Why I’m Keeping My Daughter’s Universe of Universities to Myself

The eagle has landed. At the beginning of January, my youngest child submitted her final college application.

After six months that featured me begging her to work on the common app before school started (didn’t happen), proofreading her applications, pleading that she not wait until the last hour of deadline day to hit submit (guess what happened), inquiring about which school’s deadline was next as a subtle means of reminding her to keep tabs on it all, it’s over. I will never again be the next-of-kin to a child’s college application process. Hallelujah!

After spending the fall focused on making a case for herself, my daughter is finished auditioning. Now she’ll spend the next several months researching the eight schools she applied to, sifting through her acceptances, and considering which school she’ll cast as her partner for the next four years. 

I’m respecting my daughter’s privacy by not revealing what colleges she has applied to. (Twenty20 @umuller)

These next few months are for making decisions and it won’t be easy

Having been through all of this before with her two older sisters, I already know that these next few months won’t be smooth sailing. And given her preference for putting off a decision for as long as she can, an early reprieve from the suspense seems unlikely.   

I’m trying to stay focused on my part in the whole process—doing whatever I can to increase the odds that at the end of it all, my daughter ends up where she is supposed to land. I’ll go along for the ride on any virtual campus tours she wants to take. I’ll sit in on accepted student information sessions. I’ll listen as she weighs the pros and cons and zeroes in on the attributes most important to her. I will try to remain detached from having a favorite school myself. 

And I will do one other thing that I believe helped my other daughters when they went through the college selection process—I will help to keep her universe of universities to myself. 

I will protect my daughter’s privacy and keep her choices to myself

Like her older sisters, my daughter has played it pretty close to the vest whenever anyone has inquired about where she might be headed next year. And I’ve followed her lead. 

To be sure, it isn’t always easy keeping what’s probably the juiciest nugget of info I’ll have to share until my daughter decides to get hitched someday to myself. But I know that I’m doing my daughter a solid by respecting her privacy as she ponders her first big decision on the road to adulthood. 

After all, she has to be able to tune into which school truly feels like the best fit for her. That’s a little easier to do if there isn’t a lot of noise in the background or feeling like every Tom, Dick, and Harriet is privy to which schools are in the running. 

Of course, since the go-to topic when anybody encounters a high school senior is where they might be headed next year, you need an artful dodge. For now, my daughter is following the lead of my middle daughter, who became a pro at replying with a smile and the catchphrase, “Who can say?”

We even had a little fun with it—asking friends and relatives to guess the school and the major she would choose, and then awarding a prize to the person who came closest to guessing her pick at her graduation party.

Some people find it odd that we’re so tight-lipped about which schools are in the running (my mom for one thinks it’s all a little kooky). But my middle daughter’s experience showed that keeping the deliberations under wraps is a good move for another reason.

If you had asked me her likely choice the August before her senior year, I would have named an out-of-state school that she seemed very keen on. By the end of December, when she realized she’d prefer staying closer to home, if you asked me to name the likely winner, I would have named a school that still ended up not being her ultimate choice. 

It’s easier to make these choices without an audience

I am grateful that my middle daughter was able to sort out where she belonged without feeling like she had an audience looking over her shoulder. If everyone had been in the know, I hope that she wouldn’t have felt embarrassed about admitting that she’d changed her mind. But I am glad that worries like that weren’t an additional hurdle to her finding her way to the school that was ultimately right for her.

So for now, if anyone asks where I think my youngest will be going to school next year, I reply with a friendly, “Who can say?” Until I send in the deposit check to the school to be named later, I’m just going to try to enjoy the sense of intrigue and anticipation.

Maybe I’ll see if anyone wants to place bets on when her big reveal will occur—my money’s on May 1.

More to Read:

Dear Friends and Family, Please Keep Your Snarky Opinions About My Teen’s College Choice to Yourself

About Joanne McHugh

With daughters ages 18, 20, and 23, Joanne McHugh has reached the Maytag-repairman stage of parenting when she only needs to be on call for those rare instances when her super-reliable children break down. Her mission now is sharing everything she thinks young women should know about building a life. Her forthcoming book, Things Your Mother Should Have Told You, offers wit and wisdom about developing a career, navigating marriage, and becoming somebody’s mother.

Read more posts by Joanne

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