My youngest children—twins my wife and I adopted in Kenya during our 14 years there—are just beginning the college search process.
They are now 16, and my daughter and I went on a college tour last week. We visited two large public schools and two small private schools. We got up at 3 a.m. to make a flight, and our first school was a very large public university. It was a great tour, and our rep had gone beyond expectations to make it personal for my daughter. But then, something extraordinary happened.
It’s just BUSY this time of the year, and while what I WANT to do is close the door and write, write, write, there are a myriad of other things that have to do done. There is nothing that says fall like the word busy.
So when a student popped in my office and asked if she could work on her application, I told her sure and kept working on what I needed to do. She would ask the occasional question, but mostly we were both working on her separate to-do lists.
Then there was silence. As a father of five, I FEAR silence. I looked up, and she was crying.
A senior who graduated in May stops in before they head off to college. The smile is bright, but the eyes betray them; they are scared.
It’s easy for me to reassure them because, as old as I am, I remember how transformational the first week of college was. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, and I grew up in a town of 13,000 in Illinois. I really had no idea what to expect. I was pretty scared.
It started in my second class. My professor said something, and I laughed out loud. He asked me what was so funny, and I told him that I had never ever thought about what he had just mentioned. He gave me a sly grin and became a lifelong mentor.
Like many college counselors, the only T-shirts I own are college T-shirts. Last week, I wore lots of them during a beach vacation. Since the only time I usually wear them is at the gym at 5 a.m., I don’t usually get many reactions. However, at the beach, people would respond to the college on the shirt, and it became challenging to know how to respond:
Person at Beach: I WENT TO TEXAS A&M!
Me: That’s nice.
PAB: DON’T YOU JUST LOVE IT? (At the beach, people scream when they see their college on a T-shirt.)
Me: I think it is one of the greatest large universities in the US.