to and use to move forward and explore their opportunities. On the very back side of that, then is the pre professional development where we start showing them how to connect the dots between what they’re doing personally and academically, and how that can connect with their future life. Whether that’s going into graduate school or service or entering a career. We want them to see how what they’ve been doing in their college years, can carry them into not just a successful life, but a life where they’re fulfilled where they have a sense of purpose, where they’re living a meaningful life, and they’re genuinely happy.

Maureen 13:50
I am loving this. Because we do K 12. We love them up. And then we say bye Have a nice life. College says come in, take our classes, and we don’t attend to the whole human being and self discovery that gets lost. And we know I’m a big fan I was just presenting in South America. I’m a big fan of IKI guy passion purpose, you know, because I do much better when I’m passionate. We know when it’s something we love, and we see meaning in it. And yet that doesn’t happen in so many schools because content is being covered. So for you to stop and say, Hey, let’s have you figure out who you are and design thinking. What you want for your future means iterations means things will influence it. It’s not like I will be an accountant and have this much money. It’s not necessarily something that’s set, but it’s a process of who am I and what gives me life. What am I good at? What do I care about? That’s missing? So yay, I am so thrilled that you’re doing this Colin. Thank you. So when we have this happen with with parents and students.

Colin Pears 15:04
So ideally, I think that parents would want to start taking the the parent materials throughout the spring of the student’s senior year, although we do offer some materials that are going to be relevant to high school development earlier than that, for students, the student materials, I think, would be very well received during the summer after students have completed their application and admission cycles, right, we need them to be able to, to finish that first set of hurdles to celebrate their graduation and to have some confidence built up and all of that they’ve worked toward, for the past four years of their high school education, after they have that, that rest that breather, that’s when they need to move into to that that full mode of thinking through what their college future will be like, and what they can do for themselves to make sure that they’re easing into that new environment successfully, and, and gracefully. The materials that we provide help students over the course of their entire college education, and so they’re designed for students to come back to time and time again. And so well, they are immediately helpful for students who are transitioning to college, they’re valuable for students whenever they need to fall back on something that helps them better understand their needs, their strengths, and what they can do to help themselves move forward toward their goals.

Maureen 16:28
So this doesn’t change a timeline necessarily, they graduate, they can work on this platform over the summer, and still start college in the fall.

Colin Pears 16:36
Absolutely. And that’s what we would want them to do, they might have some overlap between the materials that we provide, and their their start of college. Some students have even found it very helpful to take advantage of these materials at the end of their first semester. So between the fall in the spring, where they’ve learned enough about their college environment to have some really good questions about how to approach their spring semester, but they might need some additional guidance on just how to do that with the greatest efficacy and the ease.

Maureen 17:06
So is this an online? Is this? Will they would students and parents have human contact? Or is that like an online course that they can take independently at their own pace? How does that how does it set up?

Colin Pears 17:18
That’s a great question. So it’s both we have online platforms that we’ve created so that parents and students can guide their own educational experience moving forward. But we’ve also backed that up with one on one coaching. And this is for two reasons. We want people to have human contact, we know that it’s important for students to learn by sitting down face to face with someone who can answer their questions and challenge their answers. And what we find is that if students have gone through the process of taking advantage of the materials we provide in the online platform, those coaching conversations that they have subsequently are elevated, there are a lot of places that provide coaching. And unfortunately, the downside to that model is that it takes a long time of getting through the basics before you can have some of those deep and insightful conversations. What we’ve tried to do is the inverted classroom, if you will, but for student support. So we try to provide interesting and innovative materials through the online platform, backed up by resources and worksheets and all sorts of interesting ways to go through that self development. But then we provide students with a sounding board and guidance, and somebody who can really serve them as a coach and a mentor afterwards. And we find that that tied together those elements tied together, especially when we can bring parents in in the right way in support, we find that that has the most pronounced effect on student success, happiness, and importantly, on student well being once they move into college, their stress levels are reduced, their confidence is boosted. And they have a better sense of who they are and how to apply themselves by by all of this work. And that means the world to students, you know, so many students struggle with anxiety, and worry and and so much mental and emotional turmoil when they reach college when they’re dealing with that transitional phase. And so anything that we can do to support them on all of these levels is very important because we are not separate columns of person internally, right how we think impacts how we feel and vice versa. And we can’t expect students to take those academic skills no matter how refined they are, and apply them out of the gate if they’re struggling to adjust. And so by bringing these elements together, we want students to have a strong sense of themselves, the academic skills they need to be successful. And the well being that they need to make sure that they’re able to weather this transition and moving into their their collegiate years with with grace.

