Once college applications are completed, high school seniors enter a lull period, an interminable limbo, worsened by the pressure to keep their grades up. This time can be even more terrible for parents, who need to remain cheery even though they can no longer ‘make things right’ for their kids….as they contemplate aging, separation and financial doom.
If you’re the parent of a senior, you can feel productive during this stage by selling your embarrassing large library of SAT prep books on e-Bay and ordering Twin XL sheets on sale.
And, to maintain your sanity, here is a list of people NOT to talk to until after April 1st:
1. Parents of kids who went to college ten years ago, when everything was different. Not so very long ago, a 4.0 was a stellar GPA. Now, thanks to APs, honors and other weighted classes, it is possible to have a 5.8. And back then it was a good thing to be the captain of the soccer team or the editor of the school paper. Today’s high school seniors have discovered galaxies and invented antibiotics.
2. Parents of Intel Award winners, oboe soloists and any sort of national semi-finalist, especially if their kids are applying to the same schools as your child. Colleges are not fans of helicoptering by parents. But helicoptering by kids is another story. In a bizarre metaphorical coincidence, our son actually met a teen helicopter pilot – the only one in our state – who was also applying early to his chosen school. Yikes!
3. Parents of recruited athletes, whose kids have already decided between three Ivies. You didn’t start those squash lessons at age three? What were you thinking?
4. Parents of relaxed, grounded kids who are only applying to two public schools, a match and a safety, and would be thrilled to go to either. Luckily, we don’t have many of these kids or parents in our neurotic city. But they are annoyingly ubiquitous in the Midwest.
5. Parents whose kids got letters of recommendation from the Dalai Lama.
6. Parents who say that “they all end up in the right place,” and go on to tell you how much they themselves hated Princeton. My sons’ high school was filled with all sorts of alumni of top schools who secretly wish they had gone to Slippery Rock State. And, expertly self-effacing and braggy at once, they say the same thing about their kids once they’re admitted: “Virgil likes Columbia, but I think he would have been happier somewhere that was less of a pressure cooker.”
7. English teachers who believe your child should not have used any forms of the verb “to be” in his/her essays. In the old days, kids could trust their high school teachers to provide valuable feedback on their college application. But now, because the passive voice has become a no-no, educators despise Hamlet’s favorite verb and cause parents to spend all day thinking about how their students could have reworded their personal statements.
8. People who put down the liberal arts. This year’s college anxiety is not just about whether one’s child will get in. Instead parents are panicking about the existential dilemma of whether college is even worth it at all in the long run, especially if their kid’s passion is history or literature. But, take heart, parents of non-STEM students: The one recent Google hire we know was an English major and a Visual Studies minor. There is indeed room in the marketplace for fans of Socrates…and correct apostrophe usage.
JD Rothman (aka Judy Rothman Rofé), a former instructor of remedial freshman composition, is an Emmy-winning children’s television writer, producer and lyricist. While on an eight-state college tour with her older son, she started www.theneuroticpparent.com, an anonymous satirical blog about the insanity of the college admissions process. The blog was excerpted in the anthology I’m Going to College, Not You (St. Martins Press, 2010), and then morphed into the Los Angeles Times bestseller, The Neurotic Parent’s Guide to College Admissions: Strategies for Helicoptering, Hot-housing & Micromanaging which has been optioned by some Big Hollywood Producers.
Rothman now travels the country speaking to angst-ridden parents when she can sneak away from her writing/producing gigs at Amazon and Netflix. She grew up in Brooklyn and resided in several Latin American countries before settling in Santa Monica. There, she and her husband live in their empty nest with their schnoodle, waiting for infrequent texts from their two sons.