August 17 – Getting the Ball Rolling

Post.ItsTo say that I’m overwhelmed by the college application process is an understatement. It’s completely different than when I applied in the 80s. Let me paint you a picture.

I have a sister who is a year older than me. Her senior year, my mom bought her a college source book that listed  every college and university in the United States. There was no internet, so hard copy was the only way to go. The thing was this size of a phone book. I picked it up my senior year, took a look at some school descriptions, and picked a few I thought I could get into. I showed the list to my guidance counselor, whom I had just met a few weeks into my senior year. She told me I was over reaching and suggested a handful of local state schools.

Infuriated, I completed applications only for the schools on my list.  I wrote my own essays, which were not reviewed by any teachers or paid consultants. I  typed them on a typewriter and mailed everything in.  I was a swimmer, so I contacted the coaches at a couple of the schools and set up some meetings. I told my parents where I wanted to go, and we toured a few of the schools. One afternoon I got a call from the swim team coach at Drexel. She asked me if I planned on majoring in engineering. “No,” I said. “I was thinking about business.” She replied, “Good. Well, then congratulations. You’ve been accepted to Drexel.”

That was it. No acceptance letter from the school, no fan fare. My parents weren’t really engaged, so there was no celebration. And I did the whole thing myself. The whole thing didn’t take more than a couple of months.

Gigi’s experience is completely different. This is a family affair, there’s no doubt about it. We’re all engaged. Mike is focused on the financial end of it and figuring out how we’re going to pay for it. I’m focused on the logistics – deadlines, what do we need to complete these applications successfully, what is required to apply for scholarships.

Gigi is doing the heavy lifting – researching schools, gathering her transcripts, writing her essays. We are extremely fortunate to be in the IB program at Campbell. Max Jones, who is an English teacher and assistant program coordinator, also takes on the lion’s share of guiding seniors to getting into the college that is the best fit for them. He is amazing. He has suggested schools we never would have thought of, and has provided exceptional feedback on Gigi’s essays.

It’s a lot of moving parts. A lot. Almost too much for me to keep track of. In an effort to manage all the information, we bought some giant Post-its and stuck them to the wall in the dining room. Each one has the name of a school she is applying to and its relevant information: tuition, housing and meal plan costs; fees (What do these cover, by the way? More research required…); application deadlines; scholarship information, etc.

It’s a first step. Anything to make this process the littlest bit easier. Eat the elephant one teaspoon at a time, as they say. Next up? Common app!


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