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Apodaca: College pickers must listen to their heart

April 27, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

March madness has segued into April angst.

As I begin writing, I am wedged into a middle seat at 39,000 feet somewhere over the vast middle of the country. My 18-year-old son naps beside me, but I always find sleep elusive on planes, and so I ingest lightly salted peanuts and write.

We are in the midst of an eight-flight, continent-crossing, if-this-is-Monday-it-must-be-Wisconsin college trip. Shortly after we return home to Newport Beach, he will at last decide where he will spend the next four years — hopefully four — being filled with vast quantities of knowledge and probably an equivalent amount of beer.

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That's the plan anyway.

Some high school seniors are fortunate to have their college commitment a done deal by now. Such was the case five years ago for my older son, who was admitted to his first-choice school, the only college he ever really wanted to attend. He didn't need to ponder the decision or make any last-minute travel plans before the May 1 yes-or-no deadline.

I had no idea back then how lucky we were. Because for many kids, my younger son included, making that final decision has been a murkier proposition. He knows what he wants in a school, but has yet to determine which of his remaining choices will best deliver on those preferences.

So now I sit in a college campus food court, after yet another accepted-student information session and tour. I thought I'd heard it all during the dog-and-pony shows we attended when my son first began his college search. But there's a different flavor in the mix now that these schools have decided they want him. Once the suitor, he is now the one standing in judgment.

Mind you, many students like him have already been subjected to soul-crushing denials from other schools, received by way of the higher education equivalent of "Dear John" letters. ("You're a great guy, but we're just not right for each other.") Yet they also now find themselves courted and cosseted by the colleges that have accepted them. ("We'll be so happy together! Just look at our beautiful new student activities center!)

I've spoken to other glassy-eyed parents who have endured a similar cross-country college trek, and observed the hordes of anxious students who are faced with the biggest decision of their young lives. It's a lot to digest.

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