Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hit Submit

Last night, my daughter finished her college applications. 

This is a very big deal. 

After multiple "Senior Parents" meetings at the school (and many weeks of procrastination), I received a draft of her essay while I was in New Orleans. It was rough, but powerful. And I was particularly moved when she mentioned me (the essay was about being a feminist and I was cited as one of her role models ... sniff, sniff). 

I gave her just a couple of suggestions and when she completed her second draft, she shared it with her guidance counselor and a favorite middle school English teacher. I, meanwhile, forwarded it to my college roommate, her Ivy League-educated daughter, my poet sister and my mother (also known as the Queen of Grammar and the Princess of Punctuation). 

The feedback was positive and helpful. A third draft was a mere 28 words over the legal limit. Not a problem! As an advertising copywriter, I have years (and years and years) of experience making big ideas work in small spaces. Within minutes, the essay was, as Goldilocks might say, "Just right." My daughter cut-and-pasted it into the infamous Common App, and we proofread it.

And proofread it.

And proofread it again.

For many years, I've proofed my daughter's papers. But, the stakes were understandably higher last night. God forbid she submit her application with a typo and some persnickety admissions officer notices it and rejects her and then she never ends up going to college or getting a job or starting a family or owning a home or becoming a productive citizen of this great nation of ours. (Omg.)

There's no question that I helped my daughter with her application essay. First of all, I nagged. I am an accomplished nagger, a virtuosic nagger, a connoisseurial nagger; I've had eighteen years experience (my husband might argue more than that, actually). I also made suggestions, some of which she took to heart, some ... not so much. I distributed said important document to select friends and family. And, I proofed.

I did not, however, write the thing.

"Of course not," you might protest. But, let me assure you ... I was sorely tempted. All that time when homework and concerts and horse shows (and One Tree Hill, wtf?) prevented her from hunkering down and writing, I had the four questions (they're called "essay prompts") in front of me. I write most of the day, most of my days, and a 650-word essay would be a piece of cake. But, I resisted. Here's why:

• It would be plagiarism and cheating, which would set a lovely example ... if I want my daughter to plagiarize and cheat.

• It would send a message to my daughter that I don't think she's capable of completing a compelling application. Nice way to promote self-confidence. Not.

• It certainly wouldn't encourage the independence that she wants — and will need come fall at whichever fine institution she chooses.

Yes, I have been known to help my child with her schoolwork ("help with" are the operative words there). And, I'd like to think that I've now helped with the application process (I've certainly pulled out my credit card a lot lately — sending scores, sending transcripts and sending the applications themselves all had fees attached). But, she didn't get any kind of "pass" on her essay. The words those (possibly persnickety) admissions officers will read are absolutely hers. I think they represent her authentic voice. Had I written the essay, it would be neither authentic nor hers.

Very proud of my daughter today.

And now, we wait.

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