The Boy is wrapping up middle school. He’s in the final weeks of eighth grade, with only a few projects and the dreaded Milestones testing left.
Riding in the car the other day, I asked him, “What do you think about learning to drive? In less than a year, you can try it!” I expected an overjoyed teenager response. Instead, he sighed, closed his eyes, and said, “actually, I’m really nervous. High school makes me nervous.”
Realizing the conversation was headed in a different direction, I softened my tone.
“Which parts, buddy? Driving? The workload? Dating? Tests?” I’m surprised by this, because he is my laid-back, non-stressed kid. Additionally, he isn’t starting a new school in ninth grade.
“All of it.”
“Really?” I wasn’t being insensitive. I was investigating. “Were you nervous going into sixth grade? That would’ve been scary to me.”
He went on to say that he went blindly into middle school. Academics came easily to him, he had some friends, and he was mostly excited to go to a new place. “Sure. That all makes sense. You’re lucky you are staying at the same school, at least. All of those things seem big right now, but they’ll be fun.” I gave him my best assurance.
“What makes me most anxious is college.” Ah. There it is. As much as I wanted to tell him not to worry about college in ninth grade, that wouldn’t have been the truth. Things ain’t what they used to be. Saying like that make me sound old. It’s been almost 25 years since I sent a college application, so I suppose that’s how it goes.
My husband applied to exactly one college. He didn’t want to go anywhere else. I’m not sure what he would’ve done had he not gotten in, but he did. He went to Georgia.
I don’t remember having many conversations with my parents about college. It was expected, of course, but there wasn’t a lot of encouragement or advice. I don’t say that to make my parents sound unsupportive. College was simply the next step after high school.
I applied to three schools, all for very different reasons. Appalachian State sounded cool because my outdoorsy high school boyfriend said it was. That made it my first choice. He wanted to come visit me there. I wasn’t all that outdoorsy, and I’d never visited the school, but the pictures looked pretty. Belmont, in Nashville, had an impressive Music Business program. I’d played several instruments growing up, and the idea of working with the business side of performers and performances sounded exciting. I never thought I’d get it. It was a dream school. Georgia was my fallback. I’d visited Athens, everyone I knew was a Georgia football fan, and it was only an hour from home. Plus, with the Hope Scholarship, UGA would be free.
Surprisingly, I was accepted to all three. I decided quickly that App State was the one. The Grateful Dead bears sticker on the back of my little car would’ve fit in well. I was planning a Birkenstock purchase. I had my roommate. In May of my senior year, I changed my mind. I followed my best friends to Georgia. I was an English major there and didn’t feel much pressure to determine a career path right away.
My SAT scores were okay. I had more As than Bs on my report cards. I had fun in high school and took it just seriously enough. Now, my son is taking high school classes in middle school and feels like he needs to map out his high school career, for fear of missing something important. He’s looking into college requirements for the schools he might like to attend.
I’m glad he’s preparing, but I hate that he has to. He’s 14. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a kid. Sure, in the days of “Little House on the Prairie,” he’d own a few acres of land and a cow by now, but for now, I’m okay with him spending his summer days at the pool. He has plenty of time to be an adult. Ask any Mama; she’ll say they all do.