My Conundrum

Hope will graduate in 55 days, and it’s still unclear what will happen after that, other than coming home.

In total, my daughter applied to 5 schools. Her school required 3 applications. She initially applied to 3, accidentally applied to one and purposefully added the last school. To date, she has only been accepted to one school—the one she accidentally applied to. We are waiting to hear from two schools, but I’m not optimistic this late in the application season.

This process has been…somewhat grueling. There’s a lot of hurry up and wait in college admissions. There’s also a lot of big emotions. You are asking people to judge you on past performance and potential and to make a determination about whether you can be successful there. There’s a lot of vulnerability there.

It feels even more vulnerable when you aren’t the best student, test taker and have spent the last 5 years in a family of overachievers.

AbsurdlyHotTherapist reached out recently to tell me how things were going with Hope. I knew things were rough; I also knew that this admissions process was weighing on her self-esteem and that the fear of what’s next was also weighing heavily. I asked if we really should just change course and go back to the community college plan; he said yes. So, I reached out to the guidance counselor and suggested that maybe all this college stuff was making things really difficult for Hope. She replied that essentially Hope is not ready for college.

So, we’re back where we started, and that’s ok. Except that now we’ve coached Hope to have hope about going to a 4 year school, made her go through the process and basically watched her fail. So now the original plan feels like plan b because of failure rather than plan a because of appropriateness.

As a mom who had high hopes and expectations for Hope and insisted that she throw herself into this process, I feel like a lot of this is my fault. Hope made a big decision to go to this school (which she sometimes seems to regret now) and that decision triggered my own instincts to aim much higher than what might’ve been appropriate for my daughter academically and emotionally. I feel horrible about contributing to all this. I feel awful that I contributed to Hope’s stress.

And yet, I also feel like some of this pressure was necessary. Hope’s struggles with school are both extrinsic and intrinsic; some aspects of this part of our journey is a major reckoning of natural consequences. She and I’ve discussed this, and she sees her own role in the struggle that is school. But we both see and acknowledge that there are definitely things beyond her control.

I’ve worked really hard to set Hope up for success, conventional success and other forms as well. I haven’t been perfect, hardly, but I love my daughter. If I could change everything for her, I would. Heck, the recent college admissions scandal had one family paying $15,000 to facilitate admission; I joked with friends that I could scrape that together on behalf of Hope. My circle of pals always talk about this kind of thing; how unfair it is, and how so few have access to those kinds of resources, access and privilege. We talk about it, but we also largely have access to all three because we are incredibly hardworking and fortunate.

A recent brunch outing with a friend revealed a link to a contact at the first-choice school where Hope was not admitted; my friend offered to inquire on our behalf, maybe her application could be “re-reviewed.”

Gosh, I wanted to say yes. It was on the tip of my tongue. This is the kind of privilege that we all want right? You want to have those well-placed contacts at your fingertips to assist you, to help you garner the access that you want, even if you don’t deserve it. It didn’t shock me that someone in my circle probably had a connect, but throughout the process, I never once considered reaching out.

I paused a moment, wishing I could smooth this path for Hope. I declined the intervention. That school fairly quickly denied Hope. It felt like a swift and painful rebuke. But the reality is that even if I could get her in; then what? She goes and finds that she legit wasn’t ready to go there. She struggles academically, emotionally, socially and then what? Possibly flunk out because she should not have been there, and her application indicated such.

I imagined a fix on my end that just set Hope up for devastation. I could never do that to her.

So, now I’m back to figuring out our current plan. Do we go visit the school where Hope was admitted and figure out whether it might actually be a blessing in disguise? Or do we concede that maybe this 4 year college thing really is a bit premature? Or something else?

I don’t know.

I also am afraid. What if Hope doesn’t launch? What if her room becomes akin to her living in my non-existent basement? How long will it take for her to mature and figure things out? Will she find her calling, and not just some career that *sounds* cool? Can I continue to be patient while she figures this out? And how will this affect us financially?

It feels selfish to say these things, but I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge these thoughts and more were swirling around in my head.

I adore Hope. I believe in her; I do. I know she is afraid and worried about the future.

And so am I.

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About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted a tween daughter five years ago, and this blog chronicles our journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2019. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

15 responses to “My Conundrum

  • rose

    I’d say the two of you should go and look at the ‘accidental college’, and also the local community one. Then Hope can make some choices based on what she sees. Being middle 70’s I have seen kids go off to choices that were not good fits and have to work through the process of changing are restarting. There are good life lessons to be learned this way but to knowingly put a child in over their head isn’t a plan. What is most clear to me however is that a ‘gap year’ requires a great deal of planning and careful thought as well to prevent that ‘gap’ from turning into ‘agoraphobic idleness’ that destroys forward motion. You clearly see that danger so I have faith the two of you will find the correct path forward.

