The Golden Ticket to College Admissions Is Not What You Think: Redefining Success for Parents of Teens with Irena Smith, PhD

Thursday, August 15th at 11:00 AM MST

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Another college application season is around the corner, and stress is already beginning to ratchet up for teens and their parents. You’re invited to join us for this must-watch talk by Irena Smith, PhD. You will hear about constructive and healthy ways to approach the college application process, preserve your relationship with your teen, and help them define success on their terms instead of chasing the elusive “golden ticket.”

Irena is a former Stanford Admissions Officer who has spent 18 years advising accomplished, tightly-wound students in Palo Alto and around the world. She saw firsthand the extreme measures parents took to help their children gain admission to highly selective colleges and the toll it took on the children as well as on their parents.

At the same time, Irena’s own children struggled with developmental delays, learning differences, severe depression, and anxiety. She kept her double life—successful college counselor at work, anxious mom at home—tightly under wraps for years until a stunning realization: she was exactly like the anxious parents of the students she worked with, all of whom were equally terrified about their children's future. Irena’s memoir, The Golden Ticket: A Life in College Admissions Essays, which candidly explores her personal as well as professional life, was published in 2023, and she has since devoted her time to speaking out about hard things: the heavy burden of generational expectations, teen and young adult mental health, and the importance of embracing a broader, more generous vision of what it means to succeed. To learn more about Irena’s personal experience as a parent, professional experience as a college admissions officer, and leave with tips on how to help your child approach the application process in practical, healthy ways–register now!

About the Author: Irena Smith is an author, former Stanford admissions officer, independent college counselor, and mother of three extraordinary children. She emigrated from the former Soviet Union with her parents when she was nine years old. In spite of her fierce insistence that she would never, not ever, learn English, she went on to earn a BA in English and then a PhD in Comparative Literature (both from UCLA, where she received a Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award and Dissertation Year Fellowship). Irena taught literature and composition at UCLA and Stanford before transitioning to college admissions, college advising, and writing. Her recently published memoir, The Golden Ticket: A Life in College Admissions Essays is the winner of the Story Circle Network's Gilda Award, named in honor of comedian Gilda Radner to recognize honest, authentic writing that "makes us laugh even when we want to cry." It's been described by Forbes as “captivating and smart… a potential antidote to the fevered belief that being admitted to an elite college will spell the difference between a successful life vs. a doomed future.” She has given a TEDx talk on humanizing the college application process and writes about parenting, college admissions, and redefining success in her weekly Substack newsletter, The Golden Ticket (is not what you think). You can also find her on Substack at Personal Statements


The views expressed by presenters are their own and their appearance in a program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Yuma Library.