The 13 Stages of the College Application (for Parents)

By now you are probably becoming familiar with what’s involved in the college application process on your student’s end: gathering materials, writing, editing, getting letters of rec, SATs, ACTs, AP tests, etc. Clearly, they’ve got a lot to do. But parents go through their own college application process (in the true sense of the word.) And we’re not talking about helping your student submit those apps; it’s so much more. And so much more exhausting. And while it’s impossible to truly avoid what’s to come, it’s good to at least KNOW what’s on the horizon so you can be prepared.

So here we go:The 13 Stages of Grief the College Application Process for Parents

Stage 1: Denial

“Becca has so much time before her applications are due. And, yeah, this is the most important thing she’ll do in her 18 years, but it’s not THAT hard.  I don’t know what everyone’s making such a big fuss over. When I applied, all I did was choose a few schools, pound out a few essays on the ‘ol typewriter, and voila! Done! She’s a good kid. We got this.”

Stage 2: Self-blame

“Why do they need extracurriculars? The curriculars aren’t enough, they need extra? Oh, if I had only pushed Becca to do the science fair and volunteer at the recreation center and go on that summer trip to Spain to stay with a host family. By now she would have discovered the cure for osteoporosis and designed an environmentally friendly jungle gym and learned to speak fluent Spanish and written an award-winning play about her experiences abroad, and she’d be in at Stanford and Columbia and Yale and Dartmouth and Princeton for SURE.”

Stage 3: Confusion

“SAT ACT FAFSA IB AP EA ED RD…WHAT DO ALL THESE LETTERS MEAN?!”

Stage 4: Hovering

“What’s Becca doing? I’m going to make sure she’s working on her essay. I’ll just look in her room for a minute to see. Okay, she’s working on homework and she’s not on Facebook. But when’s the homework going to be done? Where is she with her Common App essay? Has she worked in all the revisions I gave her? And has she talked to Mrs. Stein about that recommendation? And what’s the latest on her GPA? Maybe I should email all of her teachers and find out what her grades are looking like for this quarter and see if she can do some extra credit to pull them up.”

Stage 5: Nausea

“Oh my God. The first draft of Becca’s essay is barely readable. I should have hired a writing tutor when she was in preschool.”

Stage 6: Clinging

“I’m going to bake Becca her favorite cake tonight. And we should get manicure appointments this weekend. Girl’s time. Oh! And maybe we should get matching bracelets. You know, so she doesn’t forget me when she’s off at college. God knows I only have so much time left with her before she leaves me!”

Stage 7: Self-righteousness

“After everything I’ve done for Becca – dragging her to all those dance classes, helping her with all those class projects, editing her personal statement, reminding her every few hours to ask Mrs. Stein for that recommendation (not to mention baking her chocolate lava cake and paying for the nail art she had to have) – she’s really spitting some attitude. What an ungrateful… Gah. I’m done! She can do her college applications by herself!”

Stage 8: Fear

“Maybe it’s not such a bad thing if Becca doesn’t get into school. Then she’d get to stay here, and I won’t have to say goodbye to my baby. Because what am I supposed to do when she’s gone? Knit? Take up tennis? I don’t even LIKE tennis. Sure she’s been a bit testy lately, but she’s just stressed out. Between apps and school work, she’s just got so much going on. I don’t want her to leave! She’s my baby.”

Stage 9: More fear

“If Becca doesn’t get in to college, she’ll never leave the house, and I’ll spend the rest of my life doing her laundry and picking Cheeto crumbs out of the couch cushions. We have to get her in to college.”

Stage 10: Trusting in a higher power

“Whatever happens is meant to happen. There’s a plan! Right? There’s a plan to the universe? Everything happens for a reason? She’s a good kid. She worked hard. It’s all going to work out as it should.”

Stage 11: Ego-boost

“Becca actually ASKED me to proofread her personal statement!? She finally gets how valuable I am as a parent! She gets it!”

Stage 12: Pride

“Becca’s final essay draft brought tears to my eyes. She is amazing and talented and brilliant and deep, and I did such a good job raising her and she’s going to get into a great college and everything’s going to be fine.”

Stage 13: Acceptance

Maybe tennis isn’t so bad?

Lessons from a College Admissions Success Story

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