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?
Grace scheduled overnights at each of the three top choices. The idea was that she would attend the accepted students’ events, weigh the pros and cons, and make an informed, measured decision based upon apples-to-apples comparison points. Good plan. Only it didn’t happen. We drove south to the pleasant climate of the first school, where everything was in bloom and the kids were in shorts and flip-flops. She overheard some students talking about how their math professor had just held class outside, doing computations on the sidewalk in chalk, to take advantage of the beautiful day. She went to a freshman biology class. Certain to seal her destiny, the class studied the intersection of biology and behavioral science, her field of interest. On top of it all, the food was good!
We left campus the following morning, sweatshirts purchased, and dreams awakened. But the plan was still in place – Grace would fly to the second school the following day, and gather her information. Hours later, somewhere on the Baltimore beltway, we were talking about how to make the decision: When do you really know? Is there one right answer? She blurted out that she didn’t even want to look at the other schools – she couldn’t picture herself anywhere else, that her heart was already full. As the choice has always been hers, that, pretty much, was that.
So, how did she choose? Was it the warm breeze? Or how she would feel wearing her new sweatshirt to school the next day – the name-brand swag value? Was it the course descriptions, or the fact that the freshman D1 basketball player was living in the same dorm where she stayed? Or was it that, as she said when we left Baltimore the day before, “I feel like I’m going home.”
Grace did not get in to every college she applied to. She didn’t get into any of the Ivies, which she thought was really important to her. But, in the last few days, she has admitted that was more about her own vanity than real desire, and that she would happily get rejected at Princeton 100 times over if it meant she could go to the school she has chosen. We know her decision is right. You can just feel it. There is a fit, a compatibility, a little like falling in love. Despite the angst, the months of waiting and wondering, the challenge of sorting through all the competing values of curriculum, geography, size, vibe, acceptance and rejection, she has hit the target in the center. She said it best: “After everything, I’m going to end up exactly where I am meant to be!” Whether that is true, or just what she believes, doesn’t bear distinction. She is happy. Which means, so are we.