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Martin has to come up with 1-2 topics for essays to use for college and scholarship applications, but everything I suggest is apparently stupid, lame, pathetic, uninteresting and/or eye-rollingly bad.

Some of the topic ideas I came up with in under 15 minutes:
  • Growing up bilingual in a dual national home
  • What watching TV shows with my mother has taught me
  • How Tumblr has changed my outlook on life
  • Places I've traveled to and which was my favorite and why
  • My mom didn't have to write a college essay or, how things were better before
  • Having a conversation that doesn't have to do with goals, responsibilities or expectations
Oh wait, Martin came up with that last one.

As far as I can tell, college entrance essays only have to be 1-2 pages long, around 650 words, which isn't all that much. And you can write about anything you want. It's like writing a blog post, right? You don't always have to have an idea of what you are going to write about before you start. You just sit down and start writing. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's not, but at least you have something to start with.

My eagerness to help is being seen as annoying and interfering, so I apparently need to take a step back. If Martin wants to go to college, he knows what he needs to do. I can't do it for him. All I CAN do is remind, and help, and nag, and suggest, and...well, PARENT. If I don't do those things, am I failing as a parent? If he doesn't do the things necessary to get to the place he claims to want to achieve, have I failed as parent? How much of what your children achieve or do is on your head as a parent? If they're not motivated, is it YOUR fault?

I have friends with over-achieving, academically-motivated wunderkinds. And I have friends with slacker, lethargic, layabout kids. And I have friends with kids that fall in between those two extremes. As far as I can tell, they are all caring, helpful, supportive parents; doing their best to raise their kids to be productive and valuable citizens of the world. They're not doing anything different from the things my husband and I are doing. They're providing all the environment and opportunities and challenges and support that will best help their children make something of themselves. Some of their kids are going to college and some of them aren't, even among the first group.

Of course I WANT him to go to college. I think it will be great for him. I think he will appreciate and grow from the experience, and of course, it doesn't hurt that it will increase his chances of getting a better-paying, more stimulating job in the long run. But, he doesn't HAVE to go to college. He doesn't even have to move out of the house.

However, if he DOESN'T go to college, he has to get a job and pay rent, either here or in his own place. He can't just sit around and play computer games and mess about on Tumblr and Snapchat and SMS all day. That's not how the world works. Because the world works. At least the vast majority of it does.

I wasn't the world's most motivated kid, when it came to grades and school. I was pretty average. I was good at English and art and social studies and poor in math and hard sciences and gym. I don't remember how much my parents pushed or nagged or motivated me when it came time for me to do the things I needed to do to apply for college. Maybe it's a difference between Sweden and America. I get the feeling that in the US, more kids are on a path to do the expected things: finish high school, go to college, get a "useful" degree, get a well-paying job, get married, have kids, support their parents in their old age... at least more middle- and upper-class kids. Here, there doesn't seem to be the same kind of imperative or urgency to check off those items on your Game of Life list.

And that's fine. Like I said, he doesn't have to go to college. But he says he wants to. He wants to study in Canada or the US, but to do that, he has to first do the things required to actually get there, and like I said as well, I can't do them for him. But I can remind, and help, and nag, and suggest, and...well, PARENT to assist him in getting there. And I can write about what's happening and how it makes me feel and say, look at that: 857 words.

All you have to do is begin somewhere. Every essay is just a story. It doesn't matter if it's perfect. It's NOT easier said than done. It's just a matter of making a start. And if you don't like the result, sit down and start anew, until you ARE satisfied. Just think how it will shut your mother up.
mood: frustrated
music: Sheryl Crow—All I Wanna Do


My where does time go!? Martin going off to college (or that is, if he manages to finish his essay and get in ;-)).. It's hard to believe that it's been half a lifetime ago that I set foot at uni myself for the first time hah!

