Thoughts on the College Process

Thoughts on the College Process

college bound

Since my daughter started her college career this past fall, I have had so many things I’ve wanted to share about the months leading up to that momentous milestone. From applications, acceptances and rejections, to planning, preparations and letting go, I can think of no other stage that rivaled the emotional extremes I experienced during that intensely heightened time. Although I’ve learned so much and have a lot to say, sitting down to actually get something written has proven to be one of the hardest things to do. Why? Because the entire process was really challenging. As in, brought-me-to-my-knees challenging. And now that we, as a family unit, have gone through it and have emerged from it, I’ll be the first to admit that revisiting it is difficult. The whole process from start to finish was agonizing (exciting too, yes, but mostly agonizing) and I’ll be the first to admit it flattened me.

Just to preface, I am choosing to say we because through it all I felt very much a part of the process with my daughter, which is likely why I was so affected by it. Although she handled most of it on her own our entire family became very invested in her journey. And despite the intensity of it, I do feel fortunate she invited us along. She asked for our input, support and help and I’m grateful we were able to give it to her and walk by her side through it all. I say all of that only because I fear that when I say we instead of she that I will be misunderstood. It’s true that her journey will always will be hers, but there are some times in life—usually those that are most challenging—when you pull together as a family and choose to travel a part of the road together. This was one of those times and no member of our family was excluded from that. From exciting college tours to unsettling unknowns, late night essay editing to filling out financial forms, rejections to acceptances, graduation to move-in day…we were in it together, deliberately. For her. With her.

I was prompted today to finally sit down and share my thoughts because of a Facebook post* from a mom who is where I was a year ago, her words quickly taking me back in time and I could feel that emotional pendulum move deep within in my soul. I vividly remember when the days felt long with waiting, uncertainty and trepidation. When, although I was anxious to know, I was equally desperate not to. When great accomplishments and hard-won achievements were recognized and bittersweet culminations were celebrated. When time was slipping through my fingers and moments we’re being indelibly etched on my heart. When the extremes of exhilaration, disappointments and raw emotion left me reeling and exhausted. When I grappled with when to hold on and when to let go. When my mama heart was caught between bursting with excitement and breaking with inevitability. And above all else, when I wasn’t sure if in the end, it was all going to be ok and even more, if I was going to survive it.

A year later, I can tell you with certainty that it will be OK. It may work out just as you hoped, or in a way you could never have imagined. Or it may take journeying a little further to get to OK. But, trust me on this, you will survive it. And your child will too. In fact, they’ll likely rise far beyond merely surviving. They’ll be thriving wherever they land. That’s the thing about our kids that we often forget. They’re incredibly resilient and they can so beautifully bloom where they are planted, ever growing toward the sun.  All of this will come. Soon, very soon.

Until then, this waiting and wondering place, is really hard. And when it’s hard—even excruciating —it’s because you care. You want what’s best for your child because that’s what you’ve wanted every single day of their lives. You want all of their efforts to be rewarded because they’ve traveled a long, hard road to get here. You want what your child wants, and if that’s to be accepted into their dream school, then you want that. You want them to be seen and valued as the exceptional kid that they are and you want this process to validate them as such. It’s no wonder this whole thing is tough on us, there’s a lot more riding on it than just a college acceptance letter. You are justified in feeling this experience deeply. As invested, well-intentioned parents, there’s no way we can get through a transitional milestone like this one unscathed. So, what’s the diamond from all of this grit? I think it’s just the knowing that you can do this. You’ve done it as long as you’ve been a parent, albeit perhaps not quite as intensely. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. One college notification at a time. You will all get through it. You will emerge. Your child will shine. And in a year from now, you’ll be sharing your experience with next year’s rising freshman parents assuring them that everything is going to be OK.

*The message that spurred this post was shared by a member of the Grown and Flown community on Facebook. I cannot tell you how much I needed that website and community last year (they’ve got an inspiring private group that I’m so grateful for being a part of-you can request an invite). I didn’t find them until after my daughter got settled into college but I’m glad I found them just the same. They are an invaluable resource for parents of teens!

  • Vikki Spencer
    Posted at 15:57h, 29 February Reply

    Tracey you hit the nail on the head that I needed hit about now… we are right in the thick of it here. He does apply and gets rejected. Then he doesn’t apply anywhere else. Then he does and he gets in but doesn’t want to go. O.M.G. I am taking all your advice plus my own intuition to lay low, cheer when it’s appropriate, and have a stash of chocolate for both of us (and cookie dough). I may gain 10 pounds but he will get where he needs to be and I will be really proud. Of us both. Again, thank you for these timely words and sharing your experience.

    • Tracey
      Posted at 10:37h, 01 March Reply

      Oh Vikki, I’m feeling you, mama. Hang in there. These are challenging days. xo to you

  • CarrieH
    Posted at 21:37h, 08 March Reply

    You are so right. So many emotions. There were days I wasn’t sure we’d all get through it in one emotional piece. Thanks for expressing what so many of us have felt.

    • Tracey
      Posted at 10:14h, 11 March Reply

      Thanks so much for that, Carrie. It’s so true.

  • Beth Holmes
    Posted at 08:04h, 22 September Reply

    Thank you for this, and for your honesty. My daughter (only child) just began her Junior year of High School and my denial that the college search and leaving home process was coming is now over — it’s here. I sometimes feel that other Moms and Dads around me are not as sensitive or as affected by this transition as I am — I’m pretty sensitive to these things, so it’s good to read that I’m not the only one, and that it’s okay to be “brought to my knees” by this process, and that I don’t have to be stoic through it. Hope this makes sense!

    • Tracey
      Posted at 14:30h, 23 September Reply

      Beth, thank you so much for your comment. You are not alone! I too really begun feeling the “process” about where you are with your daughter now. I rode a pendulum of excitement and heartbreak from Jr year on. It was a long, challenging road for my mama heart so I feel where you’re at so much. It’s an important time to seek out and find a motherhood tribe (the women who we can talk to, relate to, share with). It’s a surreal time of life…give yourself as much love as you can right now. These are difficult (and amazing and fleeting) days.

  • Kim MacMartin-Moglia
    Posted at 20:24h, 11 January Reply

    I am going through all of this right now and will have to do it all again in another 2 years. Hopefully next time I will be better at it, but boy what a roller coaster it has been. One thing I will say though is, reading and giving editing suggestions to my son’s essays really helped me gain a better insight into who he is as a person.

    Thanks for your insights Tracey!

    • Tracey
      Posted at 13:22h, 13 January Reply

      I’m hoping I’ll be better at in when it’s time for my HS freshman to do it too! I agree about how participating in the process with your kids DOES give you a whole different (enlightening) view into their head and heart. : ) That’s a benefit for sure. Best of luck to you and your son! Thanks for your comment, Kim.

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