High Anxiety: How One Mom Is Holding Up in the College Application Process

There is nothing like the college application process to make you yearn for the old days — a solid dinner and a good night’s sleep in preparation for the SATs; maybe a few college visits before settling down, pen in hand, to tackle a handful of applications.

Published November 21, 2013 9:15 PM
3 min read

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There is nothing like the college application process to make you yearn for the old days — a solid dinner and a good night’s sleep in preparation for the SATs; maybe a few college visits before settling down, pen in hand, to tackle a handful of applications.

 

By Nicole Colwell

 

There is nothing like the college application process to make you yearn for the old days — a solid dinner and a good night’s sleep in preparation for the SATs; maybe a few college visits before settling down, pen in hand, to tackle a handful of applications. No Naviance databases to research, no risks to analyze, no websites to crash. And that college essay? More likely than not only one pair of eyes, in an admissions office, reading it alongside the application. But I am dating myself.

 

Flash forward to the present, where I can be found pacing back and forth across the family room as an error message pops up on my daughter’s computer screen for the fifth time. The deadline for early decision applications is fast approaching (indeed, by the time you read this, it will likely have come and gone), and we are mired in technical glitches that, truth be told, are nothing compared to the anxiety swirling around in my head. Fortunately, my daughter is far better equipped to handle the stress than I am. Technical issues on the computer do not send her into orbit. She simply exits out, taps at the keys, tries a different approach, and if she fails again, proceeds calmly until the document uploads with the corrections. As for me, ever mistrustful of technology, I feel compelled to read the application for the umpteenth time with an eagle eye for misplaced commas and inadvertent typos.

 

I know there are many out there who feel that parents should not be involved in the college application process at all. And certainly there is an ethical line that cannot be crossed. But proofing the Common Application (No, you were not born in Greenwich…you were born in New York City) and hovering in the background while a student uploads documents and then, one fine day, presses the submit button — that seems reasonable enough, if not particularly fun. Still there is a silver lining, one small part of the whole process that, looking back, actually feels gratifying.

 

Both my senior and her older sister, now a college sophomore, started to think seriously about their college essays as September of senior year approached. I encouraged them to toss out ideas and use me as a sounding board, brainstorming possible topics, both humorous and serious. And unexpectedly, these sessions became an opportunity to learn things about them that would not otherwise have risen to the surface — lessons they had absorbed over the years from life’s triumphs and failures, favorite books that lit a fire inside, and impressions drawn from trips around the country and overseas that gave them a new perspective on life in Rye. I was amazed at some of the insights that came out of this process. I never knew, for example, precisely what my younger daughter was feeling as she sat at the piano with a grand- mother who could not remember her name, but corrected every missed note with razor-sharp precision; or, at the end of the day, what the years devoted to travel and varsity soccer really meant to her.

 

At some point she/we pressed the submit button for an early decision application. And then my high school senior turned to me, sensing that I was still spinning in a vortex of anxiety about the out- come, and offered up the best insight of all. “Mom, its fine,” she insisted, tempering the frustration in her voice (This was, after all, her future and not mine). “The college will know if I belong there.” I love her positive attitude, so I tamp down all that I know, or think I know, about the admissions process.

Cross your fingers, for her and all the students out there awaiting the fat envelope … I mean the thumbs up e-mail. Whatever the outcome, there is comfort in the realization that our children are remarkably resilient, and well equipped to handle whatever the future holds.

 

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