Our Mysterious College Journey: Crazy Wrapped in Chaos

April 26, 2016

Getting into college is crazy these days!

At least, it has been for our son Ethan. A year-long battle to get the right school to give the right answer has culminated into a down-to-the-wire showdown that didn’t end until April 26th.

Now, you might be thinking that perhaps Ethan didn’t have the qualifications he needed and that’s why he had a hard time. Maybe you’re right. Decent SAT scores. Advanced classes. Not the highest GPA but in the top 15%. Sports. Clubs. Eagle Scout. Multi-lingual. World-traveler.

Maybe there were a few things missing. Who knows? It's a mystery we will never solve! All I know is that none of us expected to be jolted up and down the crazy college roller coaster like this! Especially not Ethan.

His top choice was UNC Chapel Hill. They boasted a great Russian program, Ethan’s major of choice, and he’d learned that opportunities to do government work would be more attainable there. Plus, it was close to his two uncles and when we visited, he liked the feel of the place. He applied early decision.

He also applied to Georgetown, just to see. Virginia Tech was his back-up school.

Granted, he should’ve applied to more schools.

Georgetown politely turned him down, no surprise there.

But, then so did UNC. When your top school says no, that’s an ego blow.

Now, all his hope rested on VA Tech, and frankly, we were glad for it. VA Tech was cheaper, for one, being in-state (at least for now). It offered the Corps of Cadets for the Marines, which he wanted. AND… Ethan was born there! Ethan used to toddle around the duck pond and stroll across the drill field. The place has sentimental value to us. Plus, we have really good friends living nearby. Going to Tech would have many advantages.

But, Ethan was waitlisted.

Being waitlisted is kind of a cruel joke. It’s like saying you almost make the cut, but don’t really. Still, we want to fill that spot, so just in case space opens up, we’ll keep you dangling on a string. And that string could dangle as late as July.

By the time he found out he was waitlisted, application deadlines at most other colleges passed. He scurried to apply to Radford, just down the road from VA Tech, even though they didn’t offer Russian as a major.

Even Ethan’s guidance counselor couldn’t believe that he’d been waitlisted at Tech. She put in a call to the lady who’d reviewed his application. A one-time C in an Advanced Placement class deemed him on “a downward spiral”, she revealed when prodded. One C!

Chances of getting off the waitlist? She couldn’t give him any indications. He could be next on the list. He could be last. Ethan could only know waitlist results from the past… some years, a hundred or so make it off the list, other years… none.

Discouraged, Ethan contemplated putting college off to join the reserves and complete a year’s worth of training. He talked with a recruiter. He called UNC and VA Tech back. “If I do this, will it increase my chances of getting in next year?” Tech couldn’t say. UNC said absolutely.

Ethan’s always had a military interest, at least, ever since his Boy Scout troop visited Little Creek Amphibious Base and hung out with some Navy Seals. They even took a ride on a Rigid Inflatable Boat. While his interest in the different branches and departments has varied, his call to serve his country hasn't. He studied languages in high school in the hopes that it would give him an edge. Five years of French, a year of German, Arabic, and private Russian tutoring. Ethan’s always been super independent (painfully so). Boy Scouts, school, church… all these gave him confidence and discipline.

But, joining the military now? At 18? We knew it was coming, probably, just not so soon. We were worried, but PRAYERFUL.

Meanwhile, it was during this anxious time for Ethan that we were presented with the idea of moving. It struck us that it was more than a coincidence - that Ethan was struggling with decisions about his future at the same exact time that we were. It struck us odd that he was struggling at all - we never expected him to have difficulty getting into college. We couldn’t deny that these events had converged and though they were seemingly unrelated, we both felt they were linked.

If we moved and Ethan wanted to try for UNC again, we’d be sitting pretty in in-state tuition. If we moved and he wanted to stay in VA, we’d be screwed out of in-state tuition after one year.

Too many IFs. Too many unknowns.

Ethan told us, “Move! You should do it!”

Like him, we didn’t know what to do. At all. Lots of prayers and long walks.

The same weekend we hung on the fence about moving, Ethan decided to accept Radford. We paid the enrollment fees. Though it wasn’t exactly what he wanted, we were all relieved that the decision had been made. Ours quickly followed.

A week later on April 26th, Ethan got into Tech.

Just when you think you know the plan, God does something amazing. It’s kinda fun that way. I don’t know how stuff works - it's all a great mystery - but I can’t help but to feel rewarded - that God saw fit to reward Ethan and us for our faithfulness. Maybe?

Relief has settled over our household. It’s not that any of the other choices for Ethan would’ve been bad, just like staying here wouldn’t have been bad for us. This just feels more right. He’ll go to Tech, major in Russian, and join the Corps of Cadets for the Marines. And we’re going coastal.

"A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps."

Proverbs 16:9

"