Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Oh, I'm Sure You'll Get in There!"

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!

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