Maureen 19:50
There are so many positives that are just popping into my mind. I mean, I know if I the unknown makes me anxious, and our kids more so and then we tend to To catastrophize, well, this could happen that could happen. So by them being prepped and knowing what to expect, knowing the developmental phases, knowing having more tools in their toolkit, then they don’t have to be afraid. And they can ask questions and then having a one on one coach, they can have, I’ve got this much applied, I think I’m here having somebody as a sounding board, like, yeah, that’s on the right track, or have you ever considered this, I can see how that would elevate it. And then for parents to not be alone in this and parents and kids to have a common conversation developmentally, Mom, I’m not going to be there yet. Let’s just work on this. I just see this filling in so many gaps. Because right now, it’s kind of, we’re treating kids like robots or widgets, go from here to go from there. And you’re adding in all the human components.

Colin Pears 20:49
You know, one of the most magical things we’ve seen is the incredible transformation of parents student relationships. So we’re educating parents on how to interact with their, you know, blossoming student, their blossoming children who are moving into this new, exciting educational environment, their new home for the next four years. And we’re also educating students on how to take on these new challenges. And part of that is framing the communication between different parties. Now, students are learning how to frame their communications with parents, but also with faculty and advisors and administrators, and how to negotiate that educational framework. And here we’re teaching parents how to adequately support those students how to be appropriately involved, how to effectively communicate. And so we’ve heard back from parents that once they and their students have taken part in this process, they’re able to really understand each other better, they’re communicating, they feel as if they’re on the same page, there’s a noticeable drop in the type of tension that so many parents and students feel in that period of time when kids are about ready to leave the home and, and move to college. And so we find that those parents, student relationships are strengthened. And that makes a huge difference. Because for parents, you know, when you’re a parent, you’ll understand this as well, when you’re a parent, you start off and you’re a nurse, you’re at every calling, you are attended to your child, morning, noon, and night. Over time, you shift right you might become more of a drill sergeant than a nurse, to marshal someone to get out the door. We just had an experience with my son this morning, where we’re, we’re at school drop off, and he was digging his heels and he didn’t want to go. And you know, that’s heart wrenching and difficult, but it’s part of the parental journey. But as students grow older and become more independent and move closer to adulthood, and as parents grow older, their roles and their relationships shift. And so you move from being a nurse into being a drill sergeant into being more of a coach, and a mentor, and then eventually a travel companion. And so that’s what we’re trying to facilitate here we’re trying to facilitate for parents and students, that transformation both of self and have role. And so for parents, it represents a new opportunity to be connected with their child and to enjoy the experience and the excitement of this adult development phase. And for students, it allows them to, to maintain that connectedness with their parents, with their family members or another mentor, throughout a period of time when they really need it. You know, students are becoming independent, and they are young adults, they’re thinking about their career and their future. But they still need their parents, because their parents are the only people who have known them as who they are consistently for their entire lifetime. And so, in the early college years, there’s a tension between whether or not a parent is an anchor, or someone who can inspire you to be more of yourself. And so you see students in college, doing very much what toddlers do, where they are trying to move farther away from the parents, and then they run back when they need a little bit more confidence, right? We see something like that. But after graduation, we see that that rule change again, right? And so you have more of a mentoring and a travel companion relationship, and it’s really beautiful. And I think we should celebrate all of these interconnectedness opportunities for parents and students.

