The college application merry-go-round

Phew, it’s done. My son submitted his first college application this week. He still has more applications to complete before January 1, but getting that first one done is a big accomplishment.

Especially because turning in an “early application” usually means you have to fill out the Common App, which goes to most of the other schools you’ll be applying to later. Filling in data like test scores and extra-curriculars isn’t so bad, but the essays . . . . The typical teenager doesn’t enjoy WRITING about himself — especially if he’s a boy and would rather be doing anything else – for example, in the face of college application essays, cleaning his room starts to look appealing.

College applications and frequent flyers?

Wouldn’t it be great if colleges had something similar to the TSA PreCheck or Clear? These programs, available to frequent flyers, allow you to submit personal data ahead of time, in some cases paying a fee, but they guarantee quick passage through airport security. If such a thing were available to speed through the essay portions of college apps, kids could just affix electronic stamps of approval to their applications: “I’m pre-certified to be fantastic, seriously!” It would save so much stress, both for them and their parents.

That’s the other thing. There’s no way the strain of this doesn’t spill over to the parents. In some cases it even starts with us. Yes, of course I know it’s my child who’s going to college  and not me. Sometimes I just have trouble acting accordingly.

 College Application essay

For example, when it gets to be late at night and he’s trying to figure out which version of a sentence sounds better, he may as well ask me. But at the same time, it’s easy to do too much, to get caught up in my child’s process. I’ve seen how hard he’s worked through high school. Like any parent, I want the best for my kid — yet this is his deal, not mine. I have to keep reminding myself.

You’d think that, since my two older children made successful transitions to college, I’d be confident and familiar enough with this season of life that my child’s senior year wouldn’t feel so traumatic for me. Ha!

College application dejà vu

If I’ve learned anything from going through this before, it’s a recognition that I can’t stop the pace of change.  It’s almost comforting to be back in this place again – I know it so well. I recognize the emotions we stressed-out  parents have.  We know our kids will be fine, but we still can’t stop worrying. Hopeful, we watch them reaching out to grasp their own brass ring. At the same time, though, we remember: wasn’t it just a few years ago that we were standing guard beside them on a real merry-go-round?

If it weren’t enough to think about my youngest starting college, today I received the first official notice from my eldest child’s school regarding his upcoming graduation — parents are urged to bookmark the university’s “GradZone 2013” webpage for up-to-the-minute news on accommodations, Class Day festivities, Commencement, and so forth.

Too much is spinning by me, and too fast. I think I’ll take a day off. Maybe go for a carousel ride.


Golden Gate Park Carousel_college application





  1. I love this post! and though college apps were simpler in my “app-parent” days, I still can recall a certain interest? concern? curiosity? pride? anticipation? or ??? both times. Now I have those feelings only for the parents! But I am certain (as a certain member of the family always would be) that all will unfold exactly as it should.

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