  • lavenderandlevity

    Go visit the four year school and have a serious talk with student mental health services and their office of disability services. Sometimes four year schools are better prepared to offer accommodations for disabilities (of which trauma-related PTSD is one) than typically commuter schools. She might also find a wider diversity of student groups that give her social support. Or, she might feel safer living at home with two years to pull her grades up and maintain her routines before transferring. Maybe she might even be able to defer her four-year admission for a year, too, and have the security of a place next year while she takes some CC classes that are transferable. She also might just want to meet some teachers. Sometimes some schools just have better teachers because they are smaller, focused on teaching, etc. Let it be a real choice based on the place, but know that each school is so different that the four year AND the particular two years nearby still are different enough to warrant truly investigating?

  • TAO

    Hope didn’t fail, Hope tried, she rose to the occasion because it’s in her to do so, that’s been nurtured to the forefront by you. Now she knows she can do big, hard, things, things she probably wouldn’t have considered even trying a few years ago. Hope putting herself out there proves she’s strong and resilient. Check out the college, check out the community college, find the best fit for who Hope is right now. Cheers

  • Brook Hart

    I am a high achiever and assumed my children would follow close in my path. Even though I felt like I placed no great pressure on my children my daughter feels different. Her own anxiety compounded the issue. My son took a year off from college. Chose the Army. Now almost a year later , he is being sent home with stress fractures. Everyone in this house is disappointed. Some real, some percieved and some just flat out imaginary. It’s a confusing time for me. I don’t know where the road will take us . I do know that everyone of my children’s friends have had interesting outcomes. Some dropped out after the families paid a lot. Some hadn’t wanted to go in the first place. My own daughter would have been better off getting a job on a cruise ship. If she’s not ready, I highly recommend a light load easing her into community college. There’s no disgrace there. The pressures I placed on myself leaves a heavy load to carry. Be blessed mom. It may be easier than you think. Have you asked her what she thinks is the best plan ? I know as always you will make the right choice .

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Thank you so much for this. It is the message I wanted to hear. Hope and I’ve been talking about it; I’m asking questions and she’s getting better about directly answering. We’ll get there, just don’t know where there is! 😉

  • Erika

    I wasn’t ready for a 4 year college right out of high school. My parents thought community college would be a good starting point. I excelled there and earned my Associate’s degree and then transferred to a 4 year university where I went on to get my Bachelor’s degree. Community college may be a great way for Hope to get her feet wet without being overwhelmed. There are also certificate programs available through community colleges that can lead to successful careers. Either way, she will be fine because she has you to guide her.

  • Marieke

    My 14 year old very bright girl is struggling wirh massive anxiety and depression lately. She struggles mightilynat school. We recently recognized it is a can’t dowhere we saw a doesnt want to do. So told here school is not important anymore this year. We got you we’ll figure it out. But it is so hard to actually mean this. But we’ll have to. Her well beijg is way more important then her grades…

  • Ellen Hawley

    I value education highly, but college isn’t right for everyone. If it isn’t right for Hope, it’s not a failure, it’s a different path. Hang in there–wherever there turns out to be.

  • My Perfect Breakdown

    We are at very different places in our parenting journey as my child is only 3. But I have to say, I greatly appreciate you sharing this as I already know one of my greatest struggles will be if he’s not academically inclined and an over achiever. In everything you share about Hopes academics and future college (and life) choices I see myself. And I truly hope if I end up in a similar situation one day that I am able to channel my inner ABM. You are doing so great navigating all of this while putting Hopes needs and choices at the forefront.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Thanks, but it is hard. I’m trying to figure out how to support her without losing me and my values in the process. It isn’t easy. I’m trying to focus on her well-being and continuing to pray for patience! 🙂

