Today is April Fool's Day. For seniors, it's a day of hopes fulfilled and sometimes denied: the day official college acceptance notices go out. Though many of our seniors had already heard from colleges, the day still holds a lot of power. Too much, for my taste.
What I want to say to our seniors is: Whether you got into your first-choice college or not, you will be fine. To paraphrase Ms. Maureen Milton of Lower Arrupe: Don't lose sleep over your college choice. You will find yourself in a wonderful place next year, a little village (or big city) built entirely to suit the tastes and desires of 18-to 22-year-olds. You will get to pursue your intellectual passions in new and exciting ways, will experience challenges (cranky roommates, tough profs), and thrilling levels of liberty. You may meet your future spouse, and will certainly make deep, lifelong friends. You will do all this wherever you land, if you are Open to Growth.
What I really want to say to our seniors, but am too much the academic administrator to admit, has already been said in this New York Times piece by David Brooks. Read it (but don't tell anyone I told you to!):
Mostly, to both students and to my fellow senior parents: Let go.
Let go of your anxiety over whether yours is the "right college." Let go of your pride in having snagged the brass ring, and the bumper sticker, represented by that elite college. Let go, preemptively, of hating the Beavers because you will be a Duck (or vice versa). Let go of the silliness of thinking that going to community college is a wrong first step; in fact, it may be the most rational economic and academic decision you will ever make.
Now, the hardest part: Students, prepare to let go of your parents. Parents, let go of your child.
It is an occasion that every parent already knows too intimately. It hit like a hammer as we dropped our kid at daycare or kindergarten for the first time. How many parents teared up as their beloved child left our embrace, whether wailing or without a backward glance, into the care of another adult?
Today, 8th grade parents from 80 feeder schools inform us officially that they are entrusting their precious 13-year-old children to Jesuit for the next four years. What an act of faith, and of letting go.
Soon, our seniors will head off for the great Letting Go that is college.
Will they be ready? Will we parents? Much as we want to text or Face Time our college student daily, s/he may have other ideas.
Jennifer and I had to let go six weeks ago, when our son Conor (JHS '12) took off for two semesters (ten months!) in Argentina, 7000 miles from Portland (Conor pictured on right at PDX - bound for Buenos Aires). As a student at the Universidad del Salvador, a Jesuit college in Buenos Aires, Conor is literally on the other side of the world.
Jenn and I held each other tight as we watched Conor walk through security at PDX, bound for an experience that will change him forever. He will return bilingual, with insights into a world we do not know.
Right now, Conor is on a solo backpacking trip through Patagonia, completely off the grid. We say our prayers and try to let go. Though Conor is now a 21-year-old man, he is still our boy.
The newspaperman Hodding Carter reported that "a wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings."
As we prepare for another great season of letting go, let us hope that the seniors we love will have the strength to soar—and that we will have the strength to let them go. If we are fortunate, they will occasionally swoop back to reconnect with their roots, to come home. But it is their adventure, not ours, that we have prepared them for.
Seniors, you are heading exactly where God intends you to fly. Have faith. Take courage, and then, more courage. Know that we love you, and are so very proud of you, regardless of the sometimes arbitrary choices of admissions officers in faroff places.
May all of us have the strength to let go. No foolin'.
on Wednesday April 1