Wednesday, February 10, 2016

May The Odds Be Ever In Our Favor

My daughter only applied to four colleges. Among her honor student peers in our upscale little town in hyper-educated greater Boston, this is quite unusual. Some girls (and guys, I assume) have applied to eight or ten or twelve or more. All that paperwork is daunting enough. But, the campus visits?

Oh, my dears!

Libraries and lecture rooms, dorms and dining halls. After a while, how do you tell one from another?

Nevertheless, last Friday night found us, once again, heading to a college. In this case, it was one that we had already visited three times and toured twice. In this case, it's out of state. And, in this case, a blizzard here in Massachusetts meant that our late night flight was even later than expected. We got there after midnight.

No big, right? Except that we had to be on campus at 8:00 the next morning for ...

The 75th Annual Hunger Games.

Not really. It just felt like it.

Picture this. Just like in Suzanne Collins' popular dystopian novels (and J-Law's even more popular dystopian movies), game young men and women from all over Panem arrive to compete against each other. I'm not sure what district my daughter would be from — I can't remember, is there one buried under snow and ice? Regardless, these earnest competitors look simultaneously fierce and frightened. Are they fighting for their very lives? No something even more important ...

A full scholarship.

That's right, a "full ride," the magical mystery prize, the holy grail of straight A's and killer SAT's (neither of which, by the way, can my daughter brag about). Having been accepted in October and awarded a nice merit award already, my daughter had been invited to compete for a full scholarship.

(This, btw, created much stress and great angst in my young student. I tried to impress upon her (as did her dad) that it was a "no lose" situation. If she won, it would be amazing! Absolutely amazing. But, if she didn't win and wanted to go to this particular school, she still could.)

We didn't know much about the contest in advance. My daughter had been sent an article and would be writing an essay about it. There were sessions with deans and faculty from her major, and there were concurrent sessions for parents. But, we didn't know how many seniors (or should I call them "tributes?") had been invited. Or how many awards there might be.

Upon arrival, we quickly realized that the odds were not (to quote Effie Trinket, "ever") in our favor. There were 150 students battling it out for 3 scholarships. "Just do your best," I whispered to my girl as the contenders were led from the campus theatre center to the classrooms where they would write their essays. I settled in to hear about the wonderful world of freshman orientation, community service, junior year abroad and, of course, financial aid.

When the Provost welcomed us, he cleared his throat, picked up the mic, raised an arm above his head and — I was so sure — was about to say "Welcome to the 75th Annual  Hunger Games!" 

But no, he made a soccer analogy instead. At his urging, we all yelled "Gooooooooooooooooooal!", holding the word as long as our lungs allowed. I realized his comparison was better.

Getting that scholarship is a goal — and a fine one — but not life or death. And, as far as I'm concerned, my daughter's already a winner.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.    

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