College Application Angst

college admissions


The college application process has begun.

Waldorf high schools really don’t start talking with their students about college until January of their junior year. Students take the PSAT the first part of their Junior year, review the results with their college counselor, and then college discussions begin in earnest. We are in earnest now.

The other night I mentioned to Cole that I had received an e-mail from his college counselor about attending our first high school college preparatory meeting. The meeting would take place the first week in February, and we would review a college to-do checklist and learn about the application process, scholarships and timeline in depth. I wasn’t expecting him to leap with joy, but on the other hand I wasn’t expecting him to say with absolute conviction, “I hate everything to do with this college process”—which he did. I tried (really) to offer a cheer of excitement and shine with a collegiate colored aura ,but Cole just looked at me. Hard. I agreed that the process sucked and offered to take brownies to the meeting.

How do I know the process sucks? I pay attention. And over the years, I have never heard one parent of a college-bound kid say, “Those college forms were sure easy to fill out” or “My kid did all his college essays in a week without any prodding from us at all” or “Financial aid forms were a breeze” or even “We never thought once about acceptance or rejection letters once the forms were in the mail.” What you do hear is teeth gnashing and exasperated wailing shared with friends and family throughout the entire college enrollment process. However, all the angst is worth it, right? Maybe for a brief moment, after the first few acceptance letters arrive, parents share how relieved and happy they are…and then you run into them after they drop their kid off at college and they share stories—stories of sitting on their kid’s dorm bed and running their fingers across the new Bed Bath & Bring it Back comforter, remembering how not so long ago their child’s comforter had been covered in colorful trucks. Then they blink back a tear and tell you how fast the time goes.

Cole hates the process for many of the same reasons I do: the firsthand experience of watching his friends struggle with testing, applications, parental pressure and disappointment. At least he goes to a Waldorf school, where the entire goal of high school is not centered on getting into the right college—and for that alone, Waldorf School tuition is worth it.

This is the first post of what will be many about my college-bound kid and our adventure. The next post will center on the stack of college mail sitting on my desk. Cole ignores the stack entirely, and I have only opened one piece that read, “The search for the right college is exciting, and we’d like to celebrate this time with you…”  I’m mailing them a brownie in the return address envelope.

Odd Loves Company.


17 thoughts on “College Application Angst

  1. My advice it not to get too stressed out, especially this early. You have plenty of time and there are plenty of good schools he can get in. The main thing to decide is what he might want to study, to major in, then look at schools known for offering good programs in that/those areas. And, does he want to stay in the Chicago area, and if not, where and how far? That can narrow it down too. The meeting sounds great because they will have lots of info, advice and deadlines to watch for.

    • I love hearing we are early. “Especially this early” are such soothing words. He is pretty clear he is interested in Industrial design (cars) so that is a start…and as luck would have it I think there are some pretty good schools within a 500 mile radius and in-state. Location will matter. Good question about Chicago. Most of the kids want to “go away” which is a shame because if they can get into them Chicago has some great schools. Thanks! ♥

  2. The good news is you’re getting an early start unlike my kid who waited until her senior year to even think about applications. The good and bad news is it will all be done before you know it. I have no doubt you and Cole will get through this with the same wit and perseverance you’ve shown in the past. I am only a message away from offering encouragement if you need it. Oh, and I’m really good at spreadsheets and charts (they saved my life during the process). Looking forward to hearing about this new adventure. Xoxo, Diane

    • Well…Cole would wait. I would wait but the school is pretty persistent about staying on top of us…Highschool graduates that move forward and attend good colleges is a pleasing thing to show perspective parents. Wait one dog gone minute….Spreadsheets?? I need spreadsheets and CHARTS. I have a box. I was told to buy a box and put everything into the box. I did. Nobody said nothing about no spreadsheets until now. Wait. Maybe Annilise did (down) but I didn’t listen. I’ll be asking more about those spreadsheets and charts thats for sure! I will also be clicking for thank you. ♥

  3. my hard fought *the dipr* arrived today. an oreos run is scheduled for tomorrow……thanks again! cute card, too!
    we adults were so lucky the college application process wasn’t this tedious when we went through it. i cannot add much more sound advice than ^. the sooner it’s begun, the sooner it’s finished. an early good luck!

    • Now…Diprs are FUN. Oreos are FUN. Go forth buy Oreos and be a dipper and report back :- D . Glad it arrived. Hope you liked the color. The card…next year I am looking into a Chinese New Year Theme. I mailed the last of them today.

