I’ll admit it—I’m a parent of a rising eleventh grader and I’m on edge.
My particular edge is a teeter-totter between excited and frightened, optimistic and melancholy. I know I’m not alone in this (I have friends with kids at this same place and we talk, you know, the way moms do).
Up front, since starting to write for TeenLife’s blog each month or so, my antennae are that much more attuned to “teen issues,” including the college process. And as a former college trustee—of Hampshire College—I chaired the Admissions Committee for a couple of years and became more engaged with how fascinating the admissions process is. So, I’ve begun to read about college admissions again, with new eyes, that of parent.
Getting ready for college admissions
And I even have a kid to discuss this with—not my eldest the rising junior, but my next son, who is about to start high school. He has devoured these books on the college admissions process: Crazy U, Acceptance, and The Gatekeepers. He’s on the prowl now for colleges his older brother will like. At the moment, although he has all of high school in front of him, he does have a college in mind for himself: Haverford. He’s got good reasons to like the school: he’s been there for a summer basketball program (he’s there now, his third year, and bonus, he stays with his grandparents so he gets a solo visit), two of his favorite teachers are young alumni of the college, it’s small and that works well for him, the social justice leaning campus suits the social justice leaning young man—and of course, proximity to four loving grandparents. We shall see.
Anyway, all this is to say that one of the articles bookmarked on my computer is the New York Times’ Choice blog’s July Checklist for juniors.
There are seven categories suggested to very-soon-to-be eleventh graders:
- Get excited
- Be open-minded
- Begin to research and visit schools
- Stay on top of things
- Work hard
- Delve into your interests
- Develop a preliminary testing plan
And remember, this is your future.
From the nuts and bolts of reading about colleges and scheduling visits or tests to the more contemplative practice of open-mindedness, there are great suggestions here. For this parent, here’s the most important part of the post (written to students, remember): “Engage them in dialogue, but learn to tell them when you don’t share their perspective or vision for college. After all, this is likely the first big decision you get to make about your future. Make sure you’re the one making it.”
So here’s my takeaway before junior year even begins: I’ve got a passionate, smart, wonderful child and I know his future is bright. My hope is that I can support him through the nuts and bolts and the big dreamy questions in the ways he needs. His process is unlikely to match up to the counselor’s calendar. I will take many deep breaths over these next two years while—as best I can—holding the notion that he gets to make up his mind about his future and actually to make his future—as he certainly should.