Tonight a family from San Diego will be staying with us as part of their college tour. Because they are not neurotic people, they did not spend time or money looking at colleges until after their daughter was accepted. Now they are on their way to check out UC Santa Barbara. I was hoping to get material from them about the college process in a more laid-back part of the state. But that will have to wait until tomorrow, because they have stopped to shop in Costa Mesa and won’t be here for several hours. So I will blog about the anxiety that still lingers with parents of twelfth-graders, although most of them now have their decisions.
Because the college admission process this year was the most selective in the history of the world, I have found that people don’t just tell you where their children were accepted, but also where they were rejected, waitlisted or deferred – all for no good reason other than that they were born in 1989 or 1990.
In the past, if you asked someone where their son or daughter was going to college, they tell you the name of the school they planned to attend. But now, you’ll get an answer like "She got into BU, and was waitlisted at Georgetown, Tufts, Wesleyan, Northwestern and even GW." Or: "He’s deciding between Emory and Wash U St. Louis, but still hoping to hear from Stanford." This is usually followed with a horror story about another child: "My niece, who was a Congressional Page, really wanted Penn but she was never able to get her SATs up over 2200, and she ended up being rejected everywhere except Indiana and Boulder." Or: "Our friend’s son, who won all these oboe competitions, was waitlisted at Bard and Skidmore, and only got into SUNY Purchase for February."
I’m afraid that because our kids are not getting into their first, or second, or fifth or ninth choices, for their entire lives they will remember the list of all eighteen colleges where they applied. They will always feel obligated to remind people about the insane competition they faced in 2008-9. When someone asks them where they attended college, they will rattle off the whole slew of places that turned them down, or even worse, kept them dangling. They might forever hold grudges against fine universities, and not even want to take their kids on a college tour. They could end up like our friend who is 52 and very successful, but still mad at Columbia because he never got off that darn waitlist.