There was a great piece in the Huffington Post about why your child didn’t get into the college of their dreams. I read it with an enormous sense of relief that I was past this period of my life, and empathy for all of the parents out there who are going through the nerve wracking process of finding out where their children got in…and where they didn’t. For me, waiting to hear where my daughter, and then two years later my son, were admitted was a lesson in patience, acceptance, and most of all a big ol’ reality check. Because as the author of the piece in the Huffington Post says, no matter how brilliant, talented, special and worthy you think your child is, there’s someone out there much, much better.
Perhaps the college admissions process is just one of the many steps in separating from your child before they leave home. Applying to college is, or should be, an undertaking done by your child with minimal input from you. Their essay should be in their words, the schools they apply to should be those that they find interesting, and ultimately where the decide to attend should be their choice – with financial input from you, of course. However, should is easy for me to say in hindsight – and though I didn’t actually write my daughter’s essays or choose where my son would apply, I was as, if not more, emotionally involved in the ins and outs of their experiences as they both were. I couldn’t help it – I had been there with them through everything else in their lives, and this – well, this was the biggest thing of all. What I should have done – and what I would advise others to do – IF THEY CAN – is to step back – way back – and share the experience with a little less emotional connection and a lot more faith that things will turn out ok – which of course they did. There were some disappointments, of course – but there were also some major triumphs, and in the end they both chose the schools that they felt were best for them.
The next thing I would not do – and would urgently advise other parents not to do – is have access to their children’s applications and status pages on the websites of the schools where they applied. Both of my kids gladly shared their passwords with me, which was not a good idea, as I became even more compulsive about checking for updates than they were. I believe that my son learned about every acceptance he got from me. When acceptances were being posted and emailed for my daughter, she was traveling through China with her high school show choir, and it was left to me to find out whether she was admitted to her two top choice schools. When finally her admission to Boston University, where she ultimately decided to go, was up on their website, I called her father at 5 a.m. China time and had him get her out of bed so I could give her the news. There was no way I was going to be able to wait for her to find out two days later when she returned. In hindsight, I should have let her have the pleasure of opening the email that said “we want you,” rather than hearing it from her mother – just writing that down makes me cringe.
Finally, the most intelligent and rational thing you can do – which of course I didn’t do – is realize that no matter what happens, it is happening NOT TO YOU, but to your child. YOU have no control. YOU are not going to be able to fix this. YOU have to hand it over to the college fates, the admissions officers, or whatever star you wish on for an acceptance email/letter/package from the college of your – I mean your child’s – choice.
They’re ready to grow up – now it’s up to you to let them. But no one ever said it would be easy. It certainly wasn’t easy for me.