Archive for the ‘college applications’ Category

Get A Job!

I was driving my younger son and his friend to soccer practice when they both started lamenting how busy they are this summer. My son’s friend is starting driver’s education as soon as soccer ends because, as he explained with a touch of sarcasm, “I can’t have one day with nothing to do.” My son groaned in sympathy. “I know,” my son added. “I don’t have a single day off this summer.”

Insert eye roll here.

I have no sympathy for this complaining. First of all, taking driver’s ed and playing soccer were my son’s requests, not mine, (as if I want another teenage driver in my house!) and, more importantly, he was complaining about being bored two days after school was out!

It would be great if he could have one of those idyllic 70’s summers. I can picture it perfectly: he would yell up the stairs in the early morning to say goodbye to me, the screen door slapping behind him before I can react. Then he would head to his best friend’s house on his bike and they would wander the neighborhood picking up other friends while looking for something to do, eventually following the railroad tracks to find the body before Keifer Sutherland and the other greasers could find it.

Oh wait. That’s the movie, Stand By Me.

All kidding aside, I wish he could have one of the carefree summers of my youth.

But he can’t.

They no longer exist.

Unless we parents collectively decide to yank our kids out of ALL activities my son will be home—alone—playing video games and watching YouTube videos, all day, EVERY DAY while his peers continue with their extensive summer plans.

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This trend is not going anywhere especially if you factor in the get-into-college-summer-resume-building frenzy of activities that all high school teenagers seem to be involved in.

My son is a rising high school sophomore and according to the Internet (where everything is true) my son should be on a service trip in Guatemala or working on a novel or starting a company in our garage (although that would be nice…).

With nothing but soccer and driver’s education on his agenda, his college admissions resume will be light.

There go the Ivy’s.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of a new book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” and author of The New York Times article, “What’s Your Teenager Doing This Summer? In Defense of ‘Nothing” wants parents to take back summer. She encourages parents to jump off of the get-into-a-good-college bandwagon and let “summer feel like summer again.”

She believes that free time will morph into time spent “cooking, biking, building models, drawing, talking to Grandma, reading books from the library, keeping a journal, feeling bored, making money mowing lawns or washing cars, noodling around on the piano or the guitar, learning how to drive, going for a swim, daydreaming in the hammock, lying on the grass staring up at the clouds.”

Hmm…I don’t know many teens who would fill their days daydreaming in a hammock or talking to their grandparents. I know my kid wouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree that teens should not spend their summers padding their high school resumes but should they really spend their summers doing nothing?

I have a better idea: let’s tell our teens to get jobs.

Not an “internship” at a family friend’s company but a real job. Preferably an annoying job with a bad boss, mean customers and a lot of responsibility.

This works on so many levels. Not only will your teen have some activity to fill his days but, if you, or your kid, care about the whole resume-building exercise, he will develop skills he would never develop if he was on a 3-week trip to the Galapagos Island with a staff to help him navigate the experience.

Maybe, because I’ve been through the get-into-college rodeo already, I recognize that the over-priced, completely scheduled, 2-week summer service trips and the full-time internships that Lythcott-Haims mentions aren’t fooling any admissions counselors.

What stood out on my older son’s resume wasn’t his two-week trip to a tropical paradise to tag turtles (yes, we were those parents) but his summer jobs as a baseball coach and a camp counselor for nine-year-olds. Talk about developing communication and problem solving skills! And those were just the skills needed to deal with the parents.

But, and this is important, he didn’t get those jobs with an eye towards his high school resume; he took those jobs to make money and because he likes kids. The rest (the experience, the learned skills, the connections) was just a bonus.

So, when your kid asks to go to Hawaii for three weeks to help the dolphins or you feel the itch to sign your kid up for one more learn-to-code class, hand your son or daughter the Help Wanted section from the local paper instead.

Then start planning your trip to a tropical paradise with the money you will save.

What are your teens doing this summer?

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Dear College Admissions Officers

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Dear College Admissions Officers-

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to make a plea for my kid to get into your school. I am submitting an application for you to complete for my consideration of your school.

See, if I’m going to sell myself to the devil in order to help pay for my son’s education, I think I have the right to make you impress me.

Yes, we’ve visited the schools, attended the info sessions and reviewed the websites to make sure that you are a good fit for my kid but really, is that enough?

I know that you are going to put on your best face to appeal to me and my kid. You will have the best-suited kids give the tours and sit on the discussion panels but we all know that those kids reflect the top 5% of your student body. I want to see the other 95%. Do all your students have double majors and triple minors and have they all started their own companies/written a novel/cured a disease?

