My family is no different than so many others that have seniors who are either anxiously awaiting their early decision/early action
acceptance letters from colleges and universities of their liking, or they are feverishly writing essays for those January deadlines. Along with a few early applications sent in in November we allowed our oldest to apply to University of Richmond, early decision. University of Richmond is a private school which means a tuition and room price of over $55,000 a year. Not only are my husband and I not in an income bracket that can easily support this, but a few unexpected twists and turns in life thwarted our best intentions and early groundwork for saving this kind of dough for our kids’ education.
Why then would I allow my daughter to apply, much less apply early decision (which for those of you who have not yet been through this process, is a binding agreement to attend the school, if accepted, regardless of the financial aid package)? Since her acceptance letter arrived just a few weeks ago and the subsequent squeals and happy dance were completed, our whole family has been bombarded with questions just like this one. Along with: “How are you going to pay for this?” “What will she do?” “Are you going to let her go?” I have to admit, I had a moment where I thought perhaps I lost my marbles when I allowed the application to go in early decision. I had an even longer moment when I had to sit quietly and meditate on my parenting and guidance skills; Had I made an error? Was I being frivolous? OMG, was I ruining my daughter’s life and burdening her with insurmountable debt?
Then I remembered why I allowed her to apply early decision. Last March, we did what so many families with college bound students do…the college tour roadshow. Three colleges, three days, no sleep, nonstop analyzing and a hope that through it all you and your child emerge with some inner guidance on where he or she will perform their undergraduate studies. We started our college tour at University of Virginia — I fell in love. If I were going back to school as a 19 year old, and no regrets with my very respectable alma matter George Mason University, I’d apply to UVA. I probably wouldn’t get in with their rigorous requirements, but I would apply! Maggie liked it. Lots of smiles on campus and good energy — even in the rain and snow that we slogged around in. Then we went to Lynchburg University; a fine institution, but we knew before we hit campus that this would not be a place she applied. To be honest, I had never heard of University of Richmond, but our daughter found it and asked to add it to our trip. By day three we were all tired, cold and several of us were sick. I really just wanted to go home! Dutifully we drove onto the UR campus and I was unimpressed as UVA was still captivating my heart and I was dreaming of reliving my college days through my daughter; planning visits and charting out the local historical sites I could add to those many visits I was planning on making to Charlottesville. I turned around to get her buy-in on my feelings and my beaming daughter says, “This is beautiful!” HUH? “It looks nothing like UVA,” I thought as I checked her head to see if she had a fever.
We took the requisite tour and as I walked behind my daughter, making sure we didn’t embarrass her by being too close, I literally watched her become one with the campus. As I let go of my college ideal and tuned in to hers, I knew in my heart what she was about to tell me…”Mom, this is where I’m going to college.” Even though I knew she was right, I strongly encouraged her to apply to two other colleges and we even took her on tours of Harvard, MIT (more for my son) and Boston University on our summer vacation. Boston came in third on the list of schools she’d be willing to attend. However, I could not let go of that feeling I had when I watched her maneuver around the UR campus. I could not put aside the feeling of rightness that was coming from her as she plotted her undergraduate progress clearly for the first time.
Back to the question though…why did I let her get her hopes up if I cannot yet figure out how we are going to fund this high-priced private education? Here’s why…I’ve raised my kids to follow the heart messages they intuit regardless of the life circumstance they are in and have promised them that when they do, when they are pure in their intentions and truly in alignment with the heart, things will fall into place. Pipe dream? I don’t think so. In fact, the most painful moments in my own life have come when I ignored my heart to do what was expected, what made sense, what the collective consciousness was most comfortable with, what would make the people around me the happiest. When I assess my life thus far, I cannot believe how many times I’ve picked a job because it offered more money, not because it felt like the best option; how many times I chose a house because it was the right price vs. the one that felt the best; and the list goes on of all of the times I’ve chosen what made sense vs. what felt right. Let me be clear, there is a difference between what the heart is yearning for and what the ego is demanding. It feels different. When you are in alignment with your heart it feels peaceful, powerful and true. When it’s ego driven it feels like an “I want, I need, I must have.” The heart will always steer us away from things that will cause pain — when we choose challenging moments, it’s always an ego place from which we make those decisions.
I can feel the rightness of her decision to attend UR, and must then trust that she and the Universe will work it out. She can both articulate why this is the right school for her and is humble enough to also acknowledge that there is a calling she cannot explain. She knows she must work hard, may have debt and will need to stay in alignment with her heart to make this work.
I said yes to an early decision application because I want my children to grow up trusting the signals they receive from the heart. I grew up making the “smart and logical choices.” These were not wrong — we can’t choose wrong, but there are holes when I look back that didn’t have to exist. There are very distinct moments when I knew I was choosing what the collective consciousness would choose only to find myself unhappy or needing to choose again. I want my children to make sound and heart-based decisions without having to worry about the confines of what other people are comfortable with.
I’m not ready for her to go. In fact, my friends are already plotting the ways to keep me sane after we drop her at college. What will make all of the missing her palatable is that she’s embarking on her life from a place of knowing, a place of alignment. I hope she remembers that feeling. I hope she keeps on trusting herself. I hope this is the first step in dreaming big and realizing those dreams for the rest of her life.