The Launching Pad

The College Acceptance Letter Is In the Mail – Now What?

Any day now high school seniors will be hearing from the colleges of their choice. Yes or no, thin letter or fat missive, it’s a critical time for parents as well as their young adults, the first stage in launching them into the college transition. What can and should you expect?

Whether they got into their number one pick or their “safety” school is the only alternative – and even if where they go won’t be determined until waiting lists open up, colleges overlooked in the first round come in for a reappraisal, or the financial aid package comes through – they’re already in the transition. So why, even if they’ve achieved their goal and you’ve found a way to pay for it, are they suddenly being so, well, difficult? (Rude, thoughtless, provocative, uncooperative, moody – choose your own adjective).

It’s eerily like the beginning of their adolescence – remember how your delightful, engaging pre-teen turned into a monster? Regression to an earlier developmental stage is how they cope with the immediacy of the next one, which promises losses as well as anticipated gains. By distancing themselves from what they’ll be leaving – the safe, secure, loving world behind your front door, or even the slightly dysfunctional one they’ve been promising you they couldn’t wait to get out of – they’re steeling themselves against missing it too much. Maybe you’re getting the first few inkling of their expectable ambivalence now – if you’re like many families, it may not show up until closer to their estimate time of departure Which is both the good news and the bad – by then, you’ll be so glad to get rid of each other that letting go will be a relief on both sides, at least until you get used to it.

Which is another story, which I’ll be writing about frequently between now and the start of their first semester. Because launching them also means we’re launching ourselves into a new developmental stage with its own gains and losses – Postparenthood. As they move into their first adulthood, you’re beginning your second. And whether your fledgling is the first to leave the nest or the last, there’s one thing that’s certain – life will be different for all of you from now on.

By janeellen

Jane Adams PHD Social Psychologist