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and rejections online, but this was coming the old-fashioned
way, by post. The weekend dragged by, thenMonday’s mail
came: nothing. It would definitely be in Tuesday’s mail, only
it wasn’t.
I finally called. There’d been a computer glitch. We’d
probably get it Wednesday. We didn’t. I called again. Could
they tell us on the phone? No, it was on its way. It would be
there. When it wasn’t, I panicked. One day left. Everyone
would be gone from the high school. If Connecticut had
decided to say no, we’d miss the January 1 deadline to apply
most everywhere else.
An admissions officer kindly said she would extend a
professional courtesy if Kate’s college counselor would give her
a call. We still hadn’t met the college counselor. My daughter
had managed to enlist the help of the assistant principal, who
had graciously agreed to fill out her forms, write a glowing
personal recommendation and forward a transcript. Now we
needed him to call Connecticut College to learn Kate’s fate.
Sorry, said his secretary, he’d already gone. He’d left for
vacation a day early. Awful thoughts raced through my head.
I had surely destroyed any chance my daughter had of ever
getting into college. I frantically tried to think of alternatives.
How about taking a year off? Go to Afghanistan and build
I phoned the school secretary again, and she reluctantly
agreed to call Connecticut herself. Five minutes later she
called back and said she couldn’t do it.
“You didn’t call?” I cried.
“I did call. I just can’t tell you what
they said.”
“What do you mean, you can’t tell
me? You have to tell me.”
“I can’t. They told me not to tell
anyone. The answers come in the mail.”
“So what am I supposed to do about
getting the recommendation forms to all
the teachers and figuring out who can fill
out all the official school forms?”
There was a pause.
“Throw them away,” she advised.
“That means she is in? Is she? Are you sure?” I was on the
verge of tears.
There was another pause. Then, choosing her words
carefully, she said: “I’m sure you don’t have to do anything
with those forms.”
The family room looked bare
A few weeks later, I took the round table back to the
garden, moved the library table back where it belonged, and
stripped everything off the bulletin board before returning
it to my office. I stuffed all the old brochures into shopping
bags and stowed them in some mildewed cabinets. The family
room looked bare so I went to Crate and Barrel and bought a
new chair. I realized afterwards it was a peculiar acquisition
for a family that was about to have one less person around.
I talk to Gracie now and again. Sometimes she makes
noises about wanting the crates back. I guess she figures her
husband is getting old enough that he doesn’t remember
where they came from. They live all the way across the
country, so I assume
she won’t collect them
anytime soon. The truth
is, I still need the crates
because the mail hasn’t
stopped. In fact, it’s
starting to pick up again.
But now some of the
envelopes are addressed
to a different person.
I told you, didn’t I,
that we have another
daughter? Rachel will be a senior in the fall. She’s more the
scientific type. These marketing people the colleges use are
really good because they’ve already picked up on that. She’s
getting mailers from very different places than her sister did.
One came fromMIT just the other day. “We helped get a man
on the moon,” it read. “We should be able to help you finance
your education.” Now wouldn’t that be nice?
Anne C. Roark, a former higher education reporter for the
Angeles Times
, is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.
Applying to college
was beginning to
seem a bit like
the war in Iraq: a
protracted mission
with no clear plan.
One mailer from MIT
said, “We helped get
a man on the moon.
We should be able to
help you finance your