Maureen 24:16
Absolutely. What would you say would be maybe the biggest mistake parents make as kids going off to college? What would be one word of advice you would have for parents, just overall from all of the experience that you’ve had, you know, hey, if you do this, you’re going to change how your relationship will evolve.

Colin Pears 24:37
You know, I’ve seen a lot of parenting styles, and I can’t say that there’s one way to parents, students, and I want to be very clear about that. But the greatest parents student success I’ve seen are where parents understand how to evolve alongside their student and where they don’t ask too much, and where they understand how to read their students needs. Parents are often caught between been feeling like they need to light a fire under their student in order to be supportive and wanting to support their students emotional needs. Once students enter college, reality tends to be a pretty direct teacher. And so parents don’t need to be that that more harsh or more direct force in the students life, there are other people there to serve that purpose. And so that is nice, because it gives parents the opportunity to be active listeners to talk to their students to really listen to what they’re going through developmentally, and to help them reflect so that they can grow, that might be somewhat different than the role that they’ve had in high school. For some parents, it certainly is for others, maybe it’s reminiscent. But the most successful parents student relationships, I’ve seen where the student really acclimates and flourishes are those relationships where parents are able to, again, evolve alongside their student and take that active listening role and help provide the appropriate support to their student over time.

Maureen 25:59
That makes really good sense and right. No advice fits every parent every student. But to shift a bit and be that active listener makes really good sense. And it’s hard because we have we we know our role shifts when we’re not up all night with our kids. But what does it shift to next? I love that you can help parents understand the student’s developmental phases, and how parents need to evolve to slowly become that mentor, and then that I like that that travel companion that person on the journey with them. Yeah, I want to shift just a little bit. It’s kind of a corollary, a lot of times we think that high school college career, that’s the formula. And again, just like we don’t have one formula for how we parent, there is not one formula for what happens after high school. How can we shift this way of thinking about college as the preparation for life after?

Colin Pears 26:58
You know, I love this question, especially because the landscape of education in the United States is changing dramatically. You know, between the ballooning educational debt crisis and the forces on on education from other avenues. I think students and parents need to really think creatively about how they approach their students education. For many students, this might mean taking some time off between high school and college, a gap year can be an incredibly effective way of preparing students for the college experience. Most students who take a gap year find that they come back to their college education, absolutely recharged and reinvigorated. And so for those people who have the ability to take a gap year and who know how to structure that experience, so that it’s actually formative. I think that that can be a viable option. It also could mean for other students taking a few years and going through the community college route. College has become incredibly expensive. And America has an obsession with popular schools, I won’t even say the most academically prestigious schools, American students and families have an obsession with recognizable brand names. And that’s actually a problem for education. But going through the community college route allows students a more open ended period of time to acclimate to the demands of higher education. It gives them the opportunity to grow and to develop to build relationships with faculty, and to ease into that new phase of education. It also saves them a great deal of money, the cost of a community college education is a fraction of what most four year institutions are. And nowadays with the type of articulation agreements that are in place between community colleges and the schools that they feed, the transition from a two year program to a four year institution is mostly seamless if it’s handled the right way.

Maureen 28:52
And I want to add on to that because my both my daughter started coming to college and I hadn’t really thought of that because we didn’t have a community college near where I was. So I went to the local four year, I see smaller classes, teachers that are only there to teach my daughter’s had relationships with their teachers. And sometimes in other institutions. I see 100 kids in a class taught by a graduate student because professors have to publish and have to do research because they they have to keep achieving for the four year university to keep its its status. So the quality of education people always think Community College is less than but for my girls, it was personalized, and it was more than they would have gotten as one out of 100 freshmen.

