My Son Got Into His First Choice College and Then He Met a Girl

As of November, my son had applied to one, and only one, college. We weren’t too bothered by the tiny number as we had no doubt he would get in and the pace of this college seemed to fit his academic preferences. Ours is a child who doesn’t thrive within high-pressure academia, nor does he have an interest in sports crazy weekends.

As expected, shortly after pushing “Submit” on the application, he was happily accepted, and our weekly check-in shifted from “Did you apply yet?” to “Did you send the deposit yet?

The answer? Still the same, “No, but I will.

My son decided to attend the same college as his girlfriend and, as his mom, I’m not sure how I feel about that. (Photo credit: Jyl Barlow)

After his first college acceptance our son became involved in his first romantic relationship

I stopped just short of hoisting the official garden flag, a rite of passage in our home as we proclaim each child’s choice of next steps via a 3×6 foot flag hung from one of our many trees. We already had two flags up, each indicating where our college funds have landed. Our youngest has been excited to see his flag raised and I was ready, mostly, to get it up as well. 

Not long after he got that college acceptance, our son leaped into his very first relationship. My husband and I had wondered if we would be witnesses to that first crush but blamed the pandemic for delaying it and sort of thought the butterflies wouldn’t land in his stomach until our nest was in his rearview mirror. 

A years-long friendship turned into something more

To our surprise (and perhaps his), a years-long friendship with a classmate suddenly shifted to first dates (his) and first kisses (also his) as they both trudged through their senior year of high school. Previously, our son was the designated listener while she was the designated dater. He was always at the ready for her next heartbreak, as a true friend should be.

My husband did hint to our son years ago that it was nearly impossible to remain platonic with a “she’s my best friend” girl, passing along advice that he, too, had learned in high school. Those words were tossed aside as our son insisted that he would never, ever see his friend that way. And then, the butterflies arrived. 

We suspected a shift in their status long before confirmation. It was impossible not to notice as our son seemed to be walking on air and was constantly clicking away at his phone.

Distracted? Oh my, yes. The large dent in our garage door tells the story of just how distracted he was–a souvenir left after backing out a little too fast while, as he explained, he was thinking about picking up some breakfast for the girl who had stolen both his heart and brain.

Our son applied to the same college as his girlfriend

We’ve been on this romantic ride for nearly six months. As crotchety old folks, we have assumed the relationship would fizzle out by the time cars were stuffed with belongings ready to be transported to each of their respective colleges. We’d been knowingly nodding along to our son’s refrain of “This is it–this is the girl I will be with for the rest of my life.” Oh, bless your heart. 

Then, a surprise declaration that our son was going to apply to one more school—her school—and thus our heads began to spin.

Um, what!?! Weren’t we just months away from, well, continuing as planned? Wasn’t that the worst possible idea in the world? Panic was met with learned logic. He’d never turn that application around before the looming deadline.

Last heard, he’d deleted the Common App from his browser bookmarks. There was no way the school would accept a student so clearly enjoying senioritis. Right?

My son decided to attend the same college as his girlfriend

Wrong. Our excitement regarding that second acceptance letter was genuine but so was our trepidation. As seasoned adults with years of hindsight to tap into, we could see the endless ways that this could go terribly wrong. A focus that was once on preparing for our son’s inevitable first heartbreak (the emergency ice cream is at the ready) has now been beefed up by the thought of that heartbreak occurring while living just a few dorm rooms away from his girlfriend. 

There are just so, so many things that could go wrong. 

It’s not that my husband and I don’t believe in true love or high school sweethearts. It’s that we know that this is not the norm and that chances of everything working out just fine are slim.

We know how devastating the first broken heart can be

We know how devastating that first broken heart feels. At worst, if the relationship did last until the start of college, we were prepared for a slow fizzle as each went their separate ways to colleges hours apart. Now we are navigating waters filled with both excitement and ways in which this could be a catastrophe.

To be clear, we very much like our son’s girlfriend. She’s delightful and the perfect driven Yin to our son’s slow-moving Yang. It’s not that we don’t like his new college of choice. It’s beautiful, more convenient, and offers many more academic options.

The pause comes from his decision to follow his girlfriend to college–a decision that, in the end, will be his. That is the real goal, after all, to help our children leave the nest in the way they feel works best for them. We will offer our thoughts and hope for the best. We will continue to cheer our son on enthusiastically while also being at the ready should heartache find him. 

We will continue to do our best to trust him, though his choices might not be in sync with ours.

More Great Reading:

Preparing My Teens for Independence: A Parent Report Card 

About Jyl Barlow

Jyl Barlow is a best-selling author raising two baby adults with her husband in Virginia. Her book, What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting, is a humorous memoir documenting her step parenting journey. Jyl navigates life as a (second)wife and (step)mom with inappropriate laughter and near-perfect hindsight.

Besides writing, Jyl enjoys travel, fighting with her embroidery machine, and trying to convince her husband to let her have chickens. Jyl’s writing credits also include,, and Get to know her at

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