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I remember all those years of back-to-school shopping buying those hard cover composition notebooks. And then, my oldest son graduated to the spirals. Wide rule.
The wide rules were harder to find; it seemed as if those college-ruled spiral notebooks were everywhere. I smiled to myself knowing it would be years and years before he was ready for these grown-up books. Heck, he still had fat pencils.
Time sped by faster than I could have ever imagined and even faster than the strangers at the grocery store told me it would.
Andrew and I strongly believe that college is a wonderful opportunity to grow up and find your passions. We always hoped our three sons would go and we started saving with a 529 state savings plan when they were very small. We’ve been consistent in letting them know that we hoped that’d be college-bound some day.
Some day crept up quickly and before we knew it, Davis took the PSAT exam at school. It was 10th grade and we were petrified to start thinking about what was coming next. He was a self-starter and assured us that he was doing the SAT Question of the Day – every day. He let us know that he intended to take the ACT exam, also.
We encouraged him early to find his passion and in 10th grade, he began taking studio art in addition to his challenging AP and GT coursework. He loved expressing himself visually. Encouraged by his teacher, he found a summer program at Maryland Institute College of Art. It was hard work. But it sealed the deal. By his junior year, on the AP Art track, it became clear to us all that he wanted to pursue an art degree. But what we learned was that the resources to navigate that path were a lot less available than a traditional academic path. And we had no idea where to begin.
Somehow – probably through our school’s attentive guidance department – we found out that there was an informational session in our county for students interested in pursing visual and performing art. We learned so much and talked to representatives from art colleges and liberal arts colleges with art programs. I think that was our biggest challenge – which to choose? Art school or a school with art? How to decide? What we learned – together – was that there are pros and cons and lots of good choices. We also learned to open our minds.
And then, the real work started. Davis started a list of schools to consider and began creating a cohesive (and fabulous) portfolio. At the same time, he took the SAT and, soon after, he took the ACT. He worked with an incredible coach to hone in on his school choices and on his essays.
Oh, the essays. I was so intimidated by the essays! Article after article (and maybe I should have stopped reading so much) told of the perils of a not-so-great essay and went on to describe what a good one actually was. His coach was amazing though and, after a couple re-starts, his essay brought me to tears and also made me smile.
My husband took him to visit schools to the north. I took him to one to the south of us and to Chicago. Divide and conquer. Of the 8 schools he’d decided to apply to, we visited 5. We just couldn’t swing the time or money to see the others.
Here’s the thing. I was overwhelmed by the process. I was freaked out that my baby was going to leave and that all these details needed to be managed and that there was so much to do. But, HE managed it. He studied. He wrote and re-wrote his essays. He worked his butt off to get his portfolio ready and he set up Skype and in-person portfolio reviews with his first choice schools for input. He filled in the applications and got teacher recommendations. HE applied for college.
I was over-the-moon proud knowing that he was ready for the responsibility of GOING to college. And I was proud of him for getting into the 8 schools he chose to apply to. I can’t resist telling you that a couple of them were extremely competitive.
His decision process once he had the acceptances was easy – well, easy to get to 2 schools. I asked him just the other day (he’s a sophomore now) if he thinks he made the right choice and he thinks that he did. I think that he did, too.
Our middle son is wrapping up his essays and will be applying to 6 schools within the next couple weeks. It was a lot less daunting the second time around, but it was completely different. Our third will be applying next year. I feel confident that that will be different, too.
All a long way around to say that the college application sounds really scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Letting your teens lead the conversation is a great start. Getting great advice from a coach, the school counselor, and other terrific resources is helpful.
Don’t Freak Out! Trust me, it does NOT make it easier.
You can do this.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience.