Unlocking Her Personal Code For College

13 1 Lily lake

It’s February….the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and…the mailbox is overflowing with college recruitment letters?

Her weeks are spent in a juggling act between school, skiing, and a social life.  Training on snow four days a week requires discipline and dedication, not to mention time management.  Student first, athlete next.Wait – how can this be? She’s only a junior! She doesn’t even know what she wants to be when she grows up!

13 2 L and Dilara

I’m proud of her.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they were letters actually recruiting her-offering her money, I mean. These full-color mailers are an advertiser’s best effort to capture everything good about their college-and to make it personal.She’s working towards her future, but the mail is getting ridiculous.

She took the SAT in October, and now we’re inundated with offers from the east coast, the mid west, the northwest, and even some more ‘local’ California schools. All the flyers boast offers of a ‘personal code’ that is sure to provide prospective students with the persuasive elements to convince them that this school is the one.  Even when the prospective student has no clue?She’s our oldest, so this is all new territory for us.  I’m a teacher-I know all about admissions: test scores, application essays, and a-g requirements. Last fall we enrolled her in an SAT prep class-that’s something we never did back when I was in high school. Twice a week she went to an SAT tutor who helped her with test preparation, study skills-you name it.  Kind of like the endless other self-help type of classes designed to get kids ready for life after graduation. Our plan was to have her take the SAT first before ski season, then again afterwards.

I remember feeling that way.  I was more focused on completing high school than enrolling in college; I simply couldn’t see that far into my future.  It took me a few years, a few failures, quite a few part-time jobs, and changing majors multiple times.  How can a seventeen-year-old possibly know what they want to do with their life?


Sadly, the college stakes are much higher now. Kids need to have a plan. They need to have a strategy. It’s not enough to just muddle your way through high school and expect that there will be a multitude of colleges opening their doors to you.

Right now, all I can do is encourage her.  Make good choices. Study hard. Think about what you like, what you’re curious about, what gets you excited about getting up in the morning.  I’m pretty sure that’s how I chose my college and my ultimate major, English.I wish I knew what to say to her. I wish I knew how to help her see all the options she has in life. I don’t want to be the mom that plans out her kids’ lives by filling out their college applications and holding their hand until….that’s the problem. It never ends.

I can do all that, and keep a box with all the personal codes that may help her unlock her future.  Once she gets off the snow, of course.


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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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  1. Great post. My daughter is only 1 now, but I can’t imagine what it must be like to go through this with your child. It’s great that she’s excited about college and her future, and I think your approach is a strong one. Good luck!
    Cody recently posted…Encouraging walkingMy Profile

    1. Cody, it is exciting to see your child through each stage of growth, but something about the college part is bittersweet; it involves knowing your baby won’t be with you every day anymore. Thanks so much for commenting today! -Jennifer

  2. She is in such an exciting place – full of options for the future. Encourage her to try many different things. She is in the time of her life when trying out new things is the easiest it will be. Encourage her to enjoy the moment.
    gina valley recently posted…Laugh Log – IshiriniMy Profile

    1. Gina, that’s great advice. Children often have a much easier time breaking out of their comfort zone…I’ll share your thoughts with her. Thanks for commenting today! -Jennifer

  3. It’s never easy to let go of your children, especially college. You have so much to think about – campus to go to, financing, classes, schedule. It can be overwhelming but at the same time you know your kids need to have an education to be competitive in this world. My wishes to her to finding the best option in college.

    1. Very true, Barbara. Education is a top priority for our family, and thankfully, our children are eager learners. Thank you for your good wishes, and I’m glad you wrote to me today! -Jennifer

  4. My daughter only just started high school and I feel as though every decision she makes today {re: courses, direction etc} is already guiding her towards university. It’s crazy! She is 14!!
    I sometimes think we should reverse the whole process…I could have made much better decisions at say 30 re: what I wanted to do with my life. At 17? No such thing.
    She sounds like a great kid!
    susan recently posted…On AuthenticityMy Profile

    1. Susan, I like what you said about decision you make today guide her towards her future-we’ve always tried to tell our kids to take school seriously so they have choices when they graduate. I wonder if we’d have chosen the same path today as we did in our teens? Thanks for writing today! -Jennifer

  5. Jennifer,
    I just went through all this with my oldest. I wrote about it at my personal blog (http://karendawkins.blogspot.com/2010/09/college-visits-101-for-parents.html). Nathan is now in his second semester, thriving at the perfect college for him. The emotions — totally worth it. The conversations, debates, discussions — totally worth it. You already know what to do. Be her sounding board. Advise when she’s open to it. Help her simplify when she gets overwhelmed. And pray. Pray. PRAY!

    One thing I did — WITH Nathan’s permission — was to toss unsolicited letters from schools I “knew” he wouldn’t like. When the letters came, I’d look at the schools online to see if the academic scores matched his abilities and his major. If they matched up, we’d take a quick look together and decide if we should keep it or toss it. He kept his list down to five schools. He ultimately applied to three, and is happy to be at his first choice. Hope that helps a little!

    You’re a wise mama. You’ll be the rock she needs.
    Karen Dawkins recently posted…Birmingham Civil Rights InstituteMy Profile

    1. Karen, you have awesome advice here.I like the idea of looking at the schools together-I know my daughter thinks she wants to stay in-state, but I hesitate to eliminate options at this early stage. Conversations a crucial-I have a hard time getting a few minutes of her undivided attention these days! Thanks for making me feel like this is possible…~Jennifer

  6. Getting the same letters here, after my son took the PSAT’s. What I noticed is the code is the same regardless of the college. Also, for letters to recruiting athletes, the letters are way more personal. My son has recieved several at his High School. His counslers give them to him. These are the letters from coaches who are interested in him. He is a sophomore! We have watched athletes being recruited through several of my son’s team mates. It can really tire a kid out! Finding what they love will be a process.. We keep talking about what the passion is now and see how that might translate into a possible major. For my daughter, she loves art, structure, and the cities of the world. She is studying Architecture. My son loves all things related to sport, how the body works, coaching. He is thinking of a major in athletics, possibly sports medicine…It does go by so fast. Enjoy the now. Also my college girl and I are closer than ever and she now lives 3000 miles away in NYC.

    1. Mary, your comment made me feel better. I agree about finding what they love, balanced with the idea that nothing has to be forever. It sounds like you really guided your daughter in the right direction, and your son is on his way. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment today! ~Jennifer

    1. Exciting-yes. It’s something we think about when they are little, and it seems like we have so long to prepare. But when the letters come addressed to your baby, it seems way too soon! Thanks for writing today! ~Jennifer

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