Here’s what I remember about my high school senior year in 1988 — everything about being a senior felt fun and exciting.
I was in a Homecoming parade, rode on a float, and waved to people in my small, beautiful hometown. I relished and mourned the last pep rally, singing the National Anthem at the last football game, my last tennis match.
I took a standardized test once. There was no tutoring.
I applied to colleges sight unseen based on the recommendations of my high school guidance counselor during a 15-minute meeting, which my siblings and friends were attending, and that’s about the gist of it.
I got into the colleges I applied to.
I picked a college based on a random visit (War Eagle!).
My senior year in 1988 was all fun and easy
Gosh, it was all so fun. So easy.
As a parent, here are my high-level observations of my son’s senior year of high school six weeks into his school year. Students no longer take a standardized test; they take the ACT and the SAT to see which one fits. Tutors are hired to teach them how to take the test.
Students feel pressure to take it over and over and over again to get the score they want. Does this have anything to do with how smart a person is or how much they (or the parents) are willing to get “tutored up” to get the scores needed?
My son is currently taking four AP classes. They are important, and they are hard — like college-level hard — because boosting your admission to the top college is important. So, he’s applying to college to take college-level classes WHILE he is taking college-level classes. That doesn’t sound fun to me.
He is the captain of a varsity sport. Practice every day, early mornings, practice after school, and early morning Saturday meets. He runs and runs and runs. You can see the pain on his face when he walks in the door.
My son is taking a different route, applying to military colleges
My son is taking a different route and applying to military colleges and ROTC Programs. By the last count, there were 18 essays he completed before he even started the Common App essays.
While I think he is a good person, I read the essay questions and pondered how, at my current age, experience, and stage of life, I could answer the questions about obstacles (even though I have had them), talents, (and I have those too), beliefs and ideas (got those too) and formulate this into a 500-word essay that is “better” than the next person (who also happens to be equally amazing).
A study released last week by Common Sense Media reports that teens get as many as 237 notifications on a given day. Add 237 notifications to a day when you cannot have your phone on during classes, afternoon sports, activities, or work. I have a job, and part of my work day is intended to respond to all the notifications, but when is a teenager supposed to do this?
We need to realize what we are asking of young people
Please do not take me as a whining, complaining parent. I am saying all this to sit back and soak in what we are asking of young people. And then put away your 1988 images and buckle up to 2023. As my wise mother says, “It is what it is.”
I hope his “senior year” starts feeling a bit more joyful once the applications are all submitted. He is a few weeks away from this milestone, and the dark cloud will be gone. In the meantime, I do things I normally don’t do.
Last night, I took out the trash (which is his job), I made his bed this morning and put his clean clothes away (which is his also job), I make his favorite meals as much as possible, and I am so very grateful for my 1988 parade and hold high hopes he can find this own version of that experience in this milestone year.
And most importantly, I try not to be the 238th notification on his phone (most days).
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