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The College Hunt: A mother and daughter perspective

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“Attention shoppers”
A college shopping spree

By Jenna Cohen

The College Hunt photo 1

Attention shoppers: our store will close in 15 minutes. Please make your final selections and come check out at the register.
The thing is, I’ve only just begun to review my choices. The cart is filled with so many boxes; I can’t even be sure what’s in each of them.
Do I want the school that’s having a special on foreign study, or the one with the mouth-watering choir that caught my eye?

Attention shoppers: The store is closing in 15 minutes.
Blood pounds in my ears and the aisle begins to close in on me. So many choices, so little time.
How do you choose between peanut butter and chocolate when Reeses isn’t an option?

Attention shoppers: The store is closing in 10 minutes.
Wait; this one could be good. Gosh, I hope I have a coupon for it.
Which will best fit my budget? Or is this line cash only?

Attention Shoppers: 5 minutes, 5 minutes ‘til closing.
Very bad.
Just pick something!
Do I want small liberal arts college with alfredo sauce or big state school with marinara?
This one costs so much more, but it’s exactly what I’m craving.
But, what if it’s too filling? I want to save room for dessert.
Mmmm. Grad school a la mode.

Thank you for shopping with us today. Please remember all sales are final.


“Crap. Where are my tums?”
Or helping your daughter search for the perfect college

By Linda Haase

The College Hunt photo 2

On the morning of the SAT, I thought I was going to puke. The thought of the math section alone was enough to give me hives.

Imagine the misery if I were the one who’d actually had to take it.

I’m the mom of a high school senior, which means our household is stuck on the college channel. We get a daily deluge of brochures and e-mails from suitor schools, SAT prep specialists and for-hire college counselors, punctuated by invitations to compete in teen beauty pageants. A well-thumbed copy of Colleges That Change Lives sits on my nightstand, and my refrigerator is festooned with news clippings about financial aid. I have no fewer than six colleges bookmarked on my computer.

I’ve spent exponentially more time planning for Jenna’s college experience than I did for my own, and possibly more time than I actually spent in college.

In a manila file somewhere, I actually have an Excel spread sheet comparing various schools’ attributes: their size, location, ranking in US News & World Report, opportunities for Jewish life, and tuition lined up in neat columns.

I did not give this kind of careful consideration to my husband’s marriage proposal, or to the purchase of our first home.

In my defense, the house didn’t cost as much as this degree will.

The nightmare began in 8th grade, when high school class selections were made. The school district provided comparison charts of differing college admissions requirements along with their high school course catalogue. The message was clear: if I fucked up in selecting my 14-year-old’s science class, I could keep her from getting into Harvard.

I understand that there are worse things than Jenna not getting into the school of her choice. For example, she could get into the college of her dreams and then have them offer her no financial aid whatsoever.

Crap. Where are my Tums?

On the one hand, I want Jenna to have the opportunity to soar, to take a path that is worthy of her incredible spirit and intellect, and I don’t want her impeded by my limitations. Hell, I still want her to believe she could be President.

But I also want to protect her from this nonsense, from teachers who urged her as a freshman to consider activities that’d “look good” on her college applications, when all she wanted to do was figure out her locker combination; from relatives who ask her about college every time they see her; from neighbors lobbying for her to visit their alma mater.

My finest moment came when I declined to enroll her in a weekly SAT prep class, because I felt she should be spending her junior year in high school being a junior in high school.

I wish I could say that no, ever since then I haven’t been obsessing about whether I did the right thing.

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