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Apodaca: March Madness of a different sort

Parents and their college-bound children know too well the agony of the admissions process.

March 22, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

It's March Madness time!

I don't mean the college basketball tournament, although the annual rite of collective lunacy to which I refer does involve college, and it is a tournament of sorts.

It's the anxiety-ridden, teenage acne breakout-prone, parent stress-attack month when high school seniors across the land await the final news on their college applications. The Sweet Sixteen in this case would apply to the often outrageous number of schools some kids apply to.

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I could go on all day milking this metaphor — the Final Four represent the top schools in a student's bracket — but you get the picture. It's a stomach-knotting, high-stakes, profoundly whacky competition that makes a mere basketball tournament appear practically zen-like.

In the scope of the entire crazy college admissions process, which now begins in earnest somewhere around preschool, March of senior year represents the culminating moment of all the agony. The applications have long since been submitted and by month's end most, if not all, of a student's choices will be known. It's the educational equivalent of purgatory.

Here in Newport-Mesa, where expectations of success run high — and by that I mean your neighbors look like they want to send a condolence card if your kid only gets into a state school — students about to graduate endure constant grilling: Which schools did you apply to? Which have you heard from/gotten into? Have you decided? Are you excited?

Parents engage in their own stressfests and incessant discussions over their children's college prospects. Few of us can resist the urge to worry, brag, make excuses, overanalyze or second-guess as we await the big did-they-get-in news.

We fall victim to the emotional vortex of this annual ritual even though we understand logically that it has long ceased to make any sense. Our children have been subjected to all manner of psychological torture, from the ridiculous mental gymnastics of the SAT to the onslaught of mixed messages and conflicting advice. (Hey kids, make sure you take the most academically rigorous courses possible. But avoid stress!)

On Thursday, test-prep firm Princeton Review released its annual "College Hopes and Worries Survey," which found that 69% of student applicants and parents felt a high degree of stress over the college admissions process. So that's how that advice goes over.

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