A Father's Journal / Getting your kid into college
Published 7:00 am, Tuesday, April 17, 2012
My oldest daughter, Caroline, is a sophomore in high school, so we are starting to think seriously about colleges. We recently attended a lecture on getting into college. My wife arrived early and sat in the front row. I came in later from work, and because it was packed, I was forced to crawl over half of Fairfield to get to the first row.
An hour into the talk, I went to check on my younger daughter. Coming back, I didn't want to go crawl up front again. Some people had left, so there was a seat in the back next to a friend of ours. I sat down and asked her what she was doing there, as her daughter had already been accepted into an elite college. She said she was fried. The process was exhausting, she gained 30 pounds and wanted to see if there were better ways than the way she did with her daughter because her other daughter was coming along in a few years.
I stopped listening to the lecture and started listening to our friend. I'll call her "Jennifer." Jennifer had horror stories to tell. During the question-and-answer period, she would respond to parents' questions with answers whispered only to me -- but loud enough for four or five people nearby to hear. She answered with statements like: "You'll never get your kids into an Ivy League school. Stop wasting our time." I had never seen Jennifer so wound up. She appeared almost possessed.
Finally, she said "I should do a seminar from an angry parent's prospective." Talking it over with me got her to calm down and we talked about what the proposed seminar would be like.
We agreed that there would be no PowerPoint slides; just Jennifer perched on a stool on a black curtained stage. A single light would illuminate her, and a little table next to her would sit half a bottle of Wild Turkey. Her lips would lightly grip a lit, unfiltered cigarette.
Her lecture would begin with 20 minutes on how difficult it was to get her straight-A student into an elite college. The next 10 minutes would focus on her disparaging remarks about our school system, followed by 10 minutes of ridiculing the audience for their clothing.
Then she would take questions.
We imagined a large woman asking the first question: "Do I apply for financial aid before or after my daughter is accepted?"
Jennifer responds: "Listen, I gained 30 pounds during this process. I want you to turn around (the woman turns around). You are obese. Your heart can't take another 30 pounds. Don't even bother. Next question!"
A man asks: "Do you think published college rankings are a good way to choose a school?"
Jennifer says: "I know at the beginning I said there was no such thing as a stupid question. I lied. That was stupid. Are you some kind of moron? How smart could your kid be with you for a father? Hopefully, your kid was adopted. Next!"
Another woman asks: "How much do SAT and ACT scores matter?"
Jennifer replies: "You make me want to vomit! You sicken me. Next!"
Another man approaches the microphone. "How important is a site visit?" he asks.
"How much can you bench press?" Jennifer demands.
"I don't know," the man says. "Why is ..."
"What's your time in the mile?" Jennifer asks.
"I don't know," the man says, " but ...".
"You come here seeking information from me, yet you give me no information to work with," Jennifer responds. "Is it all take with you? I have to give. I am always giving. This is supposed to be a two-way street. Meet me halfway"
"But," the man says, "we did pay you ... $125 ..."
"I'll ask you again then, Jennifer says. "What is your best time for running a mile?"
"I don't know," the man says.
We imagine the seminar ending with Jennifer being pulled from the stage screaming obscenities and a line from the movie "A Few Good Men."
"You want the truth? ... You can't handle the truth!"
After the lecture we attended, we found out from some parents that their experiences went better than Jennifer's.
Jennifer's seminar will not be offered at neighborhood schools. They have a zero-tolerance policy for obscenities, smoking and consuming Wild Turkey.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at: email@example.com