True to the right of passage, we will spend the 10 days of John’s junior year spring break touring college campuses. We have a list blending the suggestions of our private counselors, and a few that we have added. Yesterday, we toured the first university on the itinerary.
More from our writer, Elizabeth Frederick, who takes us on her third journey through the college application process in her column Getting In. This time she chronicles the experience with her son, a sophomore at a local all-boys school. Names have been changed to
prevent her kids from killing her protect her children’s privacy. -The Eds.
Our high school sophomore son, John, is officially on the college admissions grid. He has taken his first set of PSATs, and has a score report to compare with all other 10th graders in the country who have taken the PSAT. In addition to being a predictor of SAT performance, a tool for rising juniors who will be thinking more seriously about college admissions, the PSAT is combined with the NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation) offers scholarship programs for qualifying juniors in the very top percentiles.
Parents’ Weekend. A trip to the grocery store for healthy snacks to keep in the dorm room. A trip to the local Mall for new fall clothes. Nice meals out with roommates and new friends. A pitch from the university to join the “Parents’ Committee” or “Parents’ Club” or whatever your child’s school calls its volunteer fundraisers (which they charge you to join). We’ve just finished two parents’ weekends, back to back, and we’re broke!
I mean, it was so great to see the girls. Emily is making the transition to her “new” school as a sophomore transfer, and Grace has hit the ground running, facing all the freshman thrills. Seeing them doing well, growing where they are planted — that part is priceless. But the rest of it has a slightly insidious feel, like we are not even conscious of the up-sell. Their friends all seem more sophisticated, and better dressed, with better hair care products. It’s so tempting to change to make new friends. Alas, it never worked for me, and my guess is, wouldn’t work for them, either.
I miss you. I know it hasn’t been a whole week yet, but I do. I miss you like the sun would miss the moon, or the waves would miss the shore. For 18 years, we have been companion forces of the universe, rising and falling in time, coming and going together. But now, you are moving in your own direction, in your own time, as you should; and I miss you.
This morning, the house is quiet. I passed your empty room, and my heart got heavy. It will be months before you sleep here again. You will be so busy making friends, navigating roommate issues, adjusting to college classes, learning how to eat from a cafeteria every day (and possibly learning how to drink shots). I know you will do great – we have watched you conquer obstacles your whole life, and there is nothing you can’t do.
I will miss your beautiful face, and the radiance that surrounds you wherever you are. I will miss your sparkling eyes, wide open to the world of possibilities that lie in your future. I will miss your laughter – crazy, loud, quirky, and totally joy-filled.
How is it over? I don’t think I looked away, but somehow I didn’t see it happening right now. Her childhood is over. Grace has grown up. And Monday, she leaves. I am stunned by the truth I have always known, and at this minute it is raw, and painful. I will miss my little girl.
I spent the evening putting together a collage of Grace’s childhood – proof for her future roommates that it was a happy one, and that she comes from a loving family. I dug through boxes of old photos – remember when we had boxes and envelopes of photos? Duplicates of everything so we could send them to grandparents? Well, all the old photos are in the basement, in dusty under-the-bed storage containers. I sat on the floor, sifting through the years, staggered by the speed of life.
There are almost two decades of sheer beauty in there. A life time, our life times. Birthday parties with homemade Barbie cakes, pony rides, Halloween costumes, Christmas stockings, so many summers at the beach and lake, years when she lived in dress ups. Pictures of family trips, and of the everyday – baking cookies with big-girl aprons and baker’s hats, and flour all over the kitchen. How is that all in our past?
Her last spring concert. There she stands, on the stepped up bleachers, facing the darkened auditorium, so many spring concerts behind her. She is beautiful. Radiant. With the light of possibility streaming from her. Standing in heels she could not have balanced in a few short years ago. Her heart sings in tune with the other young women in her a cappella group. Sweet harmony among friends made through the sometime painful years of growing up. We stare at Grace, our own hearts so full of love, and hope, and the melancholy acceptance of the passage of time.
This is her season of lasts. The last gym class, the last day of high school, the last AP test, the last spring concert. The seniors are excited. They all know where they are going in the fall, and their only thought now is to celebrate their friendships, and the accomplishments of their high school careers. They are focused on being together, creating those final memories of this time of growth and learning, in the classroom and out, knowing that everything is about to change. They are excited, but they are also a little nervous. At least Grace is.
She’s in! And has had a few days to celebrate with the victory lap. Grace got in to her first-choice college. Honestly, I don’t think she absolutely knew it was her first-choice until after she received word of acceptance, but the essential, visceral, uncontrollable happiness that came rushing out from her when she read the email told it all.
We are so happy for Grace. She has worked really hard for so long, with the goal of making choices; being in the driver’s seat in terms of where to go to college; picking them, not having them pick her. Now, she has the steering wheel firmly in her grasp. What we have observed, though, is something a little more complicated than the experience of the little girl who gets the present she really wants for Christmas. The options have dimensions. She has to deliberate. There is her first-choice school – an excellent, mid-sized, competitive liberal arts college with a great athletic program, in a cool city. Then, there is the uber-academic choice – probably the highest ranked of her acceptances, in a less desirable location (it’s COLD there, from October through April), with a questionable reputation for being a no-fun destination. Finally, there is our fine state school, to which she has received a full scholarship, and admission to the Honors College and Gemstone Program, an elite living and learning curriculum centered around a group research project. Each of the options has strong appeal. So, how to decide?