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The Dreaded Question

November 13, 2013
by Sheila Reilly, Director of College Counseling

Madeira’s Thanksgiving dinner is an eagerly anticipated event for our community. As a junior advisor, I have girls who know what to expect and excitedly talk about the fellowship of the coming together and the “best food ever.” They also remind each other that the leftovers will make Friday lunch another yummy event. For our seniors actively involved in the college process, this Thanksgiving dinner is a relaxed event that does not serve up judgement along with stuffing and turkey and gravy.

Extended family members visiting for the holiday are naturally interested in plans seniors are making for their post-Madeira lives. As the potatoes are passed they innocently ask, “Where are you going to college?” Seniors often dread this question. The fact is, a girl has no idea which school she might choose until college decisions arrive, either mid-December for some, or April 1 for most. But the question brings terror to the heart of many seniors.  “Should I know where I am going?”  “When I give the list of colleges I am applying to, will it pass approval?”  “Will my parents feel as if they have to defend my list?”   For girls, this conversation confirms that a value is being placed on her ability to choose a college that will please everyone regardless of her variables.

As college counselors, we advise seniors that the feared question, in most cases, truly is a simple conversation starter. We encourage girls to ask relatives for stories about their own college searches and learn how different the process was only two or three decades ago. Families can give advice on how to make the most of this exciting, important, yet, fleeting time on the path to adulthood. Fingers crossed that, by the time pie is served, everyone will be reminiscing happily, or eagerly anticipating the experience ahead.