Ah, senioritis, that dreaded high school affliction. High school seniors, finish line in sight, are reported to lose their motivation and focus. Once meticulous AP/IB Honors scholars are now supposedly missing assignments, deadlines, and are generally just not as engaged in their high school careers. Is student senioritis real? I am a not a teacher so I don’t know. I expect there is some truth to the stereotype, albeit overblown.
As I embark in the senior year college admissions process for the third time in four years, what I can tell you is that parents can contract senioritis as well. Just as a wide-eyed freshman turns into a savvy high school senior, parents also change a great deal from being first-time parents of seniors to experienced parents of college students.
The official kickoff for the college application process for my oldest child was his high school’s junior parents meeting held in spring of junior year. I attended with great excitement and anticipation. My baby was going to college! Armed with pen and paper, I sat near the front, listened carefully and assiduously took notes on key events and dates. As the meeting progressed, I became increasingly overwhelmed with each new slide and alarmed that my student may already be behind in the process: no College Board profile, no Naviance profile,no hard list of targeted schools. I came home in a mild panic, interrupted my son at his homework, and made him answer the College Board profile questions: Big college? Public or private college? What do you want to do for the rest of your life? In short, temporary parental insanity ensued.
I bought the Princeton Review and my son, husband, and I scoured its rankings on
accceptance rates, majors, and quality of life. Are the students safe, happy? Is the food good? Do they find jobs? Not content with the Princeton Review’s descriptions, I supplemented my research online with College Confidential and Niche. University A vs University B; surely the online sites have the real scoop.
My son put together a list of possible colleges, including the recommended reach schools, safety schools, and target schools. Comparison spreadsheets and analysis commenced. I enjoyed plugging universities into the Naviance scattergram to see if my son’s current stats yielded a green or a red dot. My husband put sticky notes on the large United States map we have in our home office and we started planning visits as our summer vacation. Our office became a college application war room.
As the notifications began, I was so excited for each and every college acceptance and scholarship offer. I shared my son’s nervousness as he waited to hear from his top colleges. I eagerly viewed all the online notifications and gleefully trotted to the mailbox to retrieve the big envelopes. My son attended accepted student visits at his top universities and finally made his choice.
Fast forward three years to my third junior parent meeting this past spring. I attended just in case there were changes in the school’s process of teacher recommendations, transcript requests, etc. No real changes were announced so I was able to sit in the back and observe the first-time parents sitting in the front taking notes and asking questions and felt relief that it wasn’t me. I came home feeling confident that our third time through this would be smooth sailing.
With my youngest, we are already familiar with several colleges he is considering since he has already been dragged on several college tours with his siblings. We looked up some new schools in our old Princeton Review and have begun to visit them. He has taken the SAT twice and identified colleges with comparable admissions requirements. I am very much looking forward to seeing where my youngest will go to college and I will be happy and proud of him wherever that may be. At the same time, it is nice going through the application process as a seasoned parent. There may not be the thrill of the newness of it all but there is also less stress and angst. Each child’s situation, even within a family, is different but like all endeavors the college application process gets easier with repetition.
Maybe both high school seniors and parents perceived to have senioritis aren’t lazy or uninvested in the future. Maybe we know we have gone through the work and experiences needed to get to this point and are confident enough to “trust the process”. Just like the college counselors told me at that first meeting.