  4. I’m here when you need me. Been there and done it with three (who be the way are very happy about their decisions!)

  5. Oh, my, this brings back soooo many memories! Love your description of the parent looking at the kid’s college dorm comforter and remembering the one the kid had with trucks on it — so true!
    I don’t want to speak out of turn here, but have you considered that Cole might be feeling torn about this process, too? I mean, it’s HARD to grow up — and go away — when you’ve got it so good at home. It’s the unknown that’s so scary! And putting off the application process is one way of ignoring the inevitable.
    It’s hard on parents, too. You don’t want your kid to think you’re eager to kick him out of the nest; at the same time, you know for his sake, that he might just need a little kick!
    Besides the conflicting emotions, of course, you’ve got all those complicated forms to fill out, deadlines to meet, application fees to pay, plus college visits (and the inane repeated brochures you’ll get from teeny-tiny schools no one’s heard of, and no one wants to attend).
    Hey, your fun is just beginning! Seriously, if you need or want any help or advice from me or Domer, just holler!!

    • Absolutely. Cole hates the process, has never been a fan of change or in a hurry to grow up. All of those things I’m guessing will come up along the college path, in the mean time the best I can be is an enthusiastic advocate for finding the right venue for where he wants to go next in his life….and make lots of brownies.
      My next post will more than likely be on college marketing and all those brochures. Yikes. Thanks for the words of encouragement…I plan to take you all along for the ride. First we bought a car together…and now we send Cole to college…..I love my blogging village! ♥

  6. I want to wish him back to 6 and start all over.
    I think you’ll both do a great job once you get in to it. I’m sure it’s very daunting when you first begin but it sounds like you have lots of people wanting to help.

  7. When Ben was a junior the parent meeting basically consisted of the College Prep Counsellor telling us all to take a step back from the process and let her manage. We were told we’d have a status meeting in the senior year. Boy, did that make the tuition valuable. Especially since Ben at the time wanted nothing to do with his Mom controlling his life. So I observed his struggles, but watched as he had to take some ownership. When his SAT came in disappointingly low, he asked me to help him study for the ACT (a few Saturday afternoons at the local library – with no distractions – was all it took). He was encouraged with his ACT and began to apply to the same schools as his friends. He also applied to two schools I selected and two schools his Dad selected. He let me read the college essay(s) and applications. But through it all he seemed completely detached. In December of his senior year we got called in by the Counsellor who said this was normal for boys. On the last day of February of his senior year, with me really starting to worry and not at all trusting the “process” I got home from work late. Ben aske me what time it was: 6:30. Central. He ran into his room and slammed the door – yelled at me to GO AWAY. ??? Half an hour later he strolled out and said he had just done (start to finish) a college application to a very good University in Canada – one neither his Dad nor I would have suggested as it was a tough school to get into. Ben also commented that the application was really different. He said it was like the school really wanted to know who he, Ben, was.

    Of course, a week later, he got a thick package in the mail. When he opened it he told me he got early acceptance into that school. I couldn’t help but be shocked, as was his Dad. But as you know, the rest is history. All that time he’d been going along with the “process” and trying to do what his friends did and what we were telling him to do, he was just intent on picking a school he wanted and a program he was interested in.

    And by the way, that last day of February was the deadline at that school for applications – and the cutoff was 8pm Eastern. So yes, he did in his usual fashion leave it to the last minute. And it was the only application he did on his own, essay and all!

    Knowing Cole and you I’m sure it will all turn out well. And have fun visiting college campuses. Though honestly we didn’t see the school Ben selected until he was moving in.

    • What a great story Joanne–thanks for sharing it. I hope our counselor says the same thing on Monday. I am hoping for a continued low key approach. Maybe the most important part of the process is not about the end result but letting your kid take the leadership role and learn more about themselves through the process.
      My heart was beating when I read Ben sent the application off (and he really wanted to go to the school in Canada) I did not want the next paragraph to read that he did not get in!! So happy it ended happily! I know it’s a part of life, my life too, but really is there anything much harder than seeing your kid disappointed….When I watch the Olympics I’m the one always cringing for the parents in the stands who are holding their breath :-D.
      Ben’s insightfulness into the process was also heartening. Obviously he was reviewing the process with more thoughtfulness than it appeared “He said it was like the school really wanted to know who he, Ben, was.”
      And now you have a Senior in college making his next big step! Go Mom! And thank you. ♥

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