Really?

Sure, you could argue that you don’t need my kid – there are thousands of kids who would happily take his spot. That is why I’m petitioning every parent of a future college student to include this application as part of the process going forward.

Don’t be intimidated by the questions. They are quite simple. In fact, many of them are very similar to the ones that you asked my son to answer on your application so, yes, they may seem a bit familiar*. This is designed to make it easier for you and, more importantly, to explain what you were thinking when you wrote the question asking a 17-year-old what part of your strategic vision most appeals to him.

Please review the application questions carefully. Any misstatements will be held against you. Also, should your word count exceed the stated word limit your application will be deleted and you will be mocked.

  1. Please describe in 100 words or less what a real dorm room is like using at least four out of the five senses (bonus points for using taste). Please do not describe the dorm room that is used on tours, you know, the one decorated by Bed, Bath and Beyond and unoccupied by an actual student.
  2. Please explain why your campus food service is now limited to fast food chains and how you feel that three meals a day at Panda Express and Jimmy John’s will provide adequate nutrition for my child. Feel free to include medical journal articles in support of your answer.
  3. My family’s strategic vision promises to make my children competent members of society and to cultivate skills to enable them to contribute to society without asking family members to clean up after them. Please describe, in 300 words or less, how providing laundry service instead of forcing students to do their own laundry will promote our vision.
  4. Name one dish you would prepare for my family if we were invited to dinner at your home?
  5. Tell me your favorite joke and explain how telling me a joke will make me want to send my kid to your school.
  6. Do you have a scholarship for students of Eastern European Jewish/Greek Orthodox descent whose grandparents were in the scrap metal and/or restaurant business? If not, why not?
  7. Will my kid get a job when he leaves your school or will he be living with me again in four years? In 300 words or less tell me why I should believe you.

Applications must be submitted by midnight tonight. You will hear from us via email or possibly snail mail by March 18 or March 25 or possibly earlier, unless it’s later, depending on our mood.

Thank you for your prompt response,

Exhausted Mom of a College Applicant

*See if you can guess which questions were based on real application questions.

Nightmare on Oak Street

Halloween is full of frightening possibilities: haunted houses, slasher movies, costumes dripping with fake blood. But, nothing is as scary as dealing with the college applications process.

It’s enough to give you nightmares. Literally.

Last week I dreamt that the University of Wisconsin at Madison denied my application for admission.

Denied! Not even wait listed?!

No matter how much I pleaded with the admissions officers they wouldn’t budge. It didn’t matter that I already had an undergrad degree—and a law degree!

“We are a very selective school,” the admissions officer reminded me. “You will have to do better.”

(FYI: I didn’t go to the University of Wisconsin, I didn’t apply to the University of Wisconsin, my son has not applied to the school nor does he want to go there so I’m not even sure why I’m dreaming about that school.)

As if that wasn’t bad enough, last night I had a dream that I was admitted to some nameless/faceless school but once I got there I couldn’t leave.

No matter what mode of transportation I chose, I couldn’t get off that campus: I fell down when I was running away, the car wouldn’t turn on, the elevator wasn’t working, the taxi I got in kept bringing me back to the dorm. You name it, it happened to me. I was in my very own clichéd horror movie.

It would have been funny if it weren’t so scary.

So, why am I having these nightmares? I’m not the one with the looming deadlines and the multiple essays yet to be written. I’m not the one still weighing a decision to apply to a school with a November 1 deadline at 8:00 PM on October 31!!

I’m having nightmares because somehow, we parents have been roped into this process, a process that our parents weren’t even privy to. My parents didn’t even realize that I had sent in my college applications until they were in the mail. They didn’t read my essays or proof my application to check for stupid mistakes – that was all on me.

To top it off we parents now get constant updates from the college counselor’s office letting us know how much our kids need to get done and when. When I was in high school my mom and I had one meeting with my college counselor and that was the last my mom heard from him. No such luck here.

I understand that the college admissions process is ridiculously stressful for the students. Kids don’t apply to a handful of schools anymore; they apply to 10, or 12 or 15. And each application requires an essay (or three), and it really is a VERY BIG DECISION. The kids are stressed and this stress is spilling into other areas of our children’s lives, namely the dreams of their parents.

I can’t wait for him to get through this process and pick his school. Then I can have dreams about him being away from home and nightmares about how I won’t be able to reach him…

 

Happy Halloween

 

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