Friday, February 22, 2013

Mile 24 of the College Marathon

Since last I posted, the following has happened in what has turned out to be a full on marathon to college (really I was expecting only a half!).

1) The final three applications were submitted.  None at totally the last minute, but each brushing up against the deadline with in 2 - 3 days. And I was hoping he'd get them all done over Christmas break!

2) First semester grades.  The Senior earned a 79.6% in Calculus which did . . . NOT get rounded up to a B-.  That C+ kept him off even the regular Honor Roll.  B's in the other academic classes, A's thankfully in Band and Gym.  He took a grueling schedule which will carry weight, but the most competitive schools he is applying for (one of which is a favorite of his) are not likely to be impressed.  Perhaps good ACTs will save the day.

3) I have been doing the financial aid paperwork, which I think is now finished.  It was probably a waste of time, but with two kids in college next year, it seemed worth a shot.  Completing financial aid means getting the taxes done and completing a mound of (online) paperwork.  All schools require the FAFSA (which is easy); three of his schools also want the CSS-Profile, which requires two years worth of lots of financial data, punishes you for saving for retirement and having equity in your house, AND costs money to file.  The other schools all have in-house forms, which mostly duplicate the CSS-Profile forms, so require the same information entered over and over again.

4) He was not invited to audition on-campus at First Choice School.  This was disappointing, but maybe not surprising.  This means that he cannot be a music major or receive scholarships for playing.  Still, 75% of students in music ensembles at that school are NOT music majors, so it is still high on his list.  Playing, and not majoring, in music is probably what he wants anyway.

5) I have been chaperoning all the jazz events, which will rate a separate post.  I learned from the director that the Senior is  a very good lead trumpet player (which means something in jazz ensembles though I am not sure what), that this ability cannot be taught, that he routinely hits 2 or 3 notes higher than the lead trumpet player who graduated two years ago, known for his Dizzy Gillespe cheeks, and that the director of a Top Ten college jazz program who comes to their school every year wanted to give him a scholarship.  Which he never told us.  Perhaps he is not going down the right path, but I truly cannot see himself studying jazz.  Neither does he, apparently.

6) The last event is traveling later today to College with a Real Conservatory for an audition tomorrow.  The drive is about 4 hours and the biggest snowstorm of the year (which this year is not saying much) has hit.  It turned out not too bad around here but we will see heading north.

Then, it is all over but the waiting.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Working Holiday

The Senior went back to school today (yes, he is already out the door over an hour).  He is NOT where I hoped he'd be be in the application process, which would be done.  With the one acceptance in the bag, some pressure is off, but still, it would nice to be finished instead of this process continuing to drag on.

He was the only family member who stayed healthy throughout the break, but he spent almost all day every day working on either homework or the applications.  The homework load is just ridiculous.  All four of his academic classes gave piles of work over the break.  Final exams start Wednesday, and he needs to bring it on these to make up for the triage system he has applied out of necessity to homework submission.  There is an article in the local paper today focusing on our district and one other in the area that switched this year back to traditional scheduling, and how that has resulted in a dramatic increase in homework as kids (and teachers) learn to juggle more classes in fewer minutes per day.  Now as a college professor, I have limited sympathy for whining about homework loads.  My students are woefully unprepared to manage college-level intensity.  But as a parent on the ground, I do agree, this has been ridiculous this year.  The BC Calculus class that my oldest took when he was a senior, was blocked, 90 minutes a day for the entire year.  This child is taking the same class, not blocked, 45 minutes a day for the entire year.  The teacher is still trying to cover the same amount of material in half the time.

Anyway, except for Christmas and the one day we went to see Book of Mormon, the Senior has worked constantly.  The current count is 4 of 7 applications submitted.  The Common App was supposed to make this easier, and perhaps it does, but each school that he is applying to requires one or two additional essays.  I feel like that back in the pen and paper days, it was easier to say done, even if it wasn't perfect.  In the computer era, it is really easy to worry each essay to death.  First Choice College had the most difficult essays, and he got it in on New Year's Eve.  Two more submitted this weekend, including last night.  (I had to miss the premier of Downton Abbey in order to be available for last minute proofreading, computer troubleshooting, and credit card submission).  I am hoping he can get the next one done in the next day or two.  All but one has a deadline of January 15th, so that is the end in sight.  I couldn't care less about the final two on his list, but I think he does.  The last one, which doesn't have a deadline until Feb 1 / March 1 (conflicting information) also has difficult essays.  I also don't want this hanging out there this long.  It is time to move on to summer job searches, etc. 

Getting there, getting there . . .

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Present

The Senior has been accepted to the college he applied Early Action to at the end of last month!  It will still be a "working holiday" but this takes a big load off.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Application FAIL

Last week the Senior made a recording and uploaded it for a pre-screen for music majors and scholarships at First Choice College.  It was a big ordeal, as we know nothing at home about making good quality audio recordings or what level is expected for this kind of thing.  He managed to squeeze in some time after school to use the school's equipment in the auditorium.

