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By Bea Lanzi
If you’re the parent of a high school senior, you’re probably letting out a huge sigh of relief about now. At this point, most students have decided if they are going to attend college, and if so, where they will go. They’ve decided on The Plan. As one of these parents I can say the road to The Plan is not easy. In fact, it’s down-right hard. It’s paved with anxiety, anguish, fear, uncertainty and even some yelling and crying. And, that was just from me.
When Sofia and I embarked on The Plan, I thought it would be effortless because we already knew a big piece of it. Sofia has wanted to study engineering since she was very young, so I jumped in with the idea that we would complete The Plan in no time. I was wrong. Very wrong. I soon learned that there would be no shortcuts to The Plan.
To start, there are countless schools to choose from. And, even after visiting them, a few times, we still were no closer to The Plan. We also sought out opinions from family, friends, people wearing college apparel. And while we gained a lot of information and increased the size of our college folder, we were no closer to The Plan. Truth be told, it was getting hard to keep Sofia focused when I was often feeling overwhelmed.
At that point, we thought we could inch toward The Plan by having Sofia apply to all the schools and simply wait to see the scholarships and how the schools treated her throughout the application process. We thought that would help us finalize The Plan. Again, we were wrong. Her top three schools came back with scholarships that pretty much equalized them and they were all accessible and welcoming throughout the process.
So, with deadlines looming, we had to admit that there were no shortcuts to The Plan and we had to employ some old-school decision-making. We put everything on the table and scheduled time to talk. A lot of time. We spent hours, days, nights talking about the schools, reviewing them, outlining the pros and cons of each. We mapped them out on paper and did a cost / benefits analysis.
Our conversations were long and deep. We talked about hopes, dreams and fears. At times, it seemed like we would never have a decision. Then, one night, after countless pieces of paper and sleepless nights, Sofia made her decision. And, just like that, The Plan was completed. And, suddenly, I looked over at the grown up across the table and realized that it was my Sofia. And, she had changed before my very eyes. She was comfortable, confident, and seemed to mature in that single instant.
As I gazed at this new person in front of me with admiration and a bit of melancholy, I realized that The Plan was a great lesson for Sofia and me both. Although it was long, and even painful at times, I am grateful that we did it the way we did. We learned a lot.
The Plan forced me to view and interact with Sofia differently than I had before. I learned how to communicate with this new, young adult who sat across the table from me during those long discussions. I learned how to transition into this new parenting style. And, I learned that I can be this new parent that Sofia now needs as she enters a new phase of her life.
Sofia learned new tools to help her make a conscious and reflective decision. The Plan forced her to be thoughtful, realistic and to face doubts and fears head on. She learned how to weigh options with a clear and focused intent, a thoughtful perspective and self-awareness.
She also learned that making important choices will probably provoke uncertainty. But, she is capable and can trust her instincts. While traveling the road to The Plan, Sofia learned to embrace the uncertainty that is life and ultimately trust in her decision and common sense. That to me is already a great education, and she hasn’t even taken her first college class.