Colin Pears 29:36
I think for a very long time. Because of the way the American higher education climate has evolved. Community colleges were seen as somehow less than but in reality, what they represent is a middle ground of academic culture in between high school and college. Community college professors are incredible teachers, because for most of them, they prioritize their teaching and they ended up bent those institutions, because that is their priority, not necessarily research and publishing. That doesn’t mean that they don’t research and publish. Many of them have incredible work. But that isn’t necessarily their professional priority. It’s not necessarily where their passion lies. And students are the beneficiaries of this, especially students who need that time to acclimate to the culture. And so going to community college, you do find that greater sense of connectedness with with faculty in many places. And you also find faculty who are willing to educate students on the soft skills on the cultural adaptation that they need to go through before they reach that four year institution, many of which are somewhat more unforgiving than high school was,

Maureen 30:44
huh, it soft skills, my older daughter has autism. And boy, were there some great community college professors that were like, Hey, let’s work a little here, hey, you know, and could meet her where she was. And that couldn’t have happened in a huge institution. And I’m super grateful to them.

Colin Pears 31:02
Absolutely. You know, it’s tough. I know, so many college professors who care very, very much about students. But the reality of being a professor at a large four year institution is different. Your priority, even if it is teaching has to be split between all of the other responsibilities that you have. Publishing and academic research are obviously a top priority. But there’s a great deal of administrative responsibility that faculty have to shoulder especially as colleges and universities go through economic compressions themselves. And so it’s difficult for faculty in a college environment in a four year college or university environment, to dedicate the same kind of time and attention to students, that community college faculty are more readily able to give because of the way their employment is structured. And again, students are the beneficiaries of this. And I think it makes sense for many students to take advantage of this, if that’s the route that they see to college, I still am one of those people who will argue that finding your way into a four year institution and taking full advantage of a collegiate education is valuable. Even the latest research from NCS has shown that college graduates are that a college degree is by far one of the things that will move you into more employment and higher income as you graduate. And there’s a clear distinction between people who go through that collegiate learning experience and people who are who stop out at high school. And again, this is not a distinction and types of people. But it does point us toward what students need in order to have success not just in school, but then in their career and in their lives. Economic Mobility is very important. And I think that this should turn everyone’s attention to educational access to make sure that more students are having the opportunity to get on that pathway to degree that fits their needs, whether that’s through a gap year or a community college or entering into a four year institution directly. We really need to be thinking about how to pave the way for students and make sure that they’re prepared, not just academically, but also personally and professionally as well.

Maureen 33:18
Absolutely. Your platform is wonderful, Colin, I just think parents and high school juniors, seniors should avail themselves of of a coach because there’s no coaching. There’s not enough parent coaching overall, I say as a mom, but coaching through that huge transition with new tools, new frameworks, common language between student and parent common sense of purpose and direction. So thank you, thank you for the hard work you’re doing.

Colin Pears 33:50
Well, thank you so much. We’re really proud of what we’ve been able to do. And our goal is to be able to take this to more and more students and families. Because what’s important for us is to get this into the hands of the people who are going to benefit from it the most.

Maureen 34:04
Absolutely. I like to pivot before we wrap up our interview and just get to know the person behind sure the idea. May I asked you a few turbo time questions.

Colin Pears 34:14
Absolutely. I love these.

Maureen 34:16
Awesome. What is the last book you read?

Colin Pears 34:20
The last book that I read, if I’m being honest, was the wild robot and the wild robot escapes. That’s by Peter Brown, I read those are those are children’s novels. I read those with my son, he found those and love them. And it was a great way to get him reading. And so we did a thing where we would read one page to each other out loud back and forth. And so if I’m being honest, that’s the last book that I read. The last book that I read for myself, was war in peace. And that probably sounds a lot more airy erudite than it needs to but you know, Warren Piece and other Russian novel novels like crime and punishment, they were written as serials for magazines originally. So for Anyone who loves binging on Netflix or Amazon Prime, you know, reading a chapter at a time of some of those Russian masterpieces might surprise you. They’re they’re really engaging and exciting.

