Tomorrow, May 1, will be college decision day for some students; for others, it’s six months past decision day. For more than a handful of colleges, it’ll be a day to calculate how much space still remains in the class and strategize ways to fill those seats.
In our house, this May 1 will be Brian Beckley Day. Brian is our senior’s school counselor. He’s one of those people who is too wise for his years, and the philosophy he articulated to us a while back has come to inform my own.
“I cannot guarantee anything, in terms of admission or scholarships. What I can promise you is that I will listen to you and counsel according to your values as I walk through this process with your son. We’ll watch your budget, and it’ll be good.”
That may seem simple, but it’s pretty profound in my book. Notably, Brian did not talk about statistics or lament the scarcity of openings at MIT; he did not fret over our son’s lack of a singular excellence (e.g. groundbreaking research, Olympic gold) which would lift him atop a crowded field; he didn’t boast about his clout within the counseling community or preen over his past students’ accomplishments.
Instead, Brian modeled what I have come to recognize as a healthy and proactive counseling posture: he made a commitment, and he lived up to it. He let Bob, our son, know that he would be supported through all manner of outcomes. In other words, Brian led by example, helping Bob focus on what he could control without allowing the rest of the chaos to paralyze him.
And paperwork. Or whatever it is that you call the piles of red tape and tedium surrounding every college application.
If you think the admissions process is merciless when it comes to the applicants, consider for a moment their school counselors. School counselors either bear the burden of a huge roster or of a roster representing millions of tuition dollars. (It’s another topic for another day, but the expense of a private high school does not—and should not—represent anything beyond high school.) Anyway, school counselors write the equivalent of their own Common App essay for every student and are somehow depended upon to deliver, simultaneously, rave reviews and dispassionate honesty. About post-adolescents.
Here’s to you, Brian. Just as I was about to push this dutiful son of ours one step too far—all the way to crazy, that is–you swooped in and transformed every fork in the road into a teachable moment, for all of us.