I miss you.
On Halloween in Denver, there is an air of anticipation as the sun settles behind the foothills. The skeletons of aspens and cottonwoods stand sentinel along neighborhood sidewalks, their scattered golden leaves soon to be decimated by the trampling of feet, wagons, and strollers. At dusk, adorable children with painted faces and pumpkin-shaped buckets begin to troll the streets.
At least, this is what I imagine happens.
It’s been years since I witnessed this tradition. I merely handle candy acquisition. My husband: distribution. While he responds to the doorbell with Pavlovian efficiency, I write recommendations and reply to my seniors’ frantic emails as they spend the last Halloween of their youth finalizing applications. Because for seniors, Oct. 31 isn’t Halloween.
It’s November 1st Eve.
Dec. 1 has Thanksgiving break. Jan. 1 has winter break. But Halloween, no school break is close enough nor long enough to protect you from becoming November 1st Eve.
You might think releasing essay prompts in February and opening applications in August would give seniors plenty of time. Allow me to introduce you to an actual high school senior. Not the one that is going to make us adults feel like chronic underachievers because we didn’t manage to parlay being trilingual into founding a global nonprofit at the advanced age of 14.
Let me introduce you to the 18-year-old napping on my office floor during lunch, because between volleyball practice, AP homework, and 15 minutes on Instagram, she’s averaging four hours of sleep a night. Or the one unprepared for today’s trig test because she spent last night supplying tissues and sympathy to her best friend suffering her first heartbreak. Or the student waiting on his paycheck to apply because he’s covering his own application fees by bagging groceries part-time.
Want tales of grit and determination? Witness the life of a senior in the second half of October. There is no partial-credit for late submitted work on applications. And students have been conditioned by colleges and counselors alike: A fate worse than losing your smartphone privileges?
Instead, sleep will be deprived. Snaps will go unchatted. Pop Tarts will be consumed. Somehow, some way, the “submit” button will be clicked. By 11:59 p.m. Nov. 1. Local time.
What’s my excuse, you ask? Why didn’t I write my recs over the summer? Or finish them last weekend instead of doing pesky things like grocery shopping? After all, what’s a few more days living on PB&Js, right?
Some of the best conversations I will ever have with my students are in the days and hours leading up to Nov. 1. With stress and fatigue, the brave fronts falter. Students get very real, very quickly, sharing their thoughts, dreams, and foibles in a way that they were neither ready nor willing to share by Memorial Day or Labor Day. These eleventh hour revelations often make the best recommendation fodder, providing inspiration for how to encapsulate yet another wonderful and impressive student in an entirely unique way.
I’m sorry, Halloween. Thanks to the college application process, N1E has totally hijacked your day.
So on Oct. 31 while most of the adult world is enjoying a bowl of homemade chili and an Oktoberfest-style brew, mingling with neighbors as the annual parade of pirates and princesses commences, I’ll be online. And later that evening, with my recs and replies finally written and our doorbell finally silenced, I will collapse onto the couch, have a glass of wine with my husband, and say:
“Thank goodness the November 15th deadlines are still two weeks away.”
NACAC member Stephanie Santillo serves as the director of college counseling at Mullen High School (CO).