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It’s college acceptance season, time to wait by the mailbox

Ahhhh, spring. A time to buy maple syrup and put away our ski stuff. A time when we eagerly anticipate green grass and daffodils.

For many high school seniors, it is a time to anticipate news from colleges. It’s been months since those applications were sent, and now students and their parents are checking mailboxes.

Some of us are a bit more vigilant than others.

My poor daughter. Last fall I was positively bursting with helpful tips that may have been interpreted as micro-managing the college application process. I sent her links to articles on writing the perfect essay and suggested outfits from my own closet for her interviews. While she was busy studying world history and rehearsing for the high school play, I was on the internet reading articles like “Why you should hire a college consultant when your child is six” and “Top ten scholarships for brunettes.”

Eventually she shut me down by putting her hands on my shoulders and telling me, “I got this, Mom.”

My internet research convinced me that she didn’t have a prayer of getting into college, and it was all my fault. Instead of sending her to a performing arts camp, she should have been taking summer courses on how to cure cancer. We should have moved to a yurt, amputated one of her limbs, and made her get a black belt while tutoring refugee children. We should have foregone our family trip to Harry Potter World so that she could take an intensive SAT prep course and train for a marathon. In the marathon, she would finish last, but carry some abandoned puppies across the finish line with her, as that is more important than winning.

So, despite certain failure to be accepted anywhere but Joyce’s School of Beading, my daughter applied to several schools without any parental assistance. None. I’ve still never seen the online Common Application, I never checked her list of extracurricular activities for accuracy, and her recommendations could have been written by my 9 year-old niece and the mail carrier.

So now it is March and we are waiting. When you apply to college these days, there are three notification options. Rolling Admission means the school will let you know as soon as they feel like it, which may be sooner than later if they really like you and there’s a building named after one of your relatives. Early Decision means you absolutely positively love a school and it will commit to you before Christmas, as long as you promise in writing not to date any other schools. Early Action means you really, really like a college but aren’t quite sure it’s The One.

Then there’s Regular Decision, for which you need to wait until April, or if you’re lucky the end of March. For weeks, while your son or daughter is concentrating on such important things as potential prom dates and the last <insert sport here> game they’ll ever play, you go to the mailbox daily hoping for word from <insert top college choice here>.

You hope that word comes in a big envelope.

My daughter has been accepted to a few schools, and since they all have lovely campuses and excellent student-faculty ratios, naturally her choice will come down to the coolest-looking acceptance package. Before digital media, you would get a big, white envelope with a lovely letter and many forms to fill out. Today, schools send packages resembling wedding invitations on steroids, with their glossy folders and RSVP envelopes. Should we choose the school which sent a shiny red folder containing a personalized note from the person who interviewed her or the blue folder with a tri-fold whose colorful contents come out of little pockets like an advent calendar?

Placed at the very back of all the welcoming messages and reasons why your child should choose the school is the financial aid package. This is my husband’s territory, and after glancing through the first Financial Award Summary he announced, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.” The bad news was that the school gave us nothing but a puny federal loan which is .05 percent of tuition and given to any prospective student with a pulse.

The good news was that apparently we are rich. Yup, the financial geniuses thought we could afford to pay tuition that was more than half of our combined annual salary. Apparently, they’ve never seen my teenage son eat.

Our daughter is a great student, but it seems only the super-human among high school seniors get the real money.

She didn’t get perfect scores on her SATs, nor did she have a photograph of herself working with a Nobel prize winner. However, I guess it’s not too late to seek out scholarships for kids who are one-eighth Irish and those who are gifted fingernail artists.

Despite her control-freak mother, my daughter has done an amazing job navigating high school and getting into college. She has some great options, all of which were made possible without any help from me.

I am itching to offer advice on getting her a summer job, but if she asks, I think the proper response will be, “You got this, Em.”

Legacy Comments1

We're veterans. I've learned that the more involved our kids are in the app process, the more they own the experience and, probably, will manage their transition into the college years. Many parents front load the process with their "help" but after the drop-off, when we're out of it, is when their true commitment is tested. Good luck, she sounds ready.

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