The Neurotic Parent is a humor writer who satirizes the insanity of the modern college admissions process.
Yesterday, when I picked up my younger son, Good Conversationalist, he had just come from a meeting with his dean. He is starting high school next year and had to select his ninth-grade electives. He showed me the catalog and said that for a sport, he wanted to try cross country.
I was horrified. He has always been a baseball player. Why was he suddenly thinking of trying something new?
Then he let the other shoe drop. "Mom," he said. "There is so much I want to try. I might want to stop doing graphic arts and take a semester of photography. Then maybe I'll do a year of speech and debate, and a summer program in creative writing. I'm going to run for Student Council and start a ping pong club. And I want to take music composition, kayak lessons, and maybe even two languages: French and ancient Greek."
At that point I was too agitated to drive and had to pull over. How dare he become enthusiastic about so many different pursuits! What kind of kid had we raised?
"Stop right there," I said. "You cannot study all those things. How would that look to the admissions committees at the colleges where you're applying to four years from now? They want to see that you have just one passion, two at the most. Top candidates choose something they love in third grade and stick with it."
"But how am I supposed to have a passion now?" he asked. "I'm only 14!"
"Most 14-year-olds bound for selective schools already have won awards in their field of choice," I explained. "They know it's a terrible idea to have more than a few interests. So give it up."
He looked down. "But how am I going to know if I like something if I don't try it? Can't I be passionate about learning itself?"
Here it was: my worst parenting nightmare coming true. I shook my head and told myself it was all hormones, and he soon would return to baseball. But in my heart I knew he might be on the road to giving into his temptations. Any day, I imagined, I would be getting a call from the Dean of Students, letting me know that he was experimenting with both photography and Greek.
This was something that needed to be nipped in the bud. I dropped him off at Little League practice went home to look into intervention programs.
Excerpted from "The Neurotic Parent's Guide to College Admissions" by J.D. Rothman. Published by Prospect Park Books.