Mary Dell writes: For our two families, the fall is well underway with our older kids back at college and our younger two starting 11th grade. However, we have parented juniors before and we know what is heading their way. This year will be different for our youngest as they enter a new phase in their lives, thanks to the College Board.
Like a Daytona 500 starter dropping the green flag, the College Board will soon summons juniors to sit for the PSAT, signalling the beginning of the race known as college application season.
The PSAT is big – 3.5 million kids big – and it is the one pre-college test that all juniors take with all of their classmates on a single day in October. It is a rite of passage going back to 1971 (hey, we took it too!) and, for generations of kids, the PSAT has started the college ball rolling.
Once the scores are returned, the next lap will feel long for high school juniors…and their parents, too. While our kids compete for college acceptance, we act as pit crews, praying there will be no crashes. Lisa and I endured this with our older children and we can tell you that, with the PSAT behind them, they will begin to take SATs, SAT IIs, APs, ACTs (on top of the tests they take for their regular old school work.) It is exhausting just to watch! No wonder “junior year” is a synonym for “stressed out.”
It is not only College Board’s calendar that forces our children to shift into a higher gear. Already, they have begun to leave behind a more innocent age on their own. I saw it clearly at my daughter’s recent soccer team dinner. At the end of the night, eight juniors read a poem, honoring the eight seniors. While each 11th grade girl entered the dining room as an underling, each departed as a senior member of the team.
Likewise, our daughter will turn 17 in mid-November, cleared by NY State to drive wherever, whomever and whenever she wants. She plans to celebrate her birthday with friends out to dinner and I doubt we will be on the guest list.
By virtue of birth order, she is and will remain our baby. On the day she was born, when my husband brought our five-year old to see his sister in the hospital room, I was shocked at how changed my son looked to me. As he stood on tiptoes to kiss our new tiny child, he seemed much older than just the day before. Now it is time for me to see her in a different light, perhaps for the very first time.
It’s junior year and the College Board may hold the green flag, but if I look closely, I see that my child, our youngest, is already well down the track.