It’s that time of year. In front of every grocery store in town, cheerful Girl Scouts will sell brightly colored boxes of Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, and Do-si-dos. It is not lost on me that Girl Scout cookie season coincides with the mass distribution of college rejection letters.
My phone rang yesterday, and when I saw the name on the screen, I knew she would either be sobbing or celebrating. I had coached this student through her applications to Tufts, Emory, Tulane, UNC-Chapel Hill, Boston College, and Elon. I closed my eyes, hoped for the best, and answered the call. Her voice was high-pitched and breathless. “I got into college! UNC let me in!”
Relieved, I said, “Of course, they let you in! You’re brilliant, and they’re lucky to have you.”
But not all of the Class of 2020 students who applied to Chapel Hill received the same good news yesterday. One particular mom texted, “Waitlisted. He’s devastated.”
It was in that moment that I realized how strange it is to live in Charlotte, North Carolina, where so many bright students aren’t admitted to their colleges of choice. Two equally accomplished students––best friends since childhood––get their UNC answers the same day. For one, a dream comes true. For the other, a dream dies.
These are the parenting moments for which there is no playbook. Even worse, there’s no etiquette book either. Where is “Emily Post’s Guide to Announcing College Acceptances on Social Media” when we need it? In an Instagram world, how do we strike the balance of sharing exuberant news, while being sensitive to dear friends whose teens are shattered? The college stakes feel so high. Many teens measure their intelligence by two yardsticks: their SAT score and the passing decision of a busy admissions officer. And let’s be honest, it’s tempting to measure our success as parents by the same standard.
As parents, we know a college rejection isn’t the most significant disappointment our teen will experience in their lifetime. Still, to a 17-year-old, it deals out heartbreak commensurate with an unsuccessful in vitro or the loss of a job. It is real. These are delicate days, and they call for an extra measure of parenting wisdom.
As our teens ride the wave of acceptances, deferrals, waitlists, and rejections this spring, we must be thoughtful about our Instagram posts. We must be gracious to one another no matter what news arrives in the mail. We must be good listeners. As tempting as it is, we must not reach for easy answers and tired clichés, such as “It wasn’t meant to be,” or “Try not to take it personally,” or my favorite with deferrals and waitlists, “It might still work out.” While all these are true, sometimes it’s best just to listen.
Time is the only remedy for disappointing admissions news, but for all you moms out there who were taught to feed a cold and starve a fever, Edy’s ice cream is on Harris Teeter VIC special this week. BOGO. And you know what pairs well with ice cream? Yep, Girl Scout Cookies.
I’ve got it on good authority that the Girl Scouts are releasing a new cookie this year: Lemon-Ups. Apparently, each cookie includes an inspiring message, like “I’m a leader,” “I am an innovator,” and “I am a risk-taker.”
The cry of every 18-year-old college applicant has been heard: buy me cookies and tell me I’m amazing no matter what happens.
When you’re 8, it takes guts to don a Girl Scouts uniform and ring your neighbor’s doorbell. You don’t know the cookies sell themselves. When you’re 18, it takes grit to ride the admissions rollercoaster. You don’t know you’ll find happiness wherever you land. But, parents, we know. So stock the garage freezer, buy the Lemon-Ups, get out the Kleenex boxes, and say “yes” to the more expensive prom dress.