Difficult Choices

Back in January when Ellie was having a small meltdown about not getting into college, I told her that I wished for her a flock of difficult decisions in April. At that time, Ellie said that she would be happy to have difficult decisions to make before a May 1st deadline. Happily, I was quite right on that front. Ellie has five tough decisions to make. So much better than the alternative…

Deciding where to go to college is, I think, the first big decision most kids have to make. Ellis is approaching this decision with the same methodic and thorough manner in which she managed her applications. I have been so impressed and proud of Ellie throughout this process. She has been in charge of selecting the schools to which she wished to apply (with some help from Meg Lahey, a college counselor we retained, who happens to be a Smithie…) and she managed the process of writing essays and meeting deadlines. There were some late nights and last minutes, but all in all she did a great job. Her essays were well-crafted and she had a lot of them to write. She also implemented a program of follow-up emails and contact with the various Admissions Offices of which I have never seen the like. She made a calendar and developed a schedule for reaching out and continuing to acquaint the schools with her accomplishments and personality. I think it made a huge difference.

Now that she has her acceptances, she is researching the schools and making some trenchant observations about each of them. We will be visiting the schools we haven’t seen before and she is returning to those she has already seen. This past week we visited Elon University. Ellie has always been quite perceptive and she did a great job of thinking through the issues and concerns after her visit. She is using several user generated internet sites to get peer input about her schools and during the visits she is attending classes, overnighting in dorms and taking tours. In two weeks we visit Occidental and University of Puget Sound. Dickinson is the last of the five and we plan to see them again, too.

Visiting the schools is always a delight. I adore having the opportunity to be a part of Ellie’s future as she begins her adult life. I love to have the one on one time and knowing that we are making shared memories. I love sharing the hotel room and chatting together at meals. Of course, Ellie falls asleep the moment she sits in a car or on an airplane, so there are some solitary moments, but touring the schools is an adventure of discovery which I savor sharing with my girl. It is one of my happiest responsibilities.

However, despite this careful process, she still has a killer decision to make. The trouble with options and freedom is that both carry responsibility. How does she balance academic concerns with social opportunities? What should be her biggest priority? Geographical distance and location are also important factors and how much does a pretty campus really have to do with the results of a college education?

I never had that wealth of choices. My search for the perfect college was pretty straightforward and typical. I looked in the Princeton Review guide and picked the toughest schools. Somehow Smith was the one which most appealed to me in the book and then in real life. My patient parents did take me to see some other schools and I really enjoyed those trips with each of them, but in the end the moment I saw Smith, my heart and mind were decided. I applied early decision and that sure cut down on the number of essays I had to write not to mention the agita of March. I knew back in December where I would be going.

For Ellie, the jury is still out. She is in turmoil. But I am not too worried. There really is no bad decision in this case. She has five great schools to choose from. How can she lose? Well, of course, there is the little issue of one of the schools being Smith. I want Ellie to choose the school she wants and I want her to own her happiness and college experience. I am that big a person. But I would be a liar if I didn’t say that having Ellie get into Smith is a tremendous joy and the prospect that she might choose a place which has meant so much to me and in my life would pretty much be the cherry on the top of the sundae.


One Comment to “Difficult Choices”

  1. Such wonderful choices! I’m pulling for Smith because it would be one more wonderful bond between mother and daughter.

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