I had to unfollow Stanford on Instagram.
I’d say “nothing personal,” but that would be totally false. It was absolutely personal. That stupid school made my brilliant, first-born child cry.
She applied early decision to the school, which she fell in love with on a visit years ago. Until she set foot on that campus, she was a bleed-red-and-blue University of Arizona Wildcat, as most Tucson-born kids are. We talked about how Stanford has a 5 percent acceptance rate and all the crazy things that go into determining who gets into a college — like your parents’ income and it probably didn’t help to put an asterisk next to me saying “unemployed but waiting on a book deal” — and factors so far beyond one’s own personal control. But at the same time, we encouraged her because that’s what parents do.
“You go, girl! You reach for the stars. Swing for the fences.”
I’m not exaggerating about her brilliance. She has an amazing GPA at an incredibly difficult school that’s recognized as one of the top in the country. She volunteers. She’s played varsity volleyball since her freshman year. Don’t make me give a rundown of her SAT and subject-test scores because then I really just sound like an obnoxiously proud parent. I will say, this kid has the chops for an elite college.
That school just won’t be Stanford.
Back in the day, I applied to Stanford. Paid the $60 application fee, but with every essay question I answered, I knew I was beyond a long shot. I just wanted to apply to say that I applied. That was enough for me. When I received my expected rejection* letter, I trashed it and moved on.
Not so easy for my girl.
There’s a lot of pressure — mostly self-inflicted — for her to be the best and enroll at the best. We try and focus on how it’s the journey and what you learn about yourself that truly counts. We tell her that one day, she’ll be wildly successful and she’ll be able to drop into conversations that she didn’t get into Stanford and people will be shocked. Shocked.
We also point out that she is going to get into a good college and can afford college, and so very many kids aren’t that lucky so… really, this is all first-world drama. Still, it is hard to have this perspective when you’re a teenager and in the thick of it. It’s even harder, as a parent, to see them struggle.
I found an article online that detailed some pretty famous people who didn’t get into their dream schools like Barack Obama and Tina Fey, people my kid admires. I don’t think she’s ready to hear about that just yet.
But, in case you’re listening, Stanford? You really screwed up because you are missing out on one amazing young woman.
And your Insta feed was pretty boring.
*Expected Rejection would be a good, but not especially peppy, band name.