Julie Stallman had big plans earlier this year after launching TriangleSeniorYear.com, an online business directory with everything families with high school seniors would need — from photographers for senior pictures to tutors for test prep to details about the college application process.
Then came the pandemic, forcing her to switch up her plans a bit. But she’s still been able to provide valuable content to a growing readership that has had to navigate senior years like no other.
The inspiration for the site, Stallman tells me, are her own two children — Ryan, 21, and Kelsey, 18. At the same time, the longtime marketing and graphic design professional also has an entrepreneurial spirit and loves developing new ideas. I checked in with Stallman, who lives in Cary with her husband, for more details about TriangleSeniorYear.com. Here’s a Q&A.
Go Ask Mom: Why did you start TriangleSeniorYear.com?
Julie Stallman: I started TriangleSeniorYear.com to help overwhelmed parents of high school seniors navigate the year. My two kids had two VERY different senior year experiences. Ryan attended a private online high school three out of the four years and was focused on just getting the work done and making it to graduation. He applied to one school, William Peace University in Raleigh, in early August of his senior year and was accepted the next. Aside from a big graduation trip to California, his senior year was just like every other year of school – basically a non-event.
When Kelsey’s senior year at Green Hope High School rolled around, I was much more like a first-time senior parent and it wasn’t long before I felt overwhelmed. Kelsey was very involved at school and between college applications, senior year events and all of her activities, I was caught off guard by just how much there was to keep track of.
I was lucky to have a group of friends, all with kids a little bit older than mine, who had collectively navigated senior year about a dozen times and they were an invaluable resource for me personally. But I found myself thinking, “What if I hadn’t had those friends to answer all of my questions and pass along recommendations for senior picture photographers and calculus tutors?”
Last fall, as I talked to friends and other senior parents, I realized that a lot of them didn’t have resources like I did and many were VERY overwhelmed. I knew that I could create something to fill that gap. Just a few months into Kelsey’s senior year the idea for TriangleSeniorYear.com started to come together.
GAM: What all does it offer?
JS: There are two pieces to TriangleSeniorYear.com: a business directory and information of interest to seniors and their families. The directory includes over 20 categories of businesses and vendors that you might seek or need during senior year. Everything from college admissions counselors, academic tutors and financial aid consultants to photographers, bakeries and event planners. Businesses can join the directory for free or choose to pay a very affordable premium for a listing with some bells and whistles.
The rest of the site is dedicated to providing information about senior year events and celebrations, and the college application process, including the transition to college. Since my level of expertise on many of the topics we cover is limited to what I experienced as a parent, I have a small group of amazing contributors who provide expertise where I cannot.
Visitors to the site will find pages like our Graduation Guide, which is full of tips and etiquette about all things high school graduation. But they might also visit our College Application Guide to learn the different ways to apply to college and the types of application deadlines.
GAM: You launched right before the pandemic began. How did you shift what you offered to help families now?
JS: I launched the site about six weeks before the pandemic hit and most schools in our area closed. Suddenly, senior year for the class of 2020, including my daughter, looked very different.
The content I had planned for the spring didn’t change entirely, but like everyone, I had to adapt it to a new and uncertain world. Admittedly, I grieved the loss of Kelsey’s final few months of her senior year for about a week, but like many quickly realized that it wasn’t lost, it was just going to be different.
And just like before I launched the site, I took inspiration from my friends and the people around me. You didn’t have to look far to find people in our community doing amazing things despite the pandemic. Like Apex Friendship class of 2020 graduate Sydney Turner who’s poignant video about her graduating class inspired me to scour YouTube for similar videos and share my five favorite “Dear Class of 2020” videos. Or the Roxboro family who pulled out all the stops to make sure their high school senior sweethearts had a truly amazing prom in their own backyards. They inspired me to research and write about how to throw a prom at home (at the time I certainly didn’t imagine that homecoming dances would likely have to be celebrated the same way and that the post would still be relevant this fall, but here we are).
GAM: You’ve helped your own kids navigate their senior year. There’s probably a ton of emotions – excitement, nerves, sadness that they’re leaving the nest. What’s your advice to parents out there with high school seniors?
JS: It’s funny, I recently wrote a guest blog post about this very topic. I asked a lot of moms of recent high school grads for their advice for the next group of senior parents. These are the three that resonate the most with me personally: First, seek the resources and support you need when you need it. You don’t have to know how to do all of this or have an answer for every question, but there are plenty of people out there who know exactly what to do. I think this especially applies to the college application process which can be very stressful and create a lot of tension.
Second, fight the urge to hold them too close. Instead, as the push and pull of your senior’s independence and self-sufficiency enters the homestretch, let go to the degree you’re comfortable (and if they’ve earned it). It will help them grow and you’ll feel more comfortable about their ability to handle life away from home next year.
And third, take more pictures! I know this year isn’t what you expected, but you should still capture the milestones and special moments because senior year, no matter what it looks like, only happens once.
GAM: How do you hope TriangleSeniorYear.com will grow into the future?
JS: It’s my plan to expand the content on the site to include topics like the academic requirements and processes around NCAA recruiting, as well as resources for those entering the workforce or military right after graduation. In general, I hope the site continues to grow and that the content and community we’re creating inspires businesses to join us, and high school seniors and their families to come to rely on us as a valuable resource.
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.