David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | david@davidaltshuler.com

Early Decision

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For some time now, I have been trying to figure out why people stop me on the street to tell me that their children have been admitted to highly selective colleges. Yes, I have been an independent college admissions counselor for 30-something years. But no, I don't have a neon sign emblazoned across my sweaty tee-shirt flashing "tell me where your kids go to school."I have also checked my forehead in the mirror. The words "I MUST know where your child will be going to college in the fall" do not appear.

Just this past Saturday for example I met a woman at the water stop. Some folks in her training group chatted with some of my running buddies as we all desperately slurped fluid replacement. I did not know and still do not know anything about her. I don't know her occupation, I don't know her marital status, I don't know her political opinions or whether or not she will run the Miami marathon next month. But I do know that her son was accepted early decision to Princeton and that he will matriculate in New Jersey this fall. The dictionary may be the only place where "intercourse" comes before"introduction" but where in the world of Carmen San Diego does where your kid goes to college come before,"Hello, my name is"?

It's 6:30 on Saturday morning for goodness sake. All decent people are obsessing about their training regimens and mile times. All civilized conversation is fixated on how mind-numbingly hot it is (sorry, friends up north!) and whether or not it will rain during the marathon next month.

I could not help but ponder. What if this stranger had a cognitively impaired child? What if that child were headed to Rainbow Acres--a wonderful facility for developmentally delayed young adults in Arizona? Would this mom have been so forthcoming, greeting strangers with the news? "My 20-year-old daughter will learn weaving and how to make spaghetti. The goal is for her to some day live independently."

Indeed, imagine what it must be like for parents of children with intellectual disabilities. The spectrummy child has been excluded from birthday parties, play dates, organized sports, and advanced classes forever. No one ever came home from the maternity ward intoning, "I hope my child will have to miss recess in favor of occupational therapy." I'm sure this woman didn't mean to. But by bragging about this good thing that happened to her neuro-typical child, isn't she somehow spitting on somebody else's impaired child?

Everybody wants the kid who is elected to be student council president while pitching the league championship game and being admitted to Princeton. But could you please stop talking about it? At least for as long as it takes me to get a cool drink before finishing my run?

I also have to wonder what else is going on in this woman's life that makes her define herself by the lucky roll of the dice that her son apparently got. I like my kids. But I don't define myself by where they go to college. Indeed, I would like my kids no matter where they went to college or indeed, IF they went to college. Imagine.

As the early decision announcements hit your emails this week, you have an opportunity to join a broader if clandestine community. There are still some folks who communicate to their children "we love you for who you are not for where you matriculate." You get the chance to say to your kids, "You are aces in my book; I'm glad to be your dad." You can communicate, "Oh, you were admitted to a highly selective college rather than to North Cornstalk State? Give me a hand with these dishes then let's play some cards."

Because the sub-text, "You DIDN'T fill that inside straight and get admitted to Princeton, therefore there is something wrong with you" is the last message an otherwise loving parent wants to send."I love you for who you are rather than where you go" is not only psychically safer in the long run but will also allow me to get some fluid replacement and get back to my training. Early Saturday morning is just the wrong time to be bragging about early decision. And if you think about, the right time to boast to strangers about where your child got accepted to college might be never.

David

David

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