2364When my oldest was a junior in high school, I couldn’t wait to start looking at colleges. He and I drove north over his spring break that year to stay with friends just outside Boston to visit a couple of schools, and you would have thought I was going to Disney World.

Libraries! Dining halls! Dorms! I don’t think Space Mountain could have rivaled the excitement I felt as I walked around those campuses.

And I really love Space Mountain.

My son, on the other hand, was mostly annoyed with the entire process and refused to sit through any of the schools’ information sessions. He did consent to removing his ubiquitous headphones for the actual tours but would then quickly pop the buds into his ears when we got back into the car.

I would spend hours – like a nut – paging through the big college guides we had bought at Barnes & Noble and trolling the Internet, plugging in his SAT and GPA to determine whether he had a chance of getting into this school or that. I often joke that he was lucky I was also going through a really messy divorce at the same time, which prevented me from getting totally weird about the whole thing.

In the end, we probably visited seven or eight schools before he applied to about 10 the December of his senior year for regular admission.

And when the letters started to trickle in that spring, there was really no rhyme or reason to where he was accepted, rejected or wait listed. He ended up going to a school we didn’t visit until after he was accepted, to which he had applied more as an afterthought because some of his friends had visited and liked it. It seemed like a good fit because he wanted to major in engineering (or maybe that was me) and the school was known for its engineering program and then, of course, he ended up switching out of engineering by the end of his freshman year and all reasoning went out the door.

Kid #2 the following year was pretty easy in that she was all about applying early to her brother’s school and by mid-December we had the whole thing wrapped up and she was looking for a roommate on Facebook.

In retrospect, she should probably be at some small, liberal arts college closer to home, but at the time I was happy not to have to go through the whole rigmarole two years in a row.

So now, this third time around the college merry go round with my high school junior, I am trying to keep things in perspective. But it’s totally not easy and I fluctuate between being really into it and totally over it.

We went to visit a couple of schools at the end of last week, bringing our total number of colleges visited to four, and I can tell you one thing: I’ve got Chronic College Tour Fatigue (CCTF). I don’t want to walk through one more student union or hear one more anecdote about a bench or chiming bells.

And please don’t make me shout something about who we are. I’m not fun like that.

I found myself back home this weekend going through the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2010 and plugging in my daughter’s data on Cappex, and after about an hour of studying various schools’ acceptance and retention rates, I was like, “What am I doing?”

I don’t want to get caught up in a lot of hand wringing about finding the perfect school for her and whether or not she can get into it. Because now that I have a sophomore and junior in college, my concern has shifted to what they’re doing AFTER college. The thought of anyone I just spent, like, 50 grand to educate sitting in my basement unemployed playing XBOX or watching Breaking Bad really makes me agitated.

There’s no science to any of this. Getting into the perfect school is some great American myth, brought to you by the same folks that came up with the legend of the white picket fence and the fantasy of the Victoria’s Secret swimsuit catalog.

There is just no such thing.

So, I think I just need to take a deep breath and put it all in my daughter’s hands. She’ll figure out where she wants to go and how to get in if that’s where she really sees herself. I will inevitably relapse and get crazy about something — SAT subject tests or a pending deadline — but hopefully I’ll have the wherewithal to calm down fast.

I will need to, in the immortal words of Princess Elsa, let it go.

But I take comfort in the fact that I won’t have to traipse around one more quad or tell one more kid walking backwards that she’s about to slam into a light pole for another six years when it’s my little guy’s turn to look at schools.

Hopefully, my CCFS will be in remission by then. Or maybe, like learning to tie his own shoes or riding a bike, my youngest will just take care of it himself.



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4 thoughts on “Letting It Go

  1. Having put four through college, I just LOL at your story. so true, so true. Hardly knew which schools the last one applied to. Thanks for the smile.

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