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A transition I was not prepared for.

2005-08-27 00:57:24.495805+00 by Diane Reese 8 comments

Flutterbarians generally don't talk about family things, I've noticed, unless they involve significant others, jobs, or travel. I have two sons who are an important part of my life, and tomorrow I put the older one on a plane as he leaves for college for the first time. This is one of the most bittersweet transitions I've ever experienced. Please indulge me for a moment.

False modestly aside, I think I've done well as his parent. He probably had good raw material to start with, but I am so very proud of the confident and bright young man he has become. And he has eversomuch more to learn about and give back to the world.

Except for clothes and his computer monitor which will be properly stowed at the last minute tonight, he's packed. And I've created my commemorative weblog entry about this passage. I'd like to think I'm out of wistful tears but I suspect the trickle will start again tonight at the final sushi dinner.

Conscientious parents spend 18 years preparing their children for this leave-taking. But no one spends time preparing *us* for it. Tomorrow morning I wave him onto the plane and into his life, trying not to think of the kid-shaped hole being left in the fabric of my current life. My heart is bursting for this young man I am launching into the world.

I think it's called love.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Weblogs Sociology Education Clothing ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2005-08-27 01:37:43.132312+00 by: Dan Lyke

Well, link to the darn weblog entry! [grin]

Congrats on getting one out of the house, especially one who's everything that Greg is. And while I realize that you've got one more for a while, take the good, too; revel in his successes, and know that more of your time is once again your own.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-08-27 01:38:18.718184+00 by: Dan Lyke

And I don't write personal things with too much specificity because... well... sometimes the frustration is high. See if you can get the subtext behind the next entry...

#Comment Re: made: 2005-08-27 21:07:05.79138+00 by: Dori

Diane - I'll be going through this exact thing in 12 months. Thanks for the demonstration of how to do it gracefully!

Any hints on how to survive the college selection and application process would be gratefully appreciated...

#Comment Re: made: 2005-08-29 04:38:18.253329+00 by: Diane Reese

Dori, welcome to a weird yet exciting time! I have significant experience now with the whole process and would be thrilled to share my knowledge -- email is probably best, to spare Flutterbarians who have no particular interest in that topic, mumbledy-many years after it was relevant for them personally.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-08-29 05:40:20.272274+00 by: Dan Lyke

Wanna see it, either here or elsewhere!

Just because we don't talk about it doesn't mean we don't want to know! I've got one who's starting his second year in community college, and another who'll be skipping the nest in two years or so (and a third who's six or seven years from that, if we can get him there, and...). It'll be different 'cause with me they're kids I spoil, not ones that I have 18 years of hard labor invested in, but I'm wanting to learn.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-08-30 02:47:28.629244+00 by: ziffle

Well speaking from experience, it's not all bad when they leave. Yes you miss them but as we get older peace of mind is a nice thing.

As to the college thing, the one thing I learned was it does not matter what the college costs -- a big time school may cost $40k per year, but you don't have to pay it. If the kid is smart enough and you want him to go, he can. The schools have all kinds of endowment money and they simply look at what you earn, estimate a small percentage of that for college, and then give[Wiki] the student the rest from the endowment fund.

My oldest went to the Univ of Chicago (one of his profs had a Nobel Prize) and it cost no more actually than a state college would have.

And as for missing them when they go, yes of course, but the eldest just finished law school and it feels great he has the ability to make his way well on his own and not become another adult child living with his parents. And if we love them we want them to make it on their own.

So now you can go to the nudist resort without having to explain...

#Comment Re: made: 2005-08-30 13:48:34.030649+00 by: markd

And I'm a big fan of the smaller, more reasonably-priced (usually) liberal-arts schools. Depending on the temperament of the individual, being a big fish in a small pond can have a greater impact on their futures than being an anonymous fish in a small ocean. At least in the programming biz, I've worked with liberal- arts degree holders that program rings around the MIT and CMU graduates. Like everything else, what you get out of it is directly proportional to the work you put into it.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-08-31 02:00:17.071276+00 by: Diane Reese [edit history]

The best advice I can provide to parents with children in the college search-and-apply process is to completely absorb the truth that the college application and admissions process is now NOTHING AT ALL like it was in our day. It is a very, very different experience: do not be tempted to make it a no-op. And the best advice I can provide to the student is to begin by finding what used to be called a "safety school" that you totally fall in love with. There are over 3,000 colleges in the US, but most people only ever think about or hear about 100 or so (if that). Use the schools' websites and match both characteristics of the area, the size, the facilities, and the student body, along with the statistics of the most recent incoming class for which stats are provided (search on each schools' site for "Common Data Set" for the best source of this information). Evaluate the student's chances at acceptance using the data set numbers: see how their scores, GPA, rank, etc. fall into the "middle 50%" group -- if they're at the high end of that bunch or above, it's relatively safe to consider this a "likely accept". (Except for Ivy League schools, MIT/Caltech/Stanford, and the "top" 50 LACs (Liberal Arts Colleges) and Universities: these are *ALL* a crapshoot even for the best qualified statistically.) If you're looking at state schools (including the UCs), there are often very specific statistical exercises to go through with GPA, scores, etc. to determine whether a student will pass the first cut. After that, the importance of quality recommendations from 2 teachers and a guidance counselor come into play, along with the quality of the essays the student writes to describe her/himself and what s/he is passionate about. Extra-curricular activities are very important, but not as a laundry-list, rather to show that the student found some things that motivated them (regular job, volunteer commitment, Scouting, music, commitment to a sport, artistic achievement, robotics, language competitions...) and followed thier passions. And especially with the smaller schools, if a student is really interested, they should arrange an interview (local alumni interviews are often offered now) and be sure to contact the school regularly expressing genuine interest. And it is never too early to start looking at financial aid, if you'll be applying: not all schools are "need-blind" in the admissions process, and not all guarantee to meet need (although most will help locate loans or work-study if necessary).

Ignore the ratings magazines and do your own research. Visit sites like collegeconfidential.com and frequent the talk boards there (I will be there for another two years until Son #2 gets settled). Read books like "Colleges That Change Lives" (also at ctcl.com). Plan for your student to physically visit the campuses of the "final contenders", either this fall/spring or as soon as the acceptances come through -- an overnight at the top couple choices is recommended. And DO NOT apply Early Decision (ED -- which commits the student and college to each other if the student is accepted) if you're likely to be looking for financial aid. EA (Early Action), however, is often not binding on the student and is a good choice to get an early answer on a school the student is very interested in... and the odds of acceptance are often much higher in the ED/EA rounds.

I am serious, I could write a book on this stuff now, and would be happy to discuss further the mechanics of it, if anyone wants. The big thing to keep in mind, though, is that there are many many schools, with many many strengths, and there is a place at some school where each student would shine. The task is to locate such schools (as markd says, looking at many choices, not just the obvious ones) and to really try to figure out if there would be a mutual "fit".

And find that "likely/safety school" FIRST, and fall in love with it.

(PS: Full disclosure -- the son who left on Sat. is going to MIT, and it's exactly the right place for him (and a much different place than it was 30 or even 10 years ago: much better, it's becoming an amazingly human and humane place... and some of the admissions staff have weblogs where they talk pretty much directly to students, as does the director of minority recruitment and the financial aid director). He'll do great, and he'll do great things for the world.)