  • Liz

    Getting into 1/3 when you’ve only heard from half the schools isn’t bad! Happens to lots of kids and is not a failure. It’s important to not base all your worth on academic achievement and no matter who you are, you fail at some point because we all hit our challenges. Also, I think you guys might need to reframe community college as a great cost-effective option and not a dead end! I go to an Ivy League medical school and one of my classmates went to community college and then transferred to a four year school. Once you have that four year diploma, no one treats you any differently than if you’d done all four years there. Community college really is like a second chance, especially since they will often make you do remedial coursework before doing degree granting work, which hopefully finally starts to get kids who’ve just been passed from grade to grade without ever learning the stuff a little more up to speed. They’re super supportive environments that are BUILT for kids like Hope who struggled in high school or who need support for lots of reasons (economic or ESL or anything). They’re often where people who don’t fit the mold of success end up to get their success – people going back to school, refugees, people working five jobs to put themselves through school, 53 year old high school drop outs determined to do it. They are not always “A” students but there is a solid chunk that is motivated to LEARN. And they have things like tons of free tutoring and stuff like that. I took coursework at my local community college when I was in high school and again when I needed some extra pre recs for a grad school program and my mom teaches at community college so I have a sense of it.

    There are also many solid and well paying jobs that can be gotten with a community college degree, like being a PT assistant = $40,000 immediately on graduation. I don’t think you need to worry that staying home for college just means the couch forever if you keep pushing Hope to apply to transfer, or to get a practical degree, or even if she graduates with a general degree, simply to pay you rent and get a job of any kind. There is no shame in working at the grocery store for a while until you’re ready to go back to school and do something else (community college is great for that, too!) I know people in northern VA supporting themselves solidly as young adults working at Trader Joes (great benefits) or MOMs (treats employees really well). There are great and fulfilling jobs you can get without a lot of academic stuff – preschool teachers, electrician apprenticeship, whatever. And academics will always be there if and when you want it.

    Why not tour the four year school but also if it’s not a good school or she may not be ready, don’t waste the money – better to have it when she really needs/wants it for something that will be worthwhile for her – and definitely don’t let her go into debt for it. People at any school who are driven and smart can do super well, but if you’re not into it you need a great school, I think.

    My mom’s goddaughter just moved in with my parents with her 3 young kids – she was in group home foster care when my mom met her and kind of adopted her and is just coming out of a bad situation – and she’s taking 2 courses at a time at community college while getting welfare and slowly working her way to a degree. She loves it and we’re all super proud of her. Maybe it’s because I come from a small town, but I can think of a lot of non hefty academic track people who are having intelligent, thoughtful, educated and intellectually stimulating, fulfilling lives. At least one of them is super damaged by having been regarded as stupid for years and years due to dyslexia and still refuses to read aloud ever or have anyone she knows read her writing for typos for her – she has a friend of a friend system. So just be kind to yourselves. Lots of kids get rejected from a lot of colleges and it sucks (actually a significant number get rejected from all of them even after applying to 12, or only get into “safety schools”) but five years after you graduate from college no one cares. Really what I’m trying to say is that formal, traditional academic achievement is a very narrow measure of intelligence and being able to follow directions and it’s just not all it’s cracked up to be – from someone who aced enough standardized tests to get into medical school, there are a lot of people I would rather be around that didn’t.

  • Belladonna Took

    So … isn’t this something we all do at least a few times in our lives? We aim high, realize we’ve over-extended, and take a step back and regroup, right? You’re not going to land on top of the mountain every time. Life doesn’t work that way! That being the case, it seems to me that however this works out, it’s been a great life experience for Hope. Now maybe, as part of regrouping, the thing to consider is whether she wants to settle for the “accidental” school (I’m assuming that would be settling – maybe it’s a great school), or give herself a little more time by doing two years of community college and then reapplying to finish her degree at a school she really wants to go to.

    Or maybe she needs to spend a year doing something totally different – traveling, working, volunteering for the Peace Corps or gorilla rescue or … something. I’ve ALWAYS felt that going straight from school to university/college was a mistake for most kids. They graduate school with so little real world experience, and now they’re supposed to make academic decisions that will set the direction for the rest of their lives – or at any rate for a good proportion of it. If she doesn’t already know what she’s passionate about, maybe that needs to be her focus before continuing academics. Just a thought.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      A gap year without a lot of structure would be a mistake for Hope; I am convinced of that. I’m ok with her going to school and easing into the experience. My biggest thing is that she has to be doing something. There is a high risk that a loosey goosey plan will be her downfall. She’ll be home this coming week for spring break so I’m expecting a lot of discussion and hopefully some decision making!

  • K E Garland

    I can relate completely to this. My oldest daughter wasn’t prepared to apply for 4-year college, ended up not getting admitted (as I figured she wouldn’t), attended and flunked out of a 2-year college, and is now taking one class per semester.

    I do want to assure you that your daughter will be just fine. She just has to recognize and accept who she is at this moment and also know that’s not who she has to be in the future ❤

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