Is he thinking about doing a year of college abroad or a full education? Either way, I think that the first topic you came up with "Growing up bilingual in a dual national home" would make for a interesting read, and I bet he could write a real nice essay on that! And it would be useful for an application at a US/Canadian college to I can imagine. :)

I feel that here there's also the expected path of things to do/accomplish in life.. at least for middle- and upper-class kids like you say. And I personally feel I've failed at least half of those expected things gah.. that's my personal struggle even at this age still though I'm starting to learn that life isn't just about accomplishing the socially expected, but more about living life .. in a way that's right for you? Guess that's one of life's lessons for me lol.

He would like to do a full education abroad but it's essential that he get financial aid, scholarships, etc., and I don't think he really understands how expensive it will be in the long-run and how large his student loans will be :(

I remember having to write essays for my college applications but they gave you topics so it was easier to just bullshit your way through it.

A kid like Martin over here would also have a guidance/college counselor walking him through and hounding him about it all, and every single kid he knows would be up to their eyeballs in college applications so I think there is a much greater expectation and pipeline for it here. Not that my friends whose kids are in that boat don't also nag them about it but it's a shared trial.

Edited at 2015-11-11 10:49 pm (UTC)

They gave you topics?? Does it specify that for the college in their application? We haven't gotten quite that far, so I'll need to have him check that out. That would certainly make it easier from one perspective!

That was back before the Common App so I'm not sure if that's still the case. I know where I work there's the option to submit an additional essay on one of two topics that are provided. If he's having trouble writing just one, adding another may not appeal to him but I think the intention is for kids who wrote one generic essay for the Common App to show that they are more interested in attending than just checking the box would would indicate.


Now you can nag him to read this post! How long before he capitulates?....look I used a big word, and now I have to stop and look it up to see if I spelt it correctly, since I can't find spellcheck at the moment. oh well...really just wanted to say Good Luck. And, yes USA schools do the nagging for you. Love, Lizardmom

haha, Mom! 4-syllable words, woot!

This was us. Last year, with our youngest, who said that he wanted to go to college but wouldn't pick one to look at and wouldn't do the necessary things....even with a guidance counselor "encouraging" him...I'm guessing that if he really wants to go, he'll figure it out. And I'm guessing that I wasn't the last parent to be frustrated by one's offspring with regard to getting moving on college applications and essays....I'm told it's more common with boys than with girls, which may not be comforting. In the end, he did get into a school that was a good fit for his major and he is enjoying it. Fingers crossed that he figures it out soon!

VERY glad to know I'm not alone!! :)

I saw something on the internet this week about a parent who wouldn't let their kid write their own college essay. I think it was maybe PostSecret. So I think it's good that you are stepping back although it's so easy to say that from the perspective of parenting a third grader. :) Hopefully he gets started on his own initiative. Otherwise you could always point out that Christmas gifts for college applicants are much better than gifts for slacker children. ;)

LOL! I saw that PostSecret card too and it made me laugh. Your last line made me laugh as well :D Can't say I haven't thought about it...I have LOTS of essays lying around, haha! :P

From Megsie

I also think writing about his experience living in a duel national home would be a great asset if he wants to come across the pond to study. It would give him a stake, and it would bring a different experience into the diversity of the student body. Nicholas is so different than my academically obsessed girls. They check their grades 850 times a day and do their homework the day it is assigned--opposed to the day before it is due. I am way more like Nicholas. It is hard, because even though I procrastinate, I have learned how much I CAN procrastinate, and I have lots of tricks and strategies to help me accomplish my tasks--he doesn't have these yet. He is only 12. When I was in school it was a low-stress, low-stakes endeavor. If I got bad grades, there were no real consequences. Now, there are. The pressure and stress is ever present. I miss the old days.

Re: From Megsie

Even Martin, who is nearly 18, doesn't seem to have all the tips & tricks for fending off procrastination down. I agree, that things have changed mightily in regards to consequences and pressure!

Oh, Mother... Sympathy, you can do no right!

LOL! Amen, sister!

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