The hospital room in the maternity unit had suddenly become quite crowded. My husband Bob, 18-year old daughter Melissa, and I surrounded the bed occupied by our daughter Jessica and her husband Brian, who cradled a tiny miracle....their newborn son, Miles.
Although we could have easily stared at our grandson's sweet face for hours, logic dictated that this labor-weary couple desperately needed rest.
While killing time over sandwiches in the hospital cafeteria, Melissa asked a question, that, little did we know at the time, would forever change her destiny.
"Dad, how far is American University from here?"
Predictably, Bob whipped out his trusty iPhone and repeated the query to Siri, who informed us that travel time to our destination consisted of a mere two miles.
A few minutes later we arrived at the Washington, D.C.-based school with the goal of simply running into the Admissions office to pick up a few brochures, then returning to the hospital. As luck would have it, we stumbled in at the start of a campus tour, and although we lacked a reservation, the sweet woman at the registration desk invited us to come along.
By the time we showed up again in the cramped hospital room, American University had moved to the top of my high school senior's "must apply here" list, a compilation that also included colleges in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York State.
Everything about American University felt right for Melissa, and the close proximity to her sister and newborn nephew came as an added bonus. (I won't mention that the three hours from her parents didn't seem to bother her one bit.)
American University only accepts about 7,000 of the 17,000 plus hopefuls who apply each year, daunting statistics that did not deter my daughter one bit. We attended seminars hosted by admissions counselors, watched videos created by current students, and digested every word on the school's website. Through her research, Melissa carefully and methodically made the choice to apply Early Decision. This type of application is a binding agreement, meaning, if accepted, Melissa must agree to enroll.
So while my offspring began the arduous process of completing the application and responding to 3,974 essay questions, Bob and I began the arduous process of responding to the 3,974 questions on the financial aid forms.
1. Do you own your home?
2. Do you own a car?
3. Do you own any vacation properties?
4. Do you own a business?
5. Do you own a lawn mower?
6. Do you own a blow dryer?
7. Do you own a toaster, a microwave, a television, a computer, a food processor, a waffle maker, a popcorn machine, a DVD player, an exercise bike, a kitchen table, a dining room table, dishes, silverware, mugs, shoes, skirts, dresses, sweatpants, underwear, etc....
8. Would you be willing to sell all of the above to finance your child's college education?
The day also included a helpful seminar on financial aid options, where the prospective students
Finally, the day arrived. The essays were written, applications were complete, financial aid forms were turned in.
With little fanfare, Melissa hit "submit".
Next on the college search agenda? Wait.
First we were told a decision would be forthcoming by December 31, 2015. Then we were told a decision would be forthcoming anytime between December 15 and December 31. Either way, those dates seemed like 4,375 weeks aways. So all we could do was wait.
December 15th came and went. Same for December 16.
On December 17 my cherub called me at work. Seems a friend who had also applied Early Decision to American had already posted about her acceptance on Facebook. Yet Melissa still had not heard a thing.
No acceptance letter came in the mail that day, leaving Bob and me fearing the worst.
"Let's check your portal page on the school's website," I suggested. "Maybe it will tell you if the letters have been mailed."
As luck would have it, moments after a peek at the portal page, which revealed absolutely no information whatsoever, her cell phone began to ring, indicating a call from a Washington, D.C. area code!
Bob and I tried to listen in, but all we could make out was a man's voice on the other end of the line. In the meantime, trying to focus on the conversation and get away from her meddling parents, Melissa walked into the kitchen, then the living room, then the dining room.... (her efforts were for naught as we followed her through the house, clinging to every word she said, which sounded something like this:
"I think so."
1. Ended the phone conversation.
2. Looked at her parents.
3. Shouted "I GOT IN!"
4. Burst into tears.
Happy tears! Tears of joy! Tears of relief!
And I cried right along with her.
Tears of joy! Tears of pride! Tears of sorrow and loss as the realization hit with full force....my baby will be going away to college.
My baby will be leaving home....leaving me.
But for now, I will treasure every moment as she experiences all of the "lasts" of senior year and prepares for the next, exciting chapter in her life.
Congratulation Melissa, American University Class of 2020!
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