Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Parents Mean Well-- and Yet...

By: Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

“Mr. Osborn?”


“This is Wanda Axelrod, Jimmy’s mother?”


“He’s applying to your college, and when I told his counselor Jimmy had a few questions, the counselor told Jimmy to call the college admissions office, so of course I wanted to talk to you.”

“I’m sorry.  Jimmy had some questions, so you—?”

“Yes.  Now, Jimmy’s counselor told us you superscore on the ACT, and we just wanted to make sure that was true.”

“Why, yes.  Counselors are really very reliable with that information.”

“That’s exactly what our SAT tutor said, but I just wanted to make sure.  Now, when listing extracurricular activities, should we list them in chronological order, or in order of importance?”

“Order of importance.  We think that shows us some of the intangible qualities of student.”

“That’s what I told Jimmy after we typed them into the online application, but he insisted that I check with you.”

“He did?”

“I told him, ‘Jimmy, you may have only changed planes in Ukraine, but colleges like to see students familiar with other nations, and that’s why I put that experience at the top of the extracurricular list.’”

“Ma’am, changing planes isn’t exactly—“

“This was after we spent two weeks at the Sanskrit writing seminar.  Jimmy had such a good time—I’m so glad we found out about it through the magazine at the beauty salon.”

“Your son goes to a—?”

“Now, you mentioned intangible qualities. Let’s talk more about those, since we have a list of those we’ve been working on since sixth grade.  Jimmy has extensive leadership experience as CEO of his own lawn maintenance company for the past seven years.”

“He owns a lawn maintenance company?”

“No.  He just runs it.”

“I see.  How many employees?”

“Just one.”

“Other than himself?”

“Why, no.  Is that important?”

“You could say that.”

“He’s up to five lawns this year.  Of course, he had to quit piano to make more time for lawn cutting, but I told him that leadership was something colleges like.”

“How long had he played piano?”

“Since he was three.  He was state champion at the Junior level three years straight, and had a good shot at the Senior division crown.  But we gave that up.”

“Did he like it?”

“Giving it up?”

“No.  Playing the piano. Did he like it?”

“Oh heavens yes.  He would spend hours at the piano, playing Bach from memory, composing his own songs.  It was beautiful while it lasted.”

“And now he’s mowing lawns instead?”

“Mr. Osborn, we know the value of being a small business operator in the college application process.”

“Of course.  What other intangible qualities--?”

“Well, he did display selflessness when I took him to the soup kitchen.”

“As a volunteer?  That’s great.  How many hours did he work there?”

“One. But we really grew through that experience.”

“Anything else?”

“Independence, since we’re now cleaning our own room.  Organization, when he cleaned the garage.  And adventure of course, when he had to change planes in Ukraine.”

“Mrs. Axelrod, how about initiative?”


“Yes.  You know, setting up his own appointments with his college counselor, finding his own summer programs to attend, showing leadership and selflessness by staying with the piano to offer free recitals to local retirement villages and free lessons to local children, calling the college of his choice by himself to ask his own questions—that kind of thing.”

“That—that doesn’t appear to be on our list.”


“I suppose that means his life is over.”

“I somehow get the impression that once he’s in college, his life will just begin.”

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