Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Well It's Done...College Application Away

Well its done. Filled out and sent in. Written and edited and re-edited. Mused over. Fussed over. Prayed over. Concept driven. Thought provoking. Anxiety producing. Argued over. Compromised over. Bribes were exchanged. No I am not talking about a new healthcare bill in Congress. I am talking about HSB’s college applications. WOOHOO. They are done.

I know that so many of you are not even close to contemplating this event in your children’s lives. But let me tell you. It is one for the books. Not that the application process is hard. Truth be told, the world has made it all very easy. Instead of filling out a myriad of applications for different colleges as we did back in the day, everything is automated through the Common Application. You fill out the one form, possibly have a few supplemental pages (nothing major) pay online through the common application form and it gets sent to the college(s) of your choice. Technically it should have been the easiest application process I had ever been through. But then again we are talking about HSB.

The hard part, and it is like that for all students those with disabilities and those without, was beyond a doubt the personal essay. They have listed several questions that a student can pick from to answer, and then of course there is also the “none of the above” and you can present your own idea. 

Personal Essay Please write an essay (250 words minimum) on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below, and attach it to your application before submission. Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate box. This personal essay helps us become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself. NOTE: Your Common Application essay should be the same for all colleges. Do not customize it in any way for individual colleges. Colleges that want customized essay responses will ask for them on a supplement form.
* Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
*Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
*Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
*Describe character in fiction,a historical figure,or a creative work(as in art,music,science,etc.) that has had an influence on you,and explain that influence.
*A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
*Topic of your choice.

Knowing HSB you know that he chose the last idea and came up with something very unique. He decided to write an essay about what the world is like decades from now and how he used his college education to accomplish his goals. Smart kid huh (of course I am his mother but its pretty ingenious if you ask me.)

What was truly telling about HSB is how he views the world in the future. I know that sociologists and psychologists say that today’s young have a pretty gloomy picture of the future, but not HSB. In fact, his view is downright rosy. He conjoins his ideas of love of computer, media, acting and psychology to create video games that help people understand one another and that leads to his games helping to end racism, discrimination against the disabled, religious hatred, misogyny, sexual orientation hatred, ethnocentrism and any other kind of hate you can think of. Oh, it does also make him quite wealthy. Why not?  Listen a kid has to eat and if you are going to dream you might as well dream big.

I actually am quite proud of HSB for his view of the future and the need he has to right so many of today’s wrongs. We do understand where HSB gets a lot of his ideas for ending discrimination. I guess even though we don’t think so he is more aware of his own disability and I think he feels slighted sometimes. Perhaps he is just more aware of society’s ills than I also gave him credit for. You see since middle school HSB has been somewhat shielded from the news. The events of September 11th had had a profound effect on him and he became obsessed with the world and what was happening. He would get depressed and angry and it would overtake him at school. So we came up with an idea. No more news. No more newspapers. No more television news. No more Internet news. And guess what. HSB stopped being obsessed with the world and allowed himself to be a kid.

The truth is we kept that practice up even until today. When the family sits down to watch the news, HSB actually picks himself up and leaves the room. He may even close the door to his office so he doesn’t hear the TV. But somehow, he knows quite a lot of what is going on and is keenly aware of the world around him. Of course he has arguments about world events with collegeman, most things between the two of them devolve into an argument, and he holds his own. I guess truthfully he hears and sees more than what I thought he did. I also know that he is not shielded from any of the curriculum in school, so what they discuss in school as far as current events and what he hears others talk about does have somewhat of an impact on him.

Truth be told, HSB has a really good and kind heart. Being mean is not something he does and he doesn’t like it in others. In fact if he ever does something that hurts someone he is quick to apologize (except to his bro of course) and does try to make amends (eventually with the brother too, but usually only after a few parental computer-shut-off threats). I know typical siblings. But as I have asked before, too: Why is it that the typical things these two boys of mine pick up are the things you would rather they not pick up, or is that just kids in general? If it will drive you nuts, that is the first thing they learn from their peers.

