As my daughter Junie prepares to go to college this fall, I think of our journey over the last year as a sort of spiritual pilgrimage. By naming the college admissions process a holy trek, we caretakers call on God, and God calls on us, to walk together through moments that challenge our comfort zone.
Like Jesus was called away from his parents to teach (Luke 2:46-49), our children are called to new adventures beyond high school. Their transition into adulthood brings that truth home to all of us. The glimmer of holiness in their lives can bring a little light to our paths through the unknown.
The process of college admissions, fraught with drama, cultural craziness and mind-bending organizational tasks, ultimately hits all of us in such a deep place because it’s not just about our children and us.
Did we not know that the college transition was about God? Probably not—but we do now. Letting go forces caretakers to come face-to-face with the faceless God, parent of us all, provider of abundance and mission beyond anything we thought we knew.
We may think that the moment of transference comes when the college acceptance letter arrives or when we help our freshman put sheets on a dorm bed. In fact, the changeover takes years of learning to balance togetherness with separation, spirit with presence, years of watching one another grow into our shared call of returning to find Jesus where we left him.
Questions for reflection with your child or grandchild: How does this story sound like your experience with your family? How do you listen for God in your big decisions?
For parents or grandparents of high school seniors:
- Define a daily time (15 minutes or more) to work on college tasks. My daughter and I carved out a time on Sunday through Thursday evenings to deal with details and assignments little by little.
- Create electronic or paper charts to manage the process. We made a spreadsheet. By using tools to manage deadlines, options and scholarships, you can see the landscape at a glance.
- Demystify the college essay-writing process. You can hire excellent guides to help you through this step, but there’s no reason for it to be so daunting. It helps to work at a library or café. Start early to ease anxiety—admissions people can smell panic. Have your child write for five minutes about anything, then for 10 minutes on one of the prompts. Repeat this process. And as students write, parents write too—way different from hovering.