Kids who are applying to college this fall can’t find the same open spots that other years would be a sure bet. This will be the year of the phantom college essay: stories about what could have been and what was there once and poof gone.

At least I’m hoping that this will be the year of the phantom essay. And that the kids will be whiny, and unappealing, and that my kid will shine.

I spend late-nights reading posts from teenage boys on Reddit. One really got me: I finally told my mom I’m worried I won’t be accepted anywhere good. And my mom said, I’m worried too.

I did a double take. Is that my kid? As a homeschooler he is relatively sheltered from how much stress this college application stuff is.

Except from the stress of me, his mother, screaming at him in unfair ways. For example, in college applications, homeschool parents have to describe their homeschool philosophy. I had to describe and document my teaching approach. I wanted to write: here’s a picture of me dragging the kids through museums that I like and they don’t.

I had to describe my grading system.  WTF? My grading system is you get an A or why the fuck are we even doing this?

My son argued. I argued. Back and forth.

I lost patience. You got a fucking A in AP Art and shut the fuck up about giving yourself a B. What homeschooler gets a B from their mom? This is insane. You look insane when you try to be Mr. Ethics because you can’t tell the difference between being ethical and being a tool.

Melissa had to step in and negotiate. Everything got nicer when we had a third-party stuck in the middle between us. But I’m not sure how long we can hold on. The admissions process is so messed up during Covid that some people are advising if you were planning to apply to 8 to 12 schools then you should apply to 20 this fall.

That’s a lot of essays. A lot of dashed dreams. And a lot of cursing at my poor son.

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3 replies
  1. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    That’s an interesting point about the difficulty of admission this year. It only makes sense that many more kids would have deferred admission this fall to next fall. I didn’t really think about how increasing the number of deferrals to seven times the normal rate would affect admissions this year. Talk about bad timing! And there’s still no telling whether big schools will even have students on campus in the fall.

  2. M
    M says:

    Your children will do well, they have been doing pandemic education (pandemication?) their whole lives. Many students are struggling from the isolation, working from home, or doing school online for the first time. They’re struggling to learn, or they’re putting their lives on hold and deferring.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That’s true that they’ve been doing pandemic education their whole lives. I worry about us being too comfortable doing that. Also, I worry I did something wrong that we have been living like we’re in a pandemic. What the hell? Another thing I worry about: how is it that I have been doing education in a pandemic for 10 years yet I am not able to sell myself as an authority? WTF? I see all sorts of people giving advice about what do to for education in a pandemic. And I still feel unsure. I got two different offers for writing books this past year. And I said no. I thought it would be stupid because Zoom is stupid and no one would listen to me and maybe I’m wrong anyway.

      Then, on another day, I have no trouble screaming at parents that I already know what they should be doing and turn off Zoom and let kids learn how they like to learn. It’s so clear to me that that would work. It was so nice for us. Then another day I lose confidence.



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