Hard to believe it’s been two whole years since that fateful day back in March 2020 when we got the call saying our boys would be sent home for two weeks until this new corona virus could be knocked out. Two weeks and two years later and it’s pretty incredible that Covid 19 is still in our lives and at the forefront of the news cycle and conversation. Will it still here be a year or two from now? Who knows but one thing’s for sure: none of us will forget where we were back in March 2020 and every day that we move away from that undeniably confusing and terrifying time is one step forward in the right direction. There is a part of me that wants to remember some of what we experienced back in those early days because it’s a good reminder as to what we ought not take for granted. Supply chain hiccoughs aside, I’m grateful all these months later when I go into the market and see the shelves stocked with food and toilet paper. And two years ago, our days may not have been considered very ‘fun,’ however it was a blessing to spend all that extra bonus time with the boys.
I think I’ll look back on those days with even more wistful longing now that the meter is running on our eldest son’s time left living here at home. How did that happen? I think when we started this newsletter he was around 6 or 7 and now we’re focusing on where he may go to college in just a few short months. I’m sure many of you have been through this process and know what it feels like. But for my wife and me, this is unchartered territory. We have had zero experience with college applications since filling out our own 30+ years ago. That was of course decades before electronic portals and passwords; detailed personal statements and glitchy Zoom interviews. Back then it was waiting by the mailbox for either a big envelope (good news!) or thin (not so good!). Today there is a whole new language of “Early Decision,” vs. “Early Action,” “Early Action II,” “Regular Decision,” and all the various acceptance rates associated with each scenario. At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, it’s fair to say you practically need a college degree just to figure out what it all means.
I’m sure every generation is aghast at how the current pool of applicants is so much more qualified than those who came before them. These seniors must be so accomplished to be competitive, it’s as if their whole childhood needs to be focused on what they can do that no one else can do in order to have a fighting chance. It’s crazy. I really feel for them. And with all the talk about mental health and how we need to let kids be kids, the reality is: the college application is expecting them to be superhuman. The pressure is enormous and it’s so insane that getting great grades and a handful of interests/activities is just the bare minimum. In casual conversation with other parents, we’ve all agreed that there’s simply no WAY we could’ve gotten into our colleges of choice if we had to apply today!
As far as our son is concerned, we’re lucky in that he’s taken the lead on navigating this path and we haven’t gotten into too many fights or arguments about essays or deadlines as other families have. We’ve essentially gotten out of his way, let him decide where to apply and then do the work towards getting there. He’s so self-motivated that we (maybe naively) didn’t deem it necessary to seek outside help. His school counselor seemed fine and we were confident he’d assist with pertinent details to keep our boy on track. Which worked great up until his unexpected departure from school late last month! We were suddenly adrift at sea without a captain and given we really didn’t know what we were doing, that was not a great feeling to have this late in the game. But I give our son an enormous amount of credit for handling the blip with ease and plunging forward.
There were one or two other minor snafus during the last few months. We were out to dinner one night and he mentioned that an application was due before midnight and he still had a few finishing touches to complete. He didn’t seem too concerned about it so we finished eating, went home and at about 8:45 he asked us if we thought he should answer the optional bonus question. We shrugged and said, “Sure! Why not?” A few laughs and jokes later, he got down to business and we heard the keyboard clicking away. At 9:04 we heard an audible scream followed by footsteps running up the stairs to yell that the midnight deadline he had been unconcerned about was midnight EASTERN STANDARD TIME and his entire application had been locked out of the system because he was four minutes late turning it in. After a tense hour or two bemoaning his mistake and complaining about the unfairness of it all, he emailed the admissions office, explained his position and asked for an extension. As he would learn the following morning, a great many west coast applicants suffered the same fate. The college determined it didn’t specify the deadline clearly enough on its website and told everyone who didn’t get it in on time they had until the end of day to do it. Big sigh of relief and major crisis #1 successfully averted.
Then there was the time he was going to be interviewed by a graduate from a college he was very eager to attend. He set up the appointment with the alum’s assistant and then got to work researching the intricacies of the university and creating lists of potential questions to ask his interviewer, as well as compiling additional points of interests in case he needed to share what he knew about the school and its wide range of programs. He was ready!
So, imagine his shock and horror when he received an email from the alumni’s assistant saying her boss “…was on the Zoom and waited as long as he could but finally had to leave since you never showed up.” WHAT?!? After all that excitement at being granted an interview followed by hours of work preparing, our boy got his dates messed up and thought it was scheduled for Thursday instead of Tuesday. Whoops. It happens! We’ve all done it and probably more than once but that certainly didn’t make him feel any better about it at the time. He was embarrassed and mortified and figured he had ruined any chance he had at getting into the school.
But true to form, he immediately apologized, owned his mistake and asked if there was any way to reschedule (and of course promised to write down the right date this time). Luckily another time was mutually agreed upon and the interview occurred, this time without a hitch. After apologizing yet again for his regretful mistake, they had a robust and enthusiastic chat. Major crisis #2 averted as well.
As of this writing, we don’t know if he’s been accepted to either of these schools but regardless, I’m proud of how he’s handled himself throughout the process. Even if he gets rejected from these and others, he certainly learned a few valuable lessons that will probably be more impactful than what he’ll eventually learn in college. Namely: when you fall down, you get back up again. You take your lumps and you just keep going. Not everything will go your way and in fact, many times you’ll face crisis’s that won’t get fixed so easily. The trick is to just do your best and hope things work out. Or as the British like to say: Stay Calm and Carry On. This can be said for college application mishaps, parenting fails… and even real estate transactions. Because mistakes happen all the time but it’s how you handle them that is really the true test of character.
A tip of the hat to all of you currently going through this challenging time, too. May your fights be few and acceptances ample. And if your kids are anything like mine, might I suggest a nice appointment book as a graduation gift?