Posts Tagged ‘college’

Dear College Admissions Officers

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?


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


Go Away*

“I can’t wait to go to college!” my 17-year-old proclaimed.

Finally, I thought. I was so excited that I completely ignored the fact that he finished the sentence with: “…so I can get away from YOU!”


Whatever the driving force may be, I don’t care – he wants to leave!

I was worried for a while that I was making his life too easy and he would never want to go to college. He doesn’t need to set an alarm clock because I happily (?!) climb up and down the stairs every morning for at least a half-an-hour begging him to get out of bed. He’s never had to make his own dinner (if food is not prepared he’ll graze until he can get the car keys and go out to eat); and his sheets and clothes are (surprise!) always clean when he needs them.

Why would he want to leave?? (And more importantly, what is wrong with me??)

I know most adults would never leave a place where they are catered to, waited on and downright worshipped, so why would a teen?

But I have finally hit on the best way to get your kids to leave: annoy them, harass them, remove their bedroom door if you have to, whatever it is just do it and let them move out.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. But I really, really, really want them to go to college – preferably a college that requires a 3-4 hour plane ride from home. Of course I will miss them but I will see them again – there are lots of breaks from school where they can come home, sleep late, visit their friends and borrow our car. Breaks that are just long enough to remind me that I want them to become productive members of society so they can move into their own homes and do their own laundry.

When we first started discussing college with our son, I didn’t really think that I would need to sell him on the idea of going away. It’s college! It’s freedom! It’s fun! But he just didn’t seem to grasp that.

We wanted to show him college students having fun (no, not playing beer pong or doing shots off of a co-eds belly) so we sent him to a college football game. Take my advice: If you are trying to sell your kid on the idea that college kids have SO MUCH FUN then don’t let him go to a football game on a rainy 43–degree day with his dad, uncle and grandfather and make him sit in the stands until the end of the game even though the final score is 83-10.

He won’t even look at a Big 10 school now.

We tried other tactics like stopping at a college that “just happened to be on our way” to our destination and scheduling college visits with his friends but nothing motivated him…until we demanded that he give up his phone at 11:00 pm every night.

Now he can’t wait to get away. Who knew?

I have to wield this new power wisely though. I don’t want to tighten our rules so much that we find him climbing out the window in the middle of the night to flee from the tyranny. No, I will pull out the demands only when I find him getting a little too comfortable in our home like when he plops himself on a stool at the counter and says “breakfast,” or when he’s out of clothes and asks me when I’m going to finish his laundry.

Then all bets are off…


*I’ve been holding on to this piece for the past couple of days because it seemed contrary to what I was feeling since the bombing incidents in Boston. This blog post is about wanting my kid to “Go Away” but on Monday I was prepared to have both of my kids live with me forever if it meant I could protect them from random acts of violence. But with a few day’s distance I remembered that no matter where my kids are I will worry about them. It doesn’t matter if they are running down the stairs too quickly at home or driving home from college, I will worry. If I tried to protect them from everything I wouldn’t allow them to go to the movies or a shopping mall without me and they wouldn’t be allowed to participate in largely populated events, teach children in elementary schools or even attend college. And those are only the events of the past year and a half. And so, it is with that in mind, that I can say my kid will leave home and I will worry but it is the way it’s supposed to be.

Beyond the Ivy

I live in a highly competitive town; the kind of town that is populated by over-educated, type-A parents who breed over-educated, highly competitive, type-A kids. Why, you may ask, do I live here? Well, when your kids are little and you are looking for a house you are easily swayed by a nice, safe community and blue ribbon schools. What you don’t realize though, is that while you intend to read Goodnight Moon and Polar Bear, Polar Bear to your kids, your neighbor will be reading Anna Karenina and War and Peace to his kids…in Russian.

Little by little though (when it’s too late to uproot your family) you start to see the signs: your kid can’t play competitive baseball past the age of 9 unless he can make the travel team (and if he can’t make the travel team then it’s time to pick a new sport); your daughter can’t get the lead in the community play and play soccer at the same time because only serious actors need apply for the leads; and don’t even think about having a child who wants to play an instrument in high school and explore another subject as an elective.

Although we managed to avoid most of that stress for the first 15 years of our oldest child’s life nothing prepared me for the ultimate competition…the college search.

My 16-year-old attends a public high school with over 4000 kids—1100 of them are juniors like he is—and apparently every single one of those juniors is going to an Ivy League University.

That’s right!

According to every parent that I run into his/her child is being courted by or committed to an Ivy! And they are only juniors!

Ok. Clearly many (not all) of them are full of shit but it still makes me feel like I’ve failed miserably at something. I want to pretend that my son is going to Princeton too!

It’s hard not to get caught up in the frenzy when you are surrounded by parents who are masters of the “humble brag”:

Poor Muffy! I don’t know how she is going to choose between Yale or Harvard. I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes!


Did your son hear from Northwestern and Duke yet? Our mailbox is bursting with catalogs and letters from them. I figure everyone is hearing from them, right? It couldn’t just be my son, could it??

When I first heard about that kid being inundated with college mail I started to panic. Sure, my son was getting emails and brochures from schools but we weren’t buried in mail!

Then a friend pointed out that my son probably didn’t check the box on the ACT application that allows schools to send him materials.

It took everything in me not to find his login and check that damn box. Who knows what schools would send him brochures?! Then I would feel wanted!

Uhm, did I say I? I meant he. He will feel wanted. That’s right – this has nothing whatsoever to do with me.

And just like that I get sucked into this ugly place where I start to feel bad about my kid’s prospects even though he is doing really well.

When I am able to step off the habitrail of college craziness, I realize that I don’t actually care that my son is not looking at an Ivy League school. Contrary to what my neighbors say not everyone will attend a top tier school nor should they. It reminds me of something that author and psychologist, Madeline Levine said in the documentary, “Race to Nowhere.” I’m paraphrasing here but she pointed out that when we were growing up (I’m speaking as a 40-something here) we knew that some kids would go to Harvard…now everyone thinks they are.

My son would not thrive at a highly rigorous university—for a dozen reasons (and no, I’m not trying to rationalize anything). My oldest is not an academic. He does not love to study. You will never catch him researching some random topic or reading the encyclopedia for fun (yes, that is what I used to do and yes, I am a total dork). But sometimes you realize that your kid is not you and they have other tremendous skills that are worth encouraging.

For instance, my oldest is highly adept at bringing disparate groups of people together and creating amazing connections between people. And—in what I view as his greatest skill—he has an uncanny ability to get other people to do things for him. Just the other day I told him that he couldn’t go out until he shoveled our sidewalks. Fifteen minutes later two of his friends showed up at our door with shovels in hand and helped him clear the snow.

I guarantee they can’t teach that in college. Ivy League schools be damned.

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