Last night he got an email from the admission counselor for music that some recordings were missing.  I re-read all the guidelines, and he was missing some scales.  I had just misread the instructions thinking that scales were done at the in-person audition.  The email also mentioned some other excerpts, which we are hoping is just confusion.  Different degrees require different things, and other than the scales, we are pretty sure we have every thing for the B.A. degree he would be interested in, rather than the B.M. degree.  I feel really bad about this, as all last week my gut was telling me that one piece surely couldn't be enough.  I am waiting for business hours so I can call and get this cleared up.  We are probably going to end up recording the scales on my iPad at home and hope that will do.  It is nice that they are allowing him to still upload these.

I hear different opinions on how involved parents should be in the student's college process.  While I definitely do not like the extremes of the helicopter parents that you hear about, I've got to tell you, if everything was 100% student-managed, the only people in college would be a certain breed of high-achieving, hyper-organized girl.  The typical teenage boy simply does not have the organizational mindset required to navigate a sea of varying deadlines, requirements, and activities required by the typical "selective admission" college.  Quite a few girls do not either.  This is probably one reason why most liberal arts colleges skew female in gender distribution. This problem is magnified if the student is first-generation college or comes from a family unfamiliar with the process or also lacks the organizational mindset.  I pretty much am playing the role of administrative assistant and project manager here.  He does all the important work - he writes the essays, does the interviews, and makes the recordings, but I keep it all organized and on-track.  This is even more difficult than with the oldest because of music in the mix this time.  This is my second job right now.

In other news, the oldest comes home from college today IF he makes his flight.  He got an offer to move off -campus with some people that he has been hanging out with and surprised us with this yesterday.  Today he has to take a final, move all of his stuff out of his dorm and check out, pack for a 1 month visit instead of a weekend (i.e. checked bags) and make a flight at 5 p.m. EST.  In general, we view this a very positive development.  He has not been thriving with on-campus life and we are glad he has found some people he feels he could live with.  We think he is ready for a little more independence.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Be Angry FOR Those Parents

The onslaught of stress that is senior year continues unabated.  The overload of difficult classes on the new schedule, the lack of sleep, the too-many practices, and deadlines just go on and on.

There have been some milestones met.  He got in the music application for first-choice school a good 24 hours before the deadline.  (He is not particularly happy with his recording, but it will have to do).  This weekend is the annual band-choir holiday concert, a school tradition, and a wonderful, beautiful event.  I had hoped to have a post on that, as it is one event that I will miss terribly next year.

But of course, current events have rendered all personal stresses moot and irrelevant.  I will not link to other posts on this atrocity nor recount any details; everyone who might be reading this knows what I am talking about.  If by chance you have stumbled on this blog in some cyberspace archive in the future, just look up Connecticut 12-14-12 and you will understand.

I do have things to say, however.  First of all this comes against a weird backdrop of local events.  On Thursday, everyone got recorded phone messages from the school district.  After some strange ramblings about the last day of school, the winter solstice, and the Mayan calendar on December 21st, the message finally got to the point that rumors were running rampant in all the schools about violence on that day.  A call that was probably meant to reassure parents they were on top of things ended up being rattling because of poor execution.  Talked with another parent about it that night at the dress rehearsal and she was rattled too.  December 14th was also apparently part of the rumor mill.  And so then the next day, this happened. (And the China thing too, in case you missed it.  The difference being those 22 kids were only wounded, the weapon of choice being a knife).

In my time as a mother, I have witnessed numerous of these horrific events.  My youngest, this senior I write about now, was exactly six months old at the time of the Oklahoma City bombings.  Remember that photo carrying the body of the bloody, dead toddler from the day care center?  We were on kid-centric family vacation to Washington D.C. to see the Star Wars exhibit at the Air & Space Museum the day of the Jonesboro, Arkansas shooting (remember those two - they themselves were just kids).  I have a college friend whose first child was born the day of the Columbine shootings only a suburb or two away from Littleton.  And there was 9/11 - the first month for all of us in the new neighborhood to go to a brand new school, all the moms walking their kids to the bus stop.  We had heard the first inklings about it that morning and talked a little about what we had heard, but still all seemed okay.  When we went to meet the bus that afternoon, we just stood in stunned silence.  I first heard about Virginia Tech while teaching a college class, and while I don't like to out my location on this blog, we are just down the road from the site of another major university shooting.  And on and on.

I realize 9/11 is fundamentally different from all these other atrocities, in terms of both scale and intent.  But really, isn't the effect the same?  An act of terrorism that makes us fearful of living our everyday lives?  What did we do after 9/11, after memorial services and the shock was over?  We followed our president into two wars, we watched while major legislation was passed to enhance national security despite the very legitimate civil liberties concerns it raised.  We tolerate all sorts of inconvenience now so those "others" won't get us.

Where is this kind of action about these shootings?  Why are we not demanding a no-holds barred, everything on the table conversation by ourselves, our politicians, our news media, our communities?  Why are we not angry?  I already see on my Facebook feed the familiar pattern.  Everyone will post a "what is the world coming to" status.  A "our hearts and prayers go out the families" status.  Several "Remember" photo memes are going around.  We are being told to hug our kids, be grateful, be appreciative, pray.  Total strangers will send cards and leave teddy bears and flowers and light candles.  And then . . .  we will feel we have done what we can.  After all, what can we do?  We will not act. We will allow ourselves to be helpless.

