The Real College Deadline

Karen Kent

GUEST COLUMN

By Karen Kent

By now, most kids in Chapel Hill and in other quaint little towns and big cities across America have already chosen their college. Or, if they’ve decided not to attend college, they’ve joined the military or, at the very least, have planned their next big bank heist. In this house? I have a daughter who, while wonderful, is still having trouble at age 18 choosing which socks to put on in the morning.

So, when the prospect of college loomed in her future and everyone grew excited, I grew quiet. And thought, “You don’t understand, people. The girl who sent Santa her Christmas list at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve? The girl who almost died of hypothermia in an ice cream store trying to decide which flavor to get? She’s supposed to make a major life decision in a matter of months?”

She gets it from her older brother and her dad. Whenever we’ve gone out to eat, my husband sits there and memorizes the menu like there is going to be a quiz later (which explains all the #2 pencils on the table). So, when my daughter was accepted into all five in-state colleges to which she had applied, everyone was thrilled for her. Oh, I was, too. But I also thought, “Really? All five? Did you guys in admissions even see that D she got one time on that ninth-grade science project?”

For any other child, having that many choices is a blessing. And certainly, she has worked hard and deserves them. But from the perspective of the person who has to sit and watch her all the time — You’ve heard of the pandemic? Lots and lots of together time — while she makes this decision, there were tears. And not all of them were of joy.

It’s April 12, and she’s narrowed it down to four.

“Hey, how about a pro-con list?”

“I’ve got this, Mom.”

“How about, uh, you know, a decision?”

“I’ve got this, Mom.”

So, I finally had to bring out the big guns. “You have until this coming Saturday at 6 p.m. Or I’ll choose. And I’m picking the one farthest away, because you are killing me. And it will be harder to do that from a distance.”

“Uh, OK, I can do that.”

And she said it with a straight face, too.

Some might think, “Karen, you’re crazy. This is one of the most important decisions of her life. She’s carefully weighing her options. You should be proud to have a daughter who doesn’t jump into things.” And I am. But after several months, I don’t care if she’s counting the number of trees on each campus, she needs to decide. You know, deadlines.

“Blah, blah, we want our deposit to reserve your daughter’s place here.” Look, Mr. or Ms. University Admissions Person, I’m doing my best. Which means I’m mostly staying out of it. So, either offer her a full scholarship, and we’ll automatically make the decision for her, or stop with the emails.”

Breathe, Karen. Six days. And she’s not getting an extension. We’re not the IRS. Or Beyonce. Breathe.


Karen Kent, an alumna of UNC-Chapel Hill and owner of Class Half Full Tutoring, enjoys writing in her spare time and the whole college-selection process…only not with her children.

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