This blog was penned by our colleague, Carin Smith, who served as our Chicago-based regional admission director for 18 years before she decided to hang up her Lawrence gear and tackle the next big challenge in her life, which will move her closer to two of her now-college-graduate children who live in the San Francisco Bay area. Even though she has moved on, the advice is still spot-on.
You’ve probably caught on by now that there is a LOT of waiting in the college admission process:
Colleges (and parents) waiting for students to submit applications.
Students (and parents) waiting for schools to respond with offers of admission.
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—all who have already gone through this process and found a happy home. As each of them approached their final college selection decisions in the spring of their senior years, I experienced some combination of the following, sometimes all at once:
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.)
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.
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?
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.)
And child #3 was a blissful combination of the older sibs in that she had a “system” (although not one that she readily shared with us unless we happened to be listening close enough to catch a quick snippet here or there): she made visits – where she allowed herself to be “all in” in order to get the best sense she could for fit and potential. She often didn’t open physical mail but did a fair amount of electronic and social media investigating. Truth be told, she had the benefit of watching this process unfold with her siblings (and several older friends) and she was SO over-anxious to be done with high school and done with the college selection process that the evening the final financial aid award arrived, she sat my husband and me down and simply told us where she would be matriculating the next fall. Not much fanfare or hoopla, but what seemed to be a solid and well-thought-out decision.
Which bring us to what might be your family’s current experience. 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.”
(Ugh, the WAITING!)
May the decision lead your children to colleges that fit them well, wherever that may be.