We need to turn our grief and shock into anger.  Not the kind of internalized anger that led to this.  But anger that fuels action, that demands change, that won't back down from asking the hard questions.  We owe it to our children.  We owe it to those children.  We owe it to those parents.  This is not a tragedy.  This is an atrocity.  What are you going to do?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November Update: Triage

a : the sorting of and allocation of treatment to patients and especially battle and disaster victims according to a system of priorities designed to maximize the number of survivors
b : the sorting of patients (as in an emergency room) according to the urgency of their need for care
: the assigning of priority order to projects on the basis of where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, or are most likely to achieve success 
November has been a month of allocating scarce resources, mainly time, to where the most good can be done.  This has especially been true of homework.  There is SO MUCH (mainly due to the switch from block to traditional schedules) combined with college work and activities that the senior simply has to choose the work that is most urgent or has the largest effect on his grade, and let the little stuff go.  Apparently we are not alone as the school administration has created a special email address just for homework concerns, and other parents have nodded knowingly when I have used the word triage to describe our lives.

(Isn't triage a good SAT word too?  I learned the word from M*A*S*H, which I watched religiously after school in my teens.  In fact, I learned much biology, history, and much else from that show!)

My time has also been subject to triage so keeping up this blog has not been a priority.  

What's more, I've even had to perform triage on this entry, as it got way too long, too fast as I started to recount all the November happenings with the senior!

At this point, there is only one piece of news that matters for November.  The Common App is done, and the first application (for non-binding Early Action December 1) is submitted! 

With the Common App done, the things that remain to do are the supplements specific for each school.  Our next deadline is December 15th, when a music recording needs to be uploaded.  This will be a big one!

He had a return visit/scholarship audition to an in-state choice and a local interview with reps from an out-of-state choice this month.  I'll close with a couple of pictures of those two schools.

Outside shot of residence hall of one of the interview schools.
Common area of a freshman suite for the other interview school.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October Update

October is the craziest month.  Always has been.  A senior in the mix makes it more so.  Here is a quick update since the last post.

1) We had our last Panther Marching Band Review on October 11th.  This is always the best event on the marching band schedule.  The stadium is filled with band fans, the crowd is quiet and attentive when the bands are playing, and no one stands up in front of your video camera.  Our band always sounds their best, and this night did not disappoint.  I will say the music selection could be better.  How much (2nd tier) classic rock could these kids really want to play?  Journey?  Billy Joel?  Blood, Sweat, and Tears.  And then, Nirvana?  That one was a train wreck folks.  No way that is marching music.  Kurt Cobain is rolling in his grave.

2) First Choice College has a top notch music program and their orchestra went on tour in the middle of the month.  Their one stop around these parts was on a Sunday afternoon about 45 minutes away, so we were able to get free tickets to their performance.  We also went to a lunch and information session for perspective students.  Definitely could have skipped that, the other students & parents were mostly legacies, and we heard nothing we didn't hear during the summer visit.  You have to show interest though, and this is how you do it.  The concert, however, was wonderful.  I found a new piece for my iPod (Danzon No. 2 by Marquez) and I think the senior enjoyed it.  Most of their performers are not music majors (or music and something else) so this is, we hope, a very reachable school.

3) The last regular football game and marching show ever was two weekends ago.  Very emotional.  We finally were able to stay to hear what we call "The Tree".  At the end of each football game, the band marches back to the band room side of the school.  As they approach, there is total silence except for the drum captain tapping the beat.  They form a circle around a tree and then play a very moving rendition of Amazing Grace.  No one tells you about this; you learn about it as a freshman parent when you are sitting in the parking lot waiting to pick your kid up.  We had not stayed for it yet this year, and I was worried rain and cold were going to make us miss it again.  It all worked out though.  And now this is done.

4) The oldest came home for a quick fall break.  We learned more about the harrowing trip to meet the band at the amusement park (one of those things as a parent you are glad that you didn't know while it was happening).

5) Applications are going slowly and the 4 AP classes plus double band practices plus Early Bird Gym are taking their toll.  I am trying to ignore the parents already posting acceptances on Facebook.

6)  The football team won conference, so the first playoff game was at home Friday night.  This meant a pep band so he had one more night of fun.  Pep band at football games has never been something I felt I needed to see, so parents enjoyed an evening at home.

7) Had to say no to the trumpet campout Saturday night.  Between the schoolwork and the application work, and an interview with Reach College today, something had to give.  He was angry at first, but perhaps his close friends couldn't go either, because in the end, he opted to stay home completely, even though we said he go for the evening and not sleep out.  Has worked on AP History all weekend.

8) Interview at Reach College did not go as well as he would have liked.  He said it was awkward, the questions were "strange" and it was not like the other interview he had this summer with a different school.  Being as we are a family of introverts and not always comfortably on our verbal feet, we are taking the position that even awkward interviews are a learning experience and to let it roll off and move on.  Not really sure what the purpose of the interview is anyway.  Perhaps he shouldn't do them unless they are absolutely required.