This week college admission gets ready for its close up as the new feature film Admission hits the big screen on March 22nd. The film should pull in big crowds and not just because Tina Fey and Paul Rudd are box office draws whose chemistry clicks. Yes, having a great director and screenplay is a must, but when you throw in a topic that has parents and teens jumping through hoops, you just might have a blockbuster.
Having been immersed in the college-bound process as a parent, psychologist, professor and author, I've come to one conclusion. Parents everywhere are bouncing off the walls trying to navigate the road to higher education for their kids. Even non-helicopter parents who let their children drive the process can end up confused, anxious and exhausted. They're ready for financial, physical, cognitive and comic relief. And thankfully, Hollywood's ready to step in, at least when it comes to the cognitive and comedy components.
Parent anxiety has long been an entertaining topic. Lucy and Ricky got into more hilarious jams when Little Ricky hit the scene and sitcoms haven't stopped since. Today, college parent anxiety has been creeping in and stealing the shows, even when you least expect it.
This hot topic, likely fueled by baby booming numbers, college admissions trends and writers who've been there, is attractive across demographic groups. You needn't fall within the 40 to 60-ish parent demographic to understand or experience college admission anxiety. Most bleacher-sitting parents know the stress of helplessly watching their child be evaluated (and sometimes rejected or overlooked in the process). And as younger parents jockey for premium preschool slots and extracurricular advantages for their offspring, college-related discussions aren't out of the ordinary or far off. Are they premature? Yes, but that doesn't mean people won't find humor and help in college-related comedy.
This month, ABC's Red Widow premiere included a college prep shout out. When her husband suggests they immediately go into hiding to escape mob retaliation, Marta Walraven (Radha Mitchell) hesitates, "Gabriel has SATs...". Episodes of ABC's The Middle and Modern Family have both featured college-related subplots in multiple episodes. And this Friday's season finale of ABC's Last Man Standing includes a college-driven plot. I'm starting to think ABC's acronym might really stand for "All About College," but that's just my college-obsessed opinion. Either way, these shows and films like Admission, do families a favor. They remind parents and teens of the commonality of test prep anxiety, family friction, parental worry and admissions office fear (P.S. Admissions professionals are usually very nice.). That can be calming in itself, but finding the humor and a laugh is a most needed bonus. Thanks to Admission's director Paul Weitz and screenwriter Karen Croner, in addition to being a great comedy, this film will likely serve as a springboard for plenty of positive parent-teen college discussions. Trust me, that's a good thing.
Note: I saw Admission at a prescreening event last month and was thrilled to learn that my book College Bound and Gagged has a cameo. However, my enthusiasm for the film and the topic would stand with or without my book's brush with Tina Fey. Find out more Admission facts in this interview with screenwriter Karen Croner.