Parents love to tell scary stories about the process by which children enter our lives (childbirth) and depart from them (college applications). Having now experienced both, I can say with conviction that the latter passage is more arduous for all concerned. Compared to “the college process,” as they call it, childbirth is a walk in the park. Trust me. I didn’t believe it either, and found myself mentally apologizing to friends who preceded me through the experience—whose word I doubted, whose behavior I judged as over-the-top hysterical.
It’s hardest on the kids, of course. College applicants are put through a highly refined form of psychological torture. Is there anything you can do to help? Certainly. Stop subjecting any high school senior you may encounter to well-meaning but misguided remarks. Stop saying dumb things and stop asking tactless questions.
A few guidelines for what not to say to a college applicant:
Don’t tell me you’re actually STUDIED for the SATs? When I took them, we went to bed early the night before and that was it for preparation.
-- You were lucky; you came of age in a halcyon era. Don’t rub it in.
How did you do on your SATs?
-- How would you feel if I asked you how much money you earned?
What schools did you apply to?
-- If someone asks me one more time, I’m going to have the list tattooed on my forehead.
What’s your first-choice school?
-- Since I can’t choose a college until a college chooses me, I’d rather not answer that question. Why should the whole world know that I ended up at my safety school?
Oh, I’m sure you’ll get in THERE.
-- Don’t bet on it. Mushroom U. may have been considered a safety school in your day, but it’s since become so competitive that the typical entering freshman has already published a novel and cured the common cold.
My nephew goes there and he just loves it.
-- How nice for him.
But of course he would—since there are so many more girls there than straight guys.
-- Gosh, thanks for sharing.
Why WOULDN’T you get in? You’ve got terrific grades and great test scores!
-- So does just about everyone, believe it or not.
Once you’re in the real world, it doesn’t matter where you went to college.
-- Maybe not, but it matters now.
I’m sure I’d never be admitted to [insert name of alma mater here] today.
-- That’s right; you wouldn’t. See response to first question.
When do you hear? Have you heard anything yet?
-- Hold still! There’s a bug crawling on your arm!