First, in preschool or kindergarten (oh, so late!), you open an aggressive 529 college savings account. Then you go to school for 12 to 14 more years. In your junior year you start looking for a college by hearsay and websites. Or the colleges will send you heavyweight, ultra-glossy, four-color brochures (see right). So many schools are courting your attention and your parents’ money. It’s sweet to feel so popular!
That’s how you get to college
Next you start attending college presentations every week at school or in town. In your senior summer you go on college tours, like a Department of Education inspector, to compare services and curricula. Do they have Nobel laureates? Do they offer scholarships for out-of-state students? How’s the campus lifestyle? How does this college rank in engineering? By August you have memorized the stats from the online US News and World Report. That’s how you get to college
Then you retake SATs, ACTs, and special tests until your points are maxed. In between you practice essay writing and take SAT-Math coaching. Eventually, you get on College Board or other academic launch pads to view your future. One thing is for sure, each application costs about $100. (Colleges charge before you get one class.) That is how you get to college
By September you whip a spreadsheet together to control the mind-boggling deadlines and requirements for 15 open applications nationwide. Did we include the SATs, ACTs, ECCs, APs, Parchment transcripts, high school rank, essays, portfolios, recommendations, FAFSA, IDOC, resume, service hours, and certifications? Bummer, they wanted the math scores by February 1. Forget about it now. You work each deadline until midnight—the midnight in your state. Applying to the East Coast gives you a few more hours when you live in Arizona. That’s how you get to college
Then you don’t just sit around and wait for March 1. You pick up more service hours, push a charity project to fruition, study for AP classes, and cruise the social circuit. You want to make the most of your time with your old friends before you make the new. It will be a while (uncertain) until you see them again. That’s how you get to college
Now the results are in. You made it into two-thirds of schools on your list. The ball is in your court again. Perhaps you revisit one or two of your favorites. Too expensive. Too far away. Program not exactly as desired. Ah, but there is a reasonable scholarship and the curriculum looks good too. Daddy, pay the deposit now. Pay two or three, if I can’t decide by May 1st. That’s how you get to college
Your life has changed. Fine-tune your grades, send in your final transcripts and AP results, go to graduation, have a huge party with aunties from afar. If possible, do a trip around the world as well and have a delightful piano recital to top off your accomplishments. Delve into excitement, suspense, and nervous giggles. Many last time rituals to follow. And then start shopping for your dorm. Target, if you will, is mother’s best guess. That’s how you get to college
Then drive like a (sun) devil through the uncertain night into desolate towns and find comfort in El Fidel Fettucine Alfredo that you didn’t expect in such a hitching post that time of night. The antique hotel has Hippie pictures on the wall. Who would have guessed. A nice surprise. Then keep on driving for another long stretch along sunflower-fenced territorial highways to your mountain college. Keep a steady speed to make the move-in date on time, because next day will all be purple and orange, and they kept blue just for you. They shut down the town for buffalo stampedes. Take a police escort to your room, if you will. That’s how you get to college
Well, you forgot a bunch of things at home, and some necessities come as a surprise. Chit chat, your dorm neighbors fill you in quickly, and off we go to Target again. In the meantime engineering orientation starts, the convocation gathers up its freshmen, and the welcome wagon throws out chicken wings and concerts to the newbies. Wait a minute, what about the bursar, the class schedule, and some two dozen passwords for online services and practice units? You come away from the bookstore with another hole in your pocket.
That’s how you get to college. And then you study and repeat the last couple of sentences three more times until you’re done with it and move on to the next level. What can I say, this is only the beginning. Go get them Buffs!