Wednesday, November 10, 2010

(Soon to be) Giving Thanks

Look at the background on my laptop or in my home office and you’ll see it: a shot of my son, Phil, engaged in conversation with President Obama. How did he do it? He found out online (of course) that, in conjunction with MTV, the President was hosting a youth town hall meeting in Washington, DC. Hot to make the most of his college experience – he’s a freshman at GW – my son applied, was interviewed and offered a spot in the audience. By a sheer act of randomness, Phil was seated directly in front of the President and adjacent to his water glass! Since they didn’t have time to meet during a break, the President approached Phil after the show and they talked. Needless to say, Phil was thrilled, as were his parents.

When I think back on where we were a year ago, I certainly didn’t think I’d be writing about Phil meeting the President. Instead, we were caught up in our own world of college admissions. How many schools should he apply to? (I had heard 12 was the going number.) Did his Personal Essay do enough to woo the readers in the many admissions offices? Why wasn’t he seeing his college counselor, that very person who was writing his recommendations? Would he withstand the pressures of his very competitive high school and come up with a better-than-respectable mid-year report? Who else was applying to his top choices?

If you are the parent of a senior, perhaps you are facing some of these challenges. You’re probably wondering, “Why didn’t they tell me that the first half of the senior year is actually worse than the junior year? What if [fill in the name] messes up and schools get a negative report in January? What if [fill in the name] doesn’t get in anywhere?” If you are the parent of a junior, you may have similar fears or questions. Knowing that your student is facing a sea of tests, quizzes, quests, SATs, ACTs and APs in the coming months doesn’t do anything to ease your nerves.

Here’s the good news: you will all make it! Parents: Your student will survive, and maybe even thrive. (You’ll probably settle for survive.) Next year he or she will be in a great school, and instead of worrying about applications, you will be talking about roommates, dining options and holiday break. Seniors: You need to divide what seem like insurmountable tasks into manageable pieces. For example, don’t attempt to apply to 12 schools at once, but plan to have all those applications in on time, breaking up your list by priority schools and priority dates. The more applications and essays you do, the more the experience will pay off. Have a set of trusted eyes handy to check key dates and help proofread applications. Juniors: Select the timing of your standardized tests with care. Curtail unproductive activities, but keep those about which you are passionate. See your teachers (please)!

Be thankful that by next year at this time, you will have even more expertise as a parent, friend and adviser. Be thankful for the friends who support you. Who knows? Maybe a year from now, someone you know will be meeting the President!