Wednesday, October 19, 2011


As many of you know, the first wave of college application deadlines is coming up on November 1. I thought this might be a good time to recap the whole process (from a parent's point of view) up until this point. Here's how it has looked so far:

Last winter: Start worrying about campus visits. Don't actually do anything about it but talk to every mom you know until you hear a rational strategy that you might follow. Hear this advice "Don't take any special trips out of the way, but visit colleges if you are traveling anyway." Love this advice! Take this advice and run with it.

Spring Break: While in Florida go ahead and visit a Florida college:University of Miami. As you are escorted around the lush green grounds taking in the sights of bikini-top girls and frisbee-playing boys wonder why in the hell you chose to go to a frigid Big-Ten school that had weather like this ummm, well, NEVER. Fall into a deep depression as you realize that your fun college days (which were definitely not as fun as these kids are having...hey are those hammocks between palm trees over there?) are not only behind you but decades behind you. Try not to cry just a little as you are filled with deep, bitter, regret. Have your kid declare this school is NOT his cup of tea.

Summer: Make a few half-assed plans to travel to see more colleges. Try not to listen to your friends when they tell you they have been flying along the East and West Coasts taking their smarty-pants kid to colleges. Wonder why you are even friends with such over-acheivers. Make a note to start having coffee and drinks with people who have much lower aspirations for their offspring. Visit some of the schools you can get to easily. Repeat more or less the Florida experience ("Why didn't I come here?! This is way more fun/cool/funky/ than where I went?") Have kid declare the most expensive one you visit "Is just where I belong". Wonder how people pay for this. Get used to everyone in the world asking your kid what his college plans are. Coach him to just say the name of a college so they will stop bugging him. Maybe even make up a name of a college to watch people make a funny frowny face as they try to think of something to say.

Late Summer: Realize you are in no way going to find "the school" for your kid before application time. The one school he declared he belongs at does not offer the program he wants. Realize further you don't have to figure this out right now...he can apply and then you can visit the ones he gets into. See his transcripts and realize that when the counselors talked about the importance not of just the grades but the trend of the grades that his are not trending the right way. Realize maybe you won't have many schools to visit when it all shakes out.

Fall: Start full-time nagging of your kid regarding application process. Attend yet another parent meeting to go over all the things your slacker kid is supposed to do to apply to each college. Curl up in the fetal position just thinking about it. Watch as your kid acts like it is no big deal. Continue nagging. Set up a weekly meeting with him to go over the progress he has not made and continue to nag. You should be nagging him about filling out the common application, writing an essay, getting teacher recommendations, sending ACT scores, and ordering transcripts. Nag some more.

Early October: It is crunch time. Go out to dinner with your husband and talk about nothing but how your kid has not done anything towards applying to college. Realize, hey, I went to college. Call the blockhead into the living room for the weekly ass-kicking and inform him it is up to HIM to get himself into a college--you are done. Watch his face with its funny mixture of relief and horror.

Mid October: Watch your kid scramble to get all the things done he needs to get done. Enjoy this tiny moment in which you have managed to put the stress back where it belongs. Mix a cocktail even as he sweats over his essay. Be very happy you do not have to do this. Be a little sad you do not get a do-over for college.

So that's where we are. How about you? For all of you with Seniors (and I know a lot of you) I hope it's going pretty much on target and your kids make the November 1 deadline. If you have had to nag them a tiny bit...I'm pretty sure you are not alone.

Happy Halloween!


  1. Well, at least right after your own college time you spent a summer in the Netherlands, just so you'd know that there were places with an even worse summer climate on the planet. That must have been a relief.

  2. This is so funny, yet so true. Notice how after every college the most recent one visited seems the best! What amazes me after helping hundreds of students go through this process, is that no matter how long or indirect the route, most kids get where they need to go next one way or another.