The World is a Scary Place
Yes, the world is a scary place and certainly computers and cell phones have changed our lives. But, the world has been a scary place before. I was a kid during three assassinations, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the Manson murders, Jonestown … the nuclear meltdown of Three Mile Island when the possibility of the world ending was very close. The whole idea of sending our precious children into that world can be terrifying. But they aren’t children. Remember how you were told your child would react as you did, if you burst into tears when someone tackled them in football, actually he just told me to never attend another game, ever, but you get the point. Your fear and worry will be immediately felt and incorporated into how they regard the next stage of their lives, whether that is college or something else. Students are dropping out in record numbers during their freshman year, not to travel or work or learn something new but to reoccupy their old rooms and avoid growing up.
One reason for our fear is knowledge. So many past historical events took place without anyone knowing what had happened. In my parent’s memories Nagasaki and Hiroshima were horrific but they didn’t have any knowledge until a week later, they were busy getting married and upsetting their parents. We watched 9/11 on television, we knew about Columbine and Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the mass shootings all over the country, which focused on schools and work places, places where people are supposed to feel safe. We might think our children are under attack but that isn’t true. The real danger is fear: fear of change, fear of meeting new people unlike yourselves, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown. This is part of growing up; meeting challenges and succeeding or failing and figuring out what you did wrong or right and trying again.
What does this have to do with writing the personal statement for college admission or apprenticeships? You need to trust your children. You need to see that they are ready to be independent and give them the confidence to change, grow and fail. They probably need to leave home or if they are staying in your house you should stop with the waffle breakfasts, the laundry and the allowance. Let them live as adults in your house and in that experience find it so awful to put up with their annoying parents they will find a job or return to school. Trust me, I know.
The college admission essay is essentially your student’s version of Walt Whitman’s barbaric yawp. They need to define what matters to them, what they long to do, how they changed or what they discovered, to tell a story about someone who inspired them, probably not you, and take the risk of sharing an authentic, riveting part of themselves. I’m here to help, to guide them safely towards the future.