So anyway, HSB wrote his essay. Hubby worked with him on that and helped him think it through. (It's not as if we hired a college consultant to help our child write the essay as most people do in this area. You have no idea the crap that goes on when it comes to success and the type A parent.)The work on the essay was all HSB's.  Without question, and part and parcel of the aspergers, was that the hard part of the essay for HSB was the openendedness of the assignment. There was no true direction so he had to create direction for himself. The truth of the matter is that I don’t think any highschool student truly does anything without direction, OK unless your child is one of the superbrains who take 5 AP courses in their final year of highschool and for fun they intern at a cancer research facility to just get some usable experience in the sciences. These particular children are in a class all their own and yes we have quite a few like that around here. (And yes they go early decision to the college of their choice.).

What was interesting was watching the process by which hubby helped HSB figure out how to come up with a topic. Organize the topic. Structure the essay.  Rework the essay. Edit the ideas. There was no rubric. There was no direction. It was all up to HSB. I take it as baptism by fire for college. It truly shows the schools just how capable HSB is and what an asset he will be to any college that accepts him. He met that challenge head on and I think he will meet the next challenge of post-secondary education head on as well.

Now one thing that HSB did put in that essay that we insisted he remove was the fact that he has aspergers. We did not tell him why. We just told him that it was unnecessary to tell people that he had a disability. In truth it has been a long accepted fact that students with disabilities who tell the potential colleges that they have a disability tend to not get accepted into college. In fact it is the reasoning behind one of the biggest civil rights lawsuits against the ACT testing services.

Years ago when your child used to receive accommodations from the college board, they used to flag the accommodated student’s tests so that the reviewing school would know that the student received extra time. Invariably as it was shown in court, these students did not gain acceptance into post secondary schools. The court held for the plaintiff and required the college testing services to no longer flag these tests. The SAT Company did not bother to even wait to be sued; they just complied knowing full well that if the ACT Company was held to that standard they would be also.

In fact, when collegeman applied to schools his guidance counselor asked if we are going to tell the schools about his disability. We flatly told him no and wanted no one at the high school to make them aware of his situation. Not only did the guidance counselor not tell me I was mistaken he wholeheartedly agreed with what I said and why we felt it was unnecessary. In fact, HSB made sure today to tell his teachers who were providing him with recommendations that he does not want them to mention his aspergers. Just talk about him as they would any other student. They totally understood. I also think under law they are not allowed to say anything about his disability anyway, but just a reminder didn’t hurt. (Its not like these two lovely people would want to do anything to hurt HSB anyway.)

Now there are some out there who think that telling the schools shows that their child has the ability to persevere. We know that. We see that. We understand how hard our children work to succeed. What the admissions committee sees is a child with a problem and why ask for problems if you don’t need them? They do not need a formal reason to reject your child. Remember that.

Now remember too, that just because you don’t tell the school at application about your child’s disability does not preclude them from receiving accommodations once they are accepted. Once accepted due to the ADA, the colleges have to give accommodations to those that show a quantifiable and absolute disability. Of course, that may be troublesome for some only because some colleges, believe it or not, still do not recognize disabilities as anything but someone trying to get away with something.

In fact in a case from last year, when a Princeton undergraduate sued to get extended time on tests, an administrator from the school derided those with extra time as people that diminish the value of a Princeton degree. It is one thing to get ignorance from the undereducated. It is quite another thing to get ignorance from those that pride themselves on their education and in fact pride themselves on their liberal and progressive education.  Princeton did settle the lawsuit in favor of the student. As I said with collegeman when we were having some issues with the Dean of Drama at his college early last year, the hallowed halls of ivy have a long way to go, unfortunately.

So here we sit. Wondering what will be HSB’s future next year. Where will he go to school and what will he actually learn. How we will help him adjust to his new surroundings and how we will accommodate him in his new endeavor. So far I think HSB is off to a great start. He accepted the challenge and he did a terrific job with it. No matter where he goes to school, his vision of the future is a joyful one. One I think that bodes well for the years to come and tells us something about what HSB will be doing decades from now. I guess collegeman is not the only one who wants to save the world. Where did I get such young men? They do make a parent proud.

red ribbon "chai" hamsa- to life
Anyway the ball is in play…fingers crossed…kabbalah red ribbon on…hamsa at the door…now we wait.

Until next time,