Big, Bold-Faced words Regarding My Thoughts on College Prep

Image result for felicity huffman lori loughlin
Don’t be like Lori and Felicity. CAN WE ALL JUST CHILL OUT ABOUT COLLEGE?
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I love words, and there are many words in the English language that speak to my soul. Epiphany, solitude, grace, schism, and ambivalent to name a few. My word of the moment, though, is curmudgeon: a bad tempered person, especially an old one. Somehow in the past few years, I’ve morphed into an 85 year old malcontent who walked five miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways of course.

In actuality, I walked maybe three blocks to school. There were a few years there when I had to then get on a bus and ride five minutes across town to the early elementary school. And I had a car before the end of my freshman year. Because I was spoiled (there were some other extenuating circumstances, but whatevs).

Since there weren’t any, I cannot wax nostalgic about my hardships getting to and from school; but I can grumble about my college prep experience. Though I’m not really grumbling, because it WAS ALL OK. There is of course a caveat: anything I tell you in regards to this topic is to the best of my memory (which is suspect, since this was 25ish years ago and it’s been fairly well established that I typically can’t remember what happened to me yesterday).

When I was a junior in high school, we were encouraged to take the PSAT, so I signed up. Upon signing up, I received an information packet and a practice test, all hard copies of course. I took the practice test. I may even have taken it twice (I was a fastidious student). I took the test. My score, as I recall, was good. Perhaps even slightly above average. I started getting flyers for college in the mail.

Early in my senior year of high school, I signed up to take the ACT. Upon signing up, I received an information packet and a practice test, all hard copies of course. I took the practice test. I may even have taken it twice (I was a fastidious student). I took the test. I think I got a 28. I also think I scored really well in reading and comprehension and maybe not as well in science and reasoning. For some reason, I opted to sign up and take it again. I vaguely recall some schools I was interested in offering some financial aid for scores of 29 or above, but who the hell can really remember? Upon signing up, I received an information packet and a practice test, all hard copies of course. I took the practice test. I may even have taken it twice (I was a fastidious student). Did that last sentence sound familiar? I think I got a 29.

I went to college at a small-ish liberal arts establishment, then did a clinical year in a big university hospital. I got two bachelor of science degrees in five years. I acquired some debt (admittedly nothing like what students today are facing). I was very intentional about making sure I would be employable upon completion of my education. Somewhere in there I got married. I got a job. I had kids. I quit my job. I currently live the dream with a spouse, a house, two kids and a dog.

There were some mistakes along the way. I perhaps should’ve paid more attention to the fact that I scored higher in reading and comprehension than I did science and reasoning when choosing a career path. In the interest of scrupulousness and unmitigated honesty, I should tell you I don’t remember what the test sections were actually called and I’m too lackadaisical to look up that information on the google. At any rate, I was more adept with words than equations; and some aptitude testing would’ve likely been pragmatic. BUT, I did the best I could with the information I had. And, despite some mistakes, I AM OKAY.

Here’s what I understand: My son is a high school sophomore. The next two years are going to race by. I’m going to blink twice and *hopefully* be taking photos of my boy in his cap and gown. It’s definitely time to start thinking about what life after high school is going to look for both of my children.

Here’s what I don’t understand: The frenzy going on around me. The agonizing over what AP courses to sign up for, the collective anxiety about getting into college, the Facebook inquiries about which AP test prep books are the best, which test coach (seriously! seriously?!) to hire.

Some of this is admittedly the bed I’ve made. Our family lives in a district that touts having perhaps the best schools in the state. The adult population around me is highly educated, driven, and successful in their careers. The frenzy about me is undoubtedly largely a function of the population we’ve surrounded our family with.

BUT. Shouldn’t an advantage of living in such a place be that maybe, just maybe, we could let go of some of this anxiety? Could we perhaps not stress about having the premier AP test prep book and instead put a little faith in the educators who tirelessly work to make sure these kids are ready for the exam? I have this sneaking suspicion that these course instructors ALSO want our kids to be successful, so perhaps we should simply let them do their thing, have our kids attend the outside of class prep sessions these men and women conduct on their own time, and let the chips fall where they may.

If my attitude is giving you an anxiety attack, please quit reading. This is going to get worse.

Because I’m going to take this ‘let the chips fall where they may’ idea a little farther. It’s not just the AP instructors who have an interest in our kids testing well. OTHER TEACHERS WANT OUR KIDS TO DO WELL, TOO. So, maybe, just maybe simply going to school, doing the assigned work, and taking advantage of the available resources is the test prep. I am, indeed, suggesting that perhaps simply taking the practice test for the ACT is sufficient preparation. I am, indeed, suggesting that our children might do just fine without us worrying so damn much about a test score. I am, indeed, suggesting that OUR KIDS ARE GOING TO BE OK.

Our kids are all going to get into college, y’all. It may not be an Ivy League institution. It might not be our first choice school for them. They might have to transfer after a year or two. We’re going to make mistakes. Our kids are going to make some too. So, how about we cool it with the stressing ourselves out, stressing our kids out, and putting ourselves in this utterly unnecessary pressure cooker? OUR KIDS ARE GOING TO BE OK. We’re going to be OK too. It’s ALL GOING TO BE OK. And all this travail is turning me into a curmudgeon.

In my day, there was no test coach. We signed up, took the practice tests, and went to college. And it was all just fine, DAMMIT.