The waiting… ugh, the WAITING!

You’ve probably caught on by now that there is a LOT of waiting in the college admission process:

  1. Colleges (and parents) waiting for students to submit applications.
  2. Students (and parents) waiting for schools to respond with offers of admission.
  3. And now, colleges (and parents) waiting for students to make a final college selection.

As impatiently as you may have been waiting for “the big envelope” from us, we now find ourselves on pins and needles (where does that oh-so-appropriate metaphor come from?) wondering which admitted students will respond with the great news that they will be enrolling at our schools.

If you’ve read the previous “Mom blogs” you know that I have three kids—two who have already gone through this process and a third going through it right now as a senior in high school. As the older two approached their final college selection decisions in the spring of their senior years, I experienced some combination of the following, sometimes all at once:

Anxiety
Part of me was anxious to see what their final decision would be… their seeming lack of urgency with this decision helped stoke this particular fire. (See “impatience” below.)

Introspection
I found many moments (often while folding their laundry or tripping over sports equipment left in the middle of the hallway) when I wondered how much my heart would ache when they finally did leave. Didn’t I just read them bedtime stories last night?

Impatience
I also discovered that during spring of their senior years these wonderful budding adults became, I’ll admit, a bit insufferable. I knew—at least intellectually—their moodiness and/or ambivalence might have been a response to their own concern about their final college decisions and all the emotion wrapped up with high school ending. But, really, I think we all had short fuses in those last weeks leading up to decision day.

Worry
I worried – too much – about whether they would make the “wisest” decision possible. (Translation: would they make the decision I thought would be wisest for them?)

I also learned that I have to follow the same advice that I’ve been giving to parents of college-bound kids for years: it’s not all about you. (It sounds really nice when I give that advice, but it stinks when I have to follow it myself.) Although I knew each of my kids would ultimately make a selection, I quickly discovered that their decision-making methods were very different from each other—and certainly quite different from mine.

My oldest daughter? A methodical list-maker, she devised a 5-point, multiple-category rating system to score each of her schools. It made perfect sense to her, but she didn’t share the results with anyone in our family for several weeks. It needed to settle in her mind before she shared it with anybody else. I was standing in the grocery store checkout line when she called me to “reveal” her decision – I will never forget it, and I presume neither will the checkout clerk, who might have been a bit surprised when I burst into tears for no apparent reason.

My son? Where his older sister trusted “data,” he embraced his inner Obi-Wan Kenobi and trusted “his feelings.” We made return visits to his top three colleges. (This was, if I’m being honest, at my insistence). It was a less scientific process, and the factors he considered were far more superfluous than I thought appropriate:

  • One return visit involved a 5-hour drive (one way) and resulted in a 2-block walk, on our way to the admissions office, at which point he turned to me and said, “This isn’t the one, Mom.” (A FIVE-HOUR DRIVE… PLUS TWO BLOCKS?!) This may come as a shock, but I’m a bit stubborn, which is why I demanded that he go through all the activities the admissions office had so carefully planned for him. (In hindsight, we should have trusted his feelings and gotten back in the car. His feelings were right.)
  • Another visit revealed that the campus was really WAY too close to the stadiums of professional sports teams that were arch rivals of the Chicago sports teams he had grown up rooting for. “Mom, I don’t think I could spend 4 years surrounded by the crazies that cheer for these teams.” My head almost flew right off my body when I heard this one. But his feelings were right.
  • At last, it was the third visit (why couldn’t it have been the first one?) that confirmed itself as “the one.” (I’m resisting the urge to make a Goldilocks “just right” connection here.)

Which bring us to what might be your family’s current experience (and mine, yet again). Whether your child is a list-maker, a dart-thrower, a gut-truster, or some other kind of decision-maker, remember that this process is ultimately about your child.

(OK, it’s about you, too… but I trust you know what I mean.)

The May 1 National Candidates Reply Date is approaching where students nationwide will deliver their “yays” and “nays.”

We’re waiting…

(Ugh, the WAITING!)

May the decision lead your children to colleges that fit them well, wherever that may be.

7 thoughts on “The waiting… ugh, the WAITING!”

  1. Carin – we not only share a last name, but we share the ages of our children. I too have slogged through this process with two older kids, and the stories I could tell! The eldest was the great obscurer – who tried leaving all applications unfinished with the ulterior motive of “spending the year traveling” (under the influence of a poorly chosen friend). Got through that, and she’s a successful business person and blogger today. The second child (artist) wanted to go to an acting conservatory, but knowing her to be a lifelong learner, we negotiated a liberal arts education with a major in Theatre. Now she’s musing about advanced degrees. Now comes our “baby”, and we’ve narrowed it to two choices. Lawrence, and Knox. I believe he’ll be happy with either choice, and for us it really comes down to financial aid offered. This waiting feels like a giant game of chicken!

    Anyway, I wanted to know your writings have made me laugh, and reminded me to keep a perspective on things. So, Thank you!

    1. Hang in there my friend (or should I say, “relative”)!! Once the decision is finally made, you’ll soon think, “wait, what was all the fuss about?”

  2. In response to Maneha Widarso, my son also is a “go with your gut” kinda guy and we had the luxury of being able to tour Lawrence in person. (I also am a marketing person, so I completely understand your fear of the marketing not living up to the reality.) I was so impressed with Lawrence, the random students I spoke to, the professors who stopped us to chat knowing my son was a prospect, the layout of campus and its setting in the quaint town of Appleton, the trimester vs semester scheduling, the importance placed on the study abroad program, and even the dining hall. I left there thinking if I had the choice to do it all over again I would choose Lawrence for myself (no disrespect to UW-W). Of course, I in no way showed my interest to my son for fear that it would adversely affect his “gut.” I am happy to say that after the waiting, he too decided Lawrence was the right choice for him. He is my first headed off to college and even though I am nervous about him moving out into the world on his own, I take comfort in knowing he picked a great school that will help him accomplish great things. Good luck to your son in making his decision. And good luck to you as you wait.

    1. Carin is on the road today, but I wanted to make sure we responded to this great news–and that we are thrilled to have your son with us at Lawrence!

    2. And………………we’ll take good care of him! Ken forgot that part – something all of us mom’s tend to want to know.

  3. My son is in the Obi Wan Kenobi category. My anxiety and his to a great degree lies in the fact we live on the opposite side of the world. There are no trips to colleges to feel the fit, there are no participation in admissions-organized activties. His decision will be based simply on a feeling from across the world. Images and perceptions garnered from pictures, videos, student comments, etc. Being an advertising professional, I know how to create perceptions different to the reality so that is what makes me nervous. Will the reality be as the communications campaigns crafted? So I am really praying for his instincts to be right. That he will make the right decision. I take comfort in the fact he selected them all based on his own criteria not mine.

    1. Oh wow! This is not an easy situation to be in, but I know that your “Obi Wan” will be well taken care of should he end up choosing Lawrence. From a mom standpoint though, let me commend you for your ability to both trust him on this and (I’m sure with a great lump in your throat) lovingly send him so far away to school. Good luck to all of you and please do keep us posted.

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