Making the Final Decision

Well. It’s been a long processes. It’s included tears, laughter, stress, joy, heartache and its time for the final decision.

The Time Between. Between submitting the college applications and all the paperwork and the arrival of letters, our sons used the time to complete scholarships. I will be honest. There are a ton of scholarships out there. Many you may not even be aware they exist. There are a lot of websites dedicated to “helping” you with finding those scholarships. I know that our sons applied to a lot and received little or no response. Focus more on local scholarships, Dollars for Scholars, is one example. Remember that your child is not the only one out there applying. There are literally thousands upon thousands. What are the chances for that $500 scholarship? It’s a great thing to do in between.

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The First Letter/Email. I can’t tell you how exciting it is when those first letters and emails start arriving. Some colleges you get a quick response (typically those with rolling enrollment) and others seem to take forever. When your son/daughter gets those firsts, let them be the one to open them. Hold back your instincts and don’t do it!

The First You’ve Been Accepted. What a relief that first yes is. Even if it isn’t their first choice or even midway down the list. It’s a yes. They’ve made it. They know that someone has decided that they rock!

The First “I’m Sorry”. Ugh. Those are tough. Not every child has the same opportunities and the same abilities. There will be students better than your son/daughter. Hopefully, you have done your job well and they know how to handle disappointment. If not, there are good ways to handle it and bad ways to handle it. Think now about what your response will be. You need to prepare as much for yourself and for your child.

Start by setting realistic expectations. You do know that not every child gets a trophy in the real world, right? We knew which schools were “reach” schools.  We knew which ones to not even try to get into. We knew which ones were a good chance and which were essentially a “sure thing”. Before those letters start arriving, go through expectations with your son/daughter.

The First Wait List. We really hated wait list letters. Each of our sons received one. It’s a kind of limbo. They don’t want you, but they don’t not want you. It’s kind of like being the second stringer for prom, “I’ll go with you if Suzy says no,” kind of answer. What did we do with these? We treated them as a No. We didn’t think about them or hold out expectations that the maybe would change to a Yes. We moved on.


The Final Letter to Arrive.  Waiting for the last decision to come in was the hardest part for all of us.  You can’t make a decision until you know all your variables, right?

This is our son, Zach.  He was on band tour and everyone was enjoying a day at an indoor water park, thus the no shirt/bathing suit look.  He knew that the letters from his last college were coming out and they would arrive in the mail and via email.  Obviously, he wouldn’t be home to get his mail, but luckily for us technology is what it is.  He periodically took a break, went to the locker room, got his cell phone and moved around to find coverage.  This is the moment he read his last response from a college.

What I love about this photo?  That I happened to be there watching from the upper level and I had my camera.   Ok, not an unusual occurence with me, hehehe.  I knew how anxious he was for this last letter.  I wish I had captured the look on his face when he looked up and found me.  He had an amazing smile on his face.  I didn’t capture the photo, not because I didn’t want to, but because I knew what the email said and I had tears streaming down my face.  Moments before, my husband who was at home had seen the email and sent me a text.

Sometimes you have to put the camera down and just live in the moment.  Remember that too.  Life cannot always be captured in a photo.  It is meant to be lived.  This was one of those moments.

Now What?

Yep, you guessed it. Another spreadsheet. 


As letters started arriving, we updated our spreadsheets to Cost of College worksheets. Our sons needed to know the bottom line for each college. Tuition, Room and Board, Books, Travel and mad money. All colleges have these numbers on their websites. We gather those in, added Financial Aid and scholarship information and had a bottom line. Blank College Financial Comparison

They Made Their Decision. They had visited almost all of the schools they applied to. They knew how hard or how easy a particular college was reported to be. They knew how much it would cost. They knew what “vibe” they got.  They knew the deadline for a yes on their part was for each college.

We gave them space. It’s really hard to do this. It’s their decision and it’s huge. We needed to trust that they would make the best decision for themselves.

We also let them know, like everything else, that we would support their decision.  That we would be there if after 3 months or a year, it wasn’t the right fit for them. They knew we loved them.

In the end, all you can do as a parent is be there for them. Provide love, guidance and help when they want it. They are growing up. It’s scary. But you’ve got this. And so do they! Now, enjoy the summer between high school and college.  Let them be kids, let them hang with their friends.  Have adventure days.  Take a vacation.   Grill outside. Watch a parade.  See the fireworks.  Don’t waste this time.  Take it from me, it goes by too fast and you can’t get it back!  Love them, hug them, make their favorite meals.

I couldn’t be a prouder parent.  Afterall, my blog is about being a mom.

Before and After My Empty Nest.


Side Note…..For those of you wanting to know about the cover photo I used.  When going through my mother’s house recently, I found my father’s acceptance letter to college. This is also his pencil box. And one of his famous red pencils. He was the first one in his family to go to college.  He set the standard.  He is our inspiration. He was one of 11 kids from a family with very little from a small town in Wisconsin.  He did it.  He made it work.  He was married and had a family and worked two jobs.  The next generation more of the cousins went to college.  The next even more.

Encourage and Inspire your kids every day!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Thanks for following my first blog series, Kathy.

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