The final rose

I work hard to maintain some kind of work/home balance but I am currently finding it pretty challenging. Here at the Foundation we are in the midst of “scholarship season,” an exciting and busy time for us. As the parent of a high school senior, our home life is full tilt in the college admissions process, one that feels a bit like living a week on either Survivor or the Bachelorette (who will be getting that darn rose?!).

If I only knew then what I know now . . . The refrain has gone through my head daily the last couple of months. I do not have a lot of regrets in my life, but any that I have would have in most circumstances probably center around parenting, specifically around the high school years and the preparation for graduation. Geesh, I have learned so much! And now that my only child is getting ready to leave the nest, I am not sure what I can do with all this knowledge. It really is too bad I do not get a chance to do it again. I think I could do a better job, I really do. I would go back in time to that idiot attending Parent Night during junior year who shared all the feedback he had received from the college admissions counselors at Ivy League schools and told us, confidentially, that we all should have already hired a college coach. I should have punched him.

My daughter’s experiences and that of her friends have taught me much about what it is like to be in high school these days. I have learned about rising college costs, admissions, applications, testing, early decision, FAFSA, extracurricular activities and scholarships. I have learned much about the amount of time and focused effort it takes to apply to college. I have learned that kids are smarter, savvier and much more focused than I was in high school. I have learned much about the incredible stress kids are under — to get into college, to perform well, to exceed. I have learned much about the excitement of acceptance and the pain of rejection. I have learned that not everyone is college bound — and that gap years, technical training and heading straight into the working world are all options. 

I could write a book or at least a long short story about the stress we are placing on our teens: the unrealistic expectations, competition and inequity that exist for our kids. I can say this, because I am guilty of pushing and comparing. What I wanted was to raise a kind, strong daughter — someone with emphathy and guts. She is that and more, and I could not be prouder. But it is hard to stay focused in the midst of other people’s expectations, and the demands we think we should be placing. And we are all talking out of both sides of our mouths — relax we say: enjoy senior year!  The next breath is a question about applications or essays or decisions.

I am also quite aware of the opportunities her parents have been able to provide and the inequity that can result. Having an adult who is on your side, pushing, supporting, encouraging and standing up for you makes a difference. Many kids do not have someone in their corner, and this scares me.

What I know in my heart more than ever, is that having options is a luxury for many. Due to finances, geography, family circumstances and more — sometimes there are not any options and in some cases there are not any opportunities.

Our work here with our scholarships at the NCCF does some important things — in some situations it helps level the playing field — and affords some kids the opportunity to go to college who would otherwise simply not be able to attend. In some situations it fills a gap and allows kids to focus on college and not have to work long hours or force debt.

What frightens me about this whole experience is that many students lose hope during this process.

We love scholarships because they are about hope and validation — that people do care about you — that people are paying attention — that you matter and are important.

I just worry about those kids who miss out – who miss getting a scholarship for not trying, for not having someone who is pushing, who believes in them.

I want to give them all a rose.