Today is a big day for many high school seniors across the country. The deadline to commit to most colleges is today, May 1st. My daughter’s high school unofficially hosts ‘college t-shirt day’ where students attending college wear tees from the school of their choice. It’s a big day for them as their high school careers are ending.
During the past few months I’ve noticed something annoying and quite frankly, unacceptable. Parents are constantly asking high schoolers and their parents “Where are you going to school next year?” Seems harmless, yes? It can be. However, more often than I’d like, I have heard first hand or through other parents that when they reply “My kiddo is going to XXX,” if XXX isn’t and Ivy or a seriously competitive school, there are some questionable responses…
Let’s face it folks – not all kids are meant for top tier schools. Some kids go to state schools that aren’t Big Ten. Some kids go to private schools that don’t have the prestige that others might. Some kids go to community college. Some kids take a year off to work and save money. You never know why kids choose the school they do – most likely it has to do with where they fit in best.
Additionally, behind every college choice, I can say for certain, is a shit-TON of energy, thought and angst put into the decision. The students and the parents that love them started this process junior year and it is now time to celebrate and encourage the decisions all our kiddos have made.
So just in case you may not know how to best respond, I’m here to provide suggestions as to what NOT to say to other parents when they tell you where their kids are choosing to go to college:
1. “I thought he was smart though.” Yes, two friends of mine have heard this response. Um, what the hell? What is one supposed to say to this? Are we supposed to defend our son’s choice by saying “Why yes he is smart, however this is his dream school and they have a nationally ranked program which he wants to study. And, we’re getting a lot of money from them.” This response implies 1. That you are rude and 2. you are judging his school pick isn’t good enough. Just. Don’t. Say. This. When you hear something you don’t expect, you say “That’s fantastic! You must be so excited!”
2. “You know, she can always transfer sophomore year if this wasn’t her first choice.” This doozie, again, is a real response heard in my circle. This implies 1. That you are rude and 2. You somehow have knowledge that the decision made by the kiddo was her second choice. You have no idea as to why she chose “second choice.” Maybe it was affordability. Maybe it was the distance. Maybe it became her first choice because she was accepted to an honors program. Repeat: When you hear something you don’t expect, you say “That’s fantastic! You must be so excited!”
3. “Ohhhh…..well that’s nice.” Seemingly thoughtful? Maybe, but unlikely. Especially after you tilted your head and furrowed you brow and said it with that ‘all knowing nod’ of condescension. This implies 1. You are rude and 2. You are inauthentic. In my book, this is the worst. You’re acting like you are handing out a complement, but it’s so glaringly obvious you are judging, that a spotlight may as well be on you and that brow. This passive aggressive response is probably the worst in my book and can be spotted a mile away. Again, repeat: When you hear something you don’t expect, you say “That’s fantastic! You must be so excited!” You may need to breathe first before this one, as it may pain you to choose kindness, but do it anyway.
Don’t say any of those three things. We need to celebrate each other’s kids! We need to accept and encourage and be happy that our villages are growing. We need to do this always, no questions, no scrunched up face, no head tilted to the side in confusion. Let’s enjoy this time with each other’s children, let’s support each other and proclaim success that our kiddos are taking the leap into their futures. No matter where that leap takes them.
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