The Advice I Give Us

The Advice I Give Us

This week we made our first college visit together. It was clarifying. The university put on a great program – including dorm food that was almost a replica of a pizza buffet he loves – and we waited all day to get to a reception for the program he really thought he wanted.

The prestigious program includes scholarship money that covers part of the room and board costs. If you’ve done any college shopping lately you know that’s a pretty sweet deal. But once we started going down a checklist they provided we both had the sense it was’t going to be the best fit.

At least, the way he had planned to craft his senior year of high school didn’t seem like a good fit for applying to this program. He’s worked hard for three years taking dual-enrollment, AP, and IB courses and had arranged with his counselor to have a senior year full of the computer science class he wanted, his required courses for graduation, and the rest of his day devoted to music. He even gave into the pressure to give up his lunch hour, a core belief he’s held to since freshman year – that all high school students should be able to enjoy a leisurely lunch hour without cramming in another honors class instead – for the sake of a music theory class.

And I started to cave myself. I mean, room and board money is on the line here. If he dropped one choir and squeezed in a summer business class … I think of myself as a fairly laid-back mom, but I’m not immune to the Stage Mom spirit. I felt it this morning as he prepared for a call-back audition for a state-wide award. But I caught myself. That’s not who I want to be, I reminded myself. I want to be supportive but not controlling. Excited but not to the point that he carries the weight of my disappointment if he doesn’t succeed. After all, no one wins all the things.

So the advice I gave on campus was something like this: “Why don’t you apply to the program with the transcript and credits that you have? Maybe that’s the person they actually want. If it isn’t, then it isn’t the program for you anyway.” And we both felt more peaceful.

And as a person who writes and submits work on a regular basis, I knew I had challenged myself, too. People-pleasing is an art-less life and I don’t want to live that way. Even during the college tour, the mock lecture Jesse heard was on pursuing a career that builds on your strengths, not one that constantly exposes your weaknesses. It was at that point that he started thinking that amazing program we had come to see might not be the best fit for him after all, even if it did pay for books and provide a fancy dorm room. We didn’t admit it to each other until we were on our way to the parking garage.

On the other hand, if he applies to the program even with the senior year of his dreams and they still offer him a spot, then maybe we re-open the conversation. Because in this mixed up world, maybe the fancy programs don’t always know what they’re looking for either until they see it, even if doesn’t match their checklist. But that would be a happy surprise on top of a great senior year instead of the opposite which would be a senior year full of compromises and classes he doesn’t love only to have the program pass on him anyway. We’re going to shoot for the good feeling on this one.

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