Ice Cream Socials, Igloos and College Applications

We were into our full second week of school and I can say that life here in the Turner household was kicking along as it does- regular routines were back in swing, lunches were being packed, and I was… well- “struggling well” to quote my good internet friend Emily Thomas.
As in many areas of this great country, ice cream socials are a great way to celebrate and kick off really anything. My family was lucky enough to have two of these within a week of each other to get us going in school and scouts. I need to confess here that I am not a good Ice Cream Social participant. Every year at the kids’ school there are mass amounts of incredible homemade ice cream that has been slaved over for hours…and then there are people like me who run to Baskin Robbins the morning of said event to buy as many containers of ice cream that my nine year old can carry to send along to the school. Most likely my ice cream will only to be pulled out in a desperate measure to appease those poor children whose parents never get them to the social before the “good stuff” runs out. (I hope my kids liked the mint chocolate chip- it was on sale.) Kudos to all of those wonderful parents who make this such a wonderful and blessed event of organized chaos each year. And an even greater thanks to those folks who have to clean up the mess. You are really the unsung heroes of my life.
Another fun fact of these first two weeks was that the littlest darling had already gotten to do his first project! When one reaches the fourth grade at my kids’ school there is a blog that we all must check daily for school updates, homework, and such. It is such a big deal, this blog, that we (I use that term loosely here) had to spend time on it each week over the summer to as to not be lost or get behind once school started even if it meant pulling him away from the twelve plus hours of Mine Crafting that seemed to occupy his ever waking hour. Well, it took me one week and I got behind-I know, big shocker. So, one of those first Sunday afternoons I get an email saying the blog has been updated and decided I should go check it out. Apparently the kids had a choice between taking a test over the first chapter in social studies over Native Americans OR they could build a house that was used by one of the tribes and write a three paragraph paper on it for a test grade. I thought to myself surely he choose to take the test?! Then I prayed, “Dear God, please tell me he choose to take the test!!” As previously mentioned, it was a Sunday afternoon and having already looked over the calendar for the week I wasn’t sure where I could pencil in constructing a Wigwam in a shoe box. As luck would (or would not) have it- he had chosen the Igloo. Do you know how hard it is to find sugar cubes in my town on a Sunday night?
Then…we embarked on the college applications. Y ‘all, this is not the first time I have made this statement in my adult life and I doubt will be the last- but I am really glad I am not in high school anymore. In my senior year of high school, applying to college meant swinging by Dr. Wood’s office and flipping through the college brochures neatly displayed on a magazine stand and picking one, maybe two if you were ambitious, that looked like a good fit. You would then go home and neatly fill them out, print out your resume, get a check from mom or dad for twenty-five dollars made out to the school’s admission department, hunt down a stamp in the junk drawer in the kitchen and stick that puppy in the mail box. After which you would wait several weeks or months for the (hopefully) large package from the school of your choice to come in the mail. Kids, for you guys facing this now- the big packages meant you were in and the smaller envelopes meant “we don’t feel you fit the type of student we are looking for at ACME University”. #biggerwasbetter
I got lucky. I applied to one school- Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC and got in. It was an incredible four years and I have no regrets. (At this point I would like to thank my mom and dad for paying for me to go to college. I have never in my life appreciated you more than I did when we started looking at the cost of college for our senior.) The eldest darling has applied to eight schools. To say things are different now is a bit of an understatement. All applications are done online and all acceptances or rejections come via an email. And the cost of applying has doubled in the last twenty plus years. (Yes, we’ve spent a small fortune just applying to the schools, not to mention the cost to take SATs which go ahead and count on your child taking it at least three times unless you have spawn little standardized test taking geniuses.) Add to all of this, there is a college visit movement. Last spring we spent two days each taking her all over the Carolinas, Virginia and into Tennessee to visit eight schools. Both were whirlwind tours and they all started to run together…and minus the varying locations…they all encourage international travel and research. I don’t know why but this is the one thing that stuck with me after my forty-eight hour road trip. Like I stated before, they all started to run together and the whole experience is a blur for all of us.
Y’all it’s overwhelming and I am not sure we did the right thing by going all over and showing her multitudes of dorms, quads, university libraries and student centers. Did we give her too many choices? It’s a huge decision they have to make. And this is the decision- “where do I fit?” It’s stressful. I have watched mine as well as her friends, study for SAT/ACT tests, poor over essays and online applications -making sure everything was done right as they try to prove to people they don’t even know- “I am a fit for your school and this is why.” “I want to be an architect and this is why.” “I belong on your campus and this is why.” They are being asked to set a career course as seventeen and eighteen years old to spend the next four plus years somewhere based on what? A one hour tour of the campus, it’s where one of their parents went, they have a good football team? I am forty-three and I haven’t gotten this figured out. I don’t necessarily think this is much different than when I applied to school but looking back as the older and wiser person I am now (who still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up) I think the level of stress is much greater on these kids to figure out what they want to be when they grow up pretty early on. I won’t even get into the cost of school these days which someone told me just this week has gone up two-hundred percent in the past 20 years. I haven’t followed- up on this number but that sounds about right. People, this is insane.
So, now we wait for the other five emails to roll in between now and the middle of February. So far she has three good choices should the rest fall through. We are approaching the holidays and the level of “college stress” has simmered down and we are settling in for a time of thankfulness. Thankful that we are all together and well. Thankful to be surrounded by loving and supportive families and friends. Thankful for the chill in the air to let us know that seasons are always changing- not just the weather kind but the seasons of our life. This is the season we are in now- ice cream socials, igloos and college applications. There will be other seasons that come with other challenges, but what I am learning is it’s just best to settle in where you are and just let it wash over you.