I’m going 85 mph in the old beat-up station wagon. It’s a scorching hot Saturday in July and Zac and I are running late to Football Saturday at Tufts University. The cop squeezes the trigger, my heart turns to melted, dimpled macadam, and I’m prepared to pay my first whopping college bill.
I tuck the wagon in the right hand lane, the cop chooses not to chase, I slow to the speed limit, and Zac stares at the clock on the dash.
“Dad,” he says a couple minutes later, “you gotta move it. We’re going to be late.”
I don’t hear him because I’m imagining a wedding planner racing around like a lunatic hours before her own kid is about to be married. The caterer’s drunk, the flowers are all wrong – why should a college planner be any different? The thought makes me feel better, but it’s not getting us to Tufts.
“Pick it up,” Zac grunts.
“Zac,” I snarl slowly, “if you had had the directions like I told you to get, and we didn’t have to turn around and go back to the house to get them we wouldn’t be running late.”
That was but a minor bump in the road, one of the first of many on Zac’s exhausting drive to find the right school, and as things would have it, the right school found Zac.
Zac narrows it down to Colby, Bates, Bowdoin, Babson, UConn, and Northeastern. And in October Zac gets a call from Coach Frank Hauser, the head football coach at Wesleyan.
Hauser wanted Zac to play for Wesleyan. Zac had not thought of Wesleyan since it’s around the corner from Essex where he has lived from the day he was brought home from Middlesex Memorial Hospital in Middletown. This was a good bump that none of us saw coming, another reason to stay loose throughout the admissions process.
Zac was told that he was their number one pick for linebacker. They thought he could help the team. Zac was invited up. A professor contacted him and advised him of the academic support that was in place for athletes at this school where the mean SAT score is 700.
Zac spent homecoming weekend at Wesleyan with several players from the football team; he bumped into an old friend from sleep away camp in New Hampshire who is currently attending Wesleyan and who told him how much he liked the place.
Zac, who really doesn’t talk too much to me, told me about some “pretty crazy stuff” he saw, including a girl who had the words, Keep Your Laws Off My Body written on her arm. He said he liked how she felt comfortable in her own skin. He said he liked how he felt on campus and what the other students had to say about Wesleyan. He talked about the economics department and a campus that he said played like a good piano.
I often remember what we heard at Tufts from the dean of admission that sweltering Saturday when I drove liked a frustrated madman the wrong way down tight one-way streets to get to the gymnasium on time. The dean told the students to find a college that loves you and that you love right back. It wasn’t long before Zac was loving Wesleyan, and he was asked to apply early decision.
We were all very excited until the next bump. Coach told Zac that he had been to admissions and he would feel more confident about Zac’s candidacy if he got another 40 or so points on the SATs.
Another 40 points? That’s two lucky guesses. It’s late October now and Zac was advised to take the test on Dec. 4, and to apply early decision two. The day before the test I make it clear to Zac that he should see me at my office. We would do our last bit of prep for the exam and then go out for our kind of comfort food – a big steak, fried shoestring onion curls, and garlic mashed potatoes.
My comedian arrives at 4:30 or so in the afternoon. He puts his head down on one of the round study tables. “Zac,” I say, “let’s move it.”
“Dad,” he says, “I’m exhausted. I just gave blood at school. I can’t focus.”
Zac got his points the next day and then the excruciating wait set in until he got the nod the other week. After the acceptance letter arrived it took Zac a good few days to start to unwind; the wait had made for some rocky sleeps and preoccupied mornings.
I recount this story to share with you how important it is to get all your scores in line by end of junior year, certainly no later than October senior year. Had Zac done so he would have been asked to apply early decision one and he would have known by Christmas.
I also share the story to advise that good and unexpected bounces are coming, and, of course, I write to tip my cap to my oldest son, who had a great run at Valley Regional High School in Deep River.
This win, Zac, is one for the books!
Sam Rosensohn is the founder of College Planning Partnerships, which offers prep classes for the SAT and helps students to prepare for college and write college essays. He can be reached in Clinton at 860-664-9857 or at firstname.lastname@example.org