Maureen 35:11
Okay? You’ve piqued my curiosity a tad bit,

Colin Pears 35:16
maybe do it on a book on tape, right? You could do it as a book on tape and then pick off a chapter at a time and it would sound like your would sound in your ear like you are watching some binge show on Netflix or Amazon.

Maureen 35:27
Okay, now you have me audio I could totally listening to a story at a time that works. How about two inspirational folks you’d love to meet?

Colin Pears 35:36
Sure. Oh, wow. So, you know, I’m a philosopher, that my background is in philosophy and, and I studied Rousseau and you know, many people think of her so as the father of modern education, he inspired a lot of people. And so while I love her, so I think the person on the educational philosophic side, who I’d like to meet most would be Maria Montessori. I have seen so many children benefit from that style of education, not the least of which are my own three children. And I, I’ve been so impressed by what that model can accomplish. And, of course, Maria Montessori was influenced by Rousseau, who was of course, my, my, my passion, so I’d really love to be able to meet her and to dig deeper into how she understood child development and student development. And more than that, because this is the missing piece and the research I’ve done on Montessori, how Montessori education transitions to education, and in young adulthood, and in the collegiate years, Montessori education tends to stop earlier than that. And I’d love to understand more of the arc of that educational model into early adulthood. The other person who I would say, and I actually, this is somebody who I did have the chance to meet was Dr. Paul Farmer, I don’t know if you’re familiar, but he was a public health physician, and a global public health expert, and very, very influential. He founded Partners in Health, and he’s done a lot of incredible work in Haiti and around the world. And I actually had the chance to meet him when I was a grad student in Boston. And we had some really interesting conversations that had a tremendous influence on me, and influenced my view of students support. You know, Paul Farmer, he really believed in social justice and human rights and access to health care. He was a pioneer in community based interventions. And he really privileged the needs of underserved and marginalized populations. And his model for helping those communities was educating people into the fold and building a community around a common mission, and, and basically, shaping health outcomes for those communities. And so it was a true holistic approach. And what I didn’t know when I had the chance to talk to Paul Farmer was just how applicable This is to student support, and to educational access and student retention and future success. And unfortunately, Dr. Farmer passed away a couple of years ago, but if I could go back now, knowing what i’ve what I know, and, and having built this model that I’ve built, I’d really appreciate the opportunity to sit down and talk with him about how his public health vision can map to higher education.

Maureen 38:32
I agree wraparound support, whether it’s public health or education, it makes perfect sense. How about a pet peeve of yours?

Colin Pears 38:43
Well, I have some deep concerns about as I referenced earlier, the obsession that America has with brand recognition when it comes to colleges, in the United States. There are about 6000 or so colleges and universities, and accredited colleges and universities and the 1%. of popular schools. So if you if you rank all of those 6000 schools, by their popularity, their brand brand recognition 1% of the schools in the United States get a full 20% of annual applications. So that would be about the top 50 schools in the United States get 20% of all of the applications every year. And this creates a number of cascading problems. So you know, if you look at the list of schools, if you go down to 500 or 600 on the list, there are still tremendous, well recognized academically prestigious schools out there, you know, at that level, and many, many students in the United States just pass those over because they don’t have the brand recognition that the top 50 do. And what happens is that it encourages students and families to go after schools that they know from hearing about them. From name recognition, but that aren’t necessarily going to fit their educational needs. And so as long as that keeps happening, students keep arriving in educational environments that might not be germane to who they are as, as people, as students as future leaders. And so what I would love to see is parents and students thinking about this from the opposite angle, thinking about about this from, you know, what, who am I? And what are my needs? And where will I be best served academically and personally and professionally. That’s a tall order, because how else are students going to begin their their college research except by hearing about schools, from friends and family and peers and counselors and, and out there in the media? And so I think that while this is a pet peeve of mine, I think that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on how we can better educate students about their college research and how to look at that. I agree. And

Maureen 40:58
I think it’s not even just the top 1% in our state is, are you going to go to U DUB or huazhu or our family’s a kook family, our families are Husky family, as opposed to where, where are the programs that you would be interested in located?

