Editor’s Desk

Column: The murky world of college

September 6, 2013 

We’ve heard it from friends. We’ve heard it from guidance counselors.

“There’s so much more to the process than you ever realize until you go through it.”

I’ve heard that so many times that I believed it to be true even before we actively began planning for college. All last year, we dutifully visited college campuses, wondering what our oldest daughter Anna Kate would think of the latest visit.

Would she be impressed by the campus far, far away from home? Would she like the familiarity of a college campus close by? Is this campus too big? That one too small?

How hard will it be to get into the college she wants to attend? Is there something we have to do other than fill out applications, like donating money to the athletic booster club? Where do we find all these scholarship applications for awards we’ve watched other children receive? And how much work do we need to put into an application for a small scholarship as opposed to a big one? Is it even worthwhile to apply for the big scholarships?

The truth is, we are just getting started down that long road and I don’t mind telling you, it’s daunting. For whatever reasons, colleges and universities, even as they increase their enrollments, are getting choosier about the students they accept.

As a parent, it’s hard to imagine that any college or university wouldn’t accept our daughter with open arms. But then, no one else, other than my wife, has put the sweat equity into that child that I have. After all the time we’ve spent trying to make sure she took the right classes and got the best grades she could, we’re left twisting in the wind and wondering if she should have joined one more club, scored 20 points higher on the SAT or gotten one letter grade higher in that class or this class.

As we’ve come to learn, it’s all about what the admissions office at any given university thinks on the day they review her application.

It’s an exciting time in our household, but I don’t mind telling you, it’s a bit daunting. While her mother and I worry about applications, scholarships and financial aid, Anna Kate is worried about the homework that’s due tomorrow.

Getting her to peek up from those books long enough to switch gears has been a challenge. And, after 12 years of insisting that she focus on homework, it seems a bit disingenuous to tell her now to set the homework aside for a little while to deal with something else.

Anna Kate should know in a few months what her college path will be. We’ll wait on pins and needles until she gets word. And while we will worry mostly about our own future, it’s worth noting we aren’t the only parents going through this ordeal. Others have gone through it before us. Still more will come in the years after us. Some students will get to attend the college of their choice. Others will revert to Plan B. I’m comforted to know that whatever happens, we’ll be able to rely on the kindness of friends to celebrate or commiserate with us.

But goodness it would be nice to have a clear crystal ball.

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