Nancy Berk Explores College Tuition Sticker Shock

What’s a parent to do once all the college tours are over and journey through the college admissions process comes to an end? Author Nancy Berk, honorable mention award winner in the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, explores the possibilities. 

Sticker Shock

It fell out of the most important letter of the year. A thin adhesive sticker tucked inside the anxiously awaited university acceptance letter.

“Mom, I got in!” my son exclaimed. “Now you can get off my back.”

I might have cried but I was too busy thanking a higher power for giving me my life back. The admissions office insisted I didn’t owe them that phone call. Like proud parents everywhere, I took the highly coveted university decal mobile. Clinging to the rear window of our SUV, the victory sticker symbolized closure from a process I thought would never end. This would be the last and most expensive decal on the journey of parenthood. Soon the nest and the bank account would be empty.

“What will you do with your time now that you won’t have to nag him to write essays and study SAT words?” my mother asked. 

That’s when it hit me…maybe I could offset college sticker shock by creating my own line of empty nest bumper stickers. I was never a bumper sticker mom but I’ve spent enough time on the road to notice the epidemic. Ever since they took baby on board, people have been taking their family business out for a test drive. For the put-it-out-there proud and bragging parent, car decals are a way of life. For some, they are the best invention since vanity plates. We know their children’s names, sports, musical instruments, and grade point averages. If the university sticker is the end of an era, empty nesters will be in decal deprivation once their honor students secure bachelor’s degrees. 

“Let me get this straight, you feel obligated to create a line of midlife bumper stickers?” My husband wasn’t convinced. 

“That’s right, there are creatures of habit out there with midlife messages to broadcast. I can’t sit by and watch them drive off into the sunset of their lives in sticker-less sedans proclaiming absolutely nothing.”

I showed him three samples.

For the midlife driver with night vision problems: “I Brake For Just About Everything”

For the midlife driver with a little extra time: “I Heart Naps”

For the empty nester with senior moments: “I THINK My Kid Was An Honor Student”

“Those are very cute,” he conceded, “but this sounds like a big commitment. I kind of thought you’d have some time for me once the kids were gone.”

“Excellent point.” I jotted down another one sure to generate profits that will cover 4 years of college.

For every woman with a needy spouse: “BIG Baby On Board”. 


Author’s Bio

Nancy berk  Humorist Nancy Berk is a psychologist whose blend of comedy and clinical expertise puts everyday life on the couch. Author of “Secrets of a Bar Mitzvah Mom”, Nancy’s style has been described as “Dr Phil meets Erma Bombeck”. She’s been spotlighted in the New York Times about over-the-top bar mitzvahs and interviewed by the Wall Street Journal on how to navigate nightmare double dates. She has written for, Weight Watchers, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. An adjunct university professor and accomplished lecturer, she has appeared on television and radio and most recently on stage with her standup comedy. Her next book “College Bound and Gagged: How to Help Your Kid Get Into A Great College Without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship, or Your Mind” provides strategies, insight and absurdities for panicky parents everywhere. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and youngest son.

“Sticker Shock” is reprinted with permission from the author.