Colin Pears 41:12
Yeah. And so you know, this kind of ties into another pet peeve of mine, which is, again, this this obsession that we have with college admission. And of course, this is what’s opened up the opportunity for us to create this platform. But in the United States, we spend billions of dollars on test prep and college admissions, and we spend relatively very little preparing students to be successful in college once they get there. And as you well know, the the the work that it takes and the skills that it take, takes to prepare for college to successfully make it through these the admissions cycle are very different than what it takes to be successful once you arrive on campus. And in that regard, I have very deep concerns that we are systematically under serving students by putting an undue amount of emphasis on admissions and acceptance, and not nearly enough emphasis on what it takes to grow and develop as a person and become successful as a student so that you can live a a successful, meaningful and happy life both as a college student and as an adult after graduation.

Maureen 42:23
That makes sense out. One last question, how about something about you that most folks don’t know?

Colin Pears 42:31
Oh, wow. Okay. So that is a wonderful question. When I was a senior in college, I got very sick. And I actually had to leave school halfway through my senior year. And I ended up in the hospital. And when I ended up in the hospital, I was again, very sick, I was very dehydrated. And when I came out of the hospital finally recovered, it was sometime later, I had lost the ability to write, and I had lost a lot of motor skills. And so as a senior in college, I had to reteach myself how to write. And it was a very humbling experience. You know, I was somewhat debilitated during the time. And it took a lot of time for me to to gather the energy and the strength to walk to go get the mail, for example. But far and away the most humbling experience was having to reteach myself how to write. And it just so happens that a few days ago, I was going through some notes, and I came across some notes of mine from college and the writing from my early years in college is almost unrecognizable, compared to my writing afterwards, which is now mostly blocked printing. You know, I was very practical about it when I had to learn how to write the second time. And unfortunately, it’s, it’s not necess not nearly the artful script that I had been taught when I was, you know, a student in high school. Much more practical. But I learned a lot and I learned how to persevere at something that was seemingly very mundane at the time. But it was character building. In retrospect.

Maureen 44:03
Wow, what an experience. Yeah, I like to wrap up the podcast with a magic wand moment. So I am handing you the education evolution, magic wand. What would you wish for all seniors and their parents as they look ahead to college in the fall, if that’s their next step?

Colin Pears 44:28
What a wonderful question. And there are so many things that I would want to gift to parents and students in this this period of time. But if there was one that I could choose, I think it would be to grant them this gift of perspective, you know, to allow them a moment to pause. And for students to acquire a sense of self and a sense of vision for their future and for parents to understand that they can be supportive regardless of what that vision of the future is. I’ve had some very interesting parents, conversations with parents and in fact, one pair and says, Well, geez, you know, you don’t expect me to be gung ho about basket weaving. And I said, No. But I do expect you to be supportive if the student’s process of self discovery runs through basket weaving along the way. And so what I would wish for parents and students is for them to acquire that sense of vision, to acquire that, that sense of self and for parents to understand that students are going to make their way to the place that fits their needs and allows them to tap into their passions and their strengths. And that they should have confidence in their students as they build that that relationship and let their their roles evolve.

Maureen 45:37
Oh, that is beautiful. Colin, thank you. And I’ll be sure to put in the show notes how to get a hold of you so that people can take advantage of the wonderful holistic resource you provide to help that transition be one that’s rich and, and lead students to a much greater success in college.

Colin Pears 45:55
Maureen, thank you so much for having me. And thank you for all of the work that you’re doing to shine a light on these educational issues. We’re all very grateful.

Maureen 46:11
It is so wonderful to find more and more organizations who are centered in an ethic of care. We are no longer an agrarian culture, we are no longer an industrial culture. Next in our evolution, can be a humanistic culture, or a robotic digital culture, or both. We’re definitely in a digital age, which makes it even more important to claim our collective humanity. Colin has done just this has created high point and it merges the best of both of our present worlds. There is online self paced information for parents and students as they navigate this new phase of development, the time after high school and are preparing for life beyond. On the humanistic side, there is personal coaching, and an emphasis on who each youth is. Since college does unsettle a youth beliefs and exposes them to so many new ideas, new career paths, new experiences, it’s very important that students enter college, or whatever step they do after high school with as much self knowledge as possible. Collins program focuses on the self discovery, and it also helps parents understand the developmental phases that happen for young people, and slowly shift parents to mentor and then to role as travel companion. with youth and parents having the same vocabulary and developmental understanding. They are front loading communication moving forward. As young adult and parent. I agree with Colin, we do ask too much too soon, of our young adults with very little time for transition, or to build the skills needed to be an independent adult. One morning, they are that 18 year old being told to hurry up, wake up and get to school on time. The next day they are graduate with nobody insisting they do anything. I don’t know of many adults that could make such a large shift with a teen brain and do it successfully. It is wonderful that Collins program gives kids and parents skills and resources before they need them in the college and life settings beyond. I’ve heard many students say they do high school well, they understand the game. They get their assignments in on time. They show up to class on time, and teachers break down expectations so well for them that they can do like Colin did, and be a student who does wonderfully. How do we help students understand how very different the college experiences from high school at lead prep, we encourage 11th and 12th graders to take a college class in our state’s free dual enrollment program. We can guide them and monitor their progress. And we see some students challenged by how to break down a big assignment that is assigned early in the quarter with no extra explanation or reminders throughout the quarter. We can help them break that down. We also see students not understanding that turning in an assignment incomplete is so much better than not turning in one at all. We explained to them about averages and what is zero does to a great average compared to let’s say a 58% We also help them meet and talk with their professors during office hours to forge a relationship and understand the professor. And what led that professor to teaching in this field that humanizes the student Professor relationship, and also is a solid platform. If students have questions or need assistance later in the quarter, these are just a few ways that we can guide our young students to prepare better for college. So those are just some things we do informally, and they don’t tie into pairing training. What Colin does is so much more developed. Wherever you are, let’s see if you can help us make this transition from tight supervision in high school, to virtually no supervision in college. With more tools and direction, and more self discovery and knowledge, please, all of us can benefit from Collins advice that as adults working with graduates, we need to step back and let reality be a primary teacher. We need to be active caring listeners, but not doing the thinking for our young adults. As parents, we also need to be sure to not buy into that status game. Long term, none of our friends and colleagues really care what university or college our children have gone to. And we can let go of that guilt that good parents put kids in top name universities, that is such a myth. So we can step back and let self discovery level of maturity and areas of interest realistically guide the choice to a post secondary institution. And community colleges gap years and vocational programs should always be among the choices we offer students. I hadn’t really thought about test prep, and that industry in the same way Colin does, but it’s crazy how much we spend on sa t or AC t test prep programs. And we taking these tests to make sure our students score well, on college entrance exams. It’s like we give kids all of these entrance tools. But when they need a whole new toolbox for college success, it’s an empty toolbox we send them off with Did you know roughly 25% of first year students don’t return to their college in the second year, and almost 50% won’t graduate in four years, and that only 72% managed to graduate even after six years. And even worse, is the student loan debt we saddle our precious youth with it’s debilitating, we can do better as adults guiding our high school graduates into their futures. They need us as high point states today’s educational system is built on extrinsic motivators, depriving students of the critical thinking skills necessary for success in college and beyond. Let’s do better. Let’s guide students to uncover their sense of purpose so that they can discover discern and determine the best path that will lead them to self realization, independence, and ultimately, personal fulfillment today, and in the future. Thank you listeners for being a part of the education evolution.

Maureen 53:41
I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me how much schools were able to get done with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your own school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together. Thanks again for listening. To support the education evolution. Subscribe so it lands in your podcast app and gets out to more decision makers. Then rate and review it. For more information in shownotes go to education evolution listeners. You are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen heard, valued and thriving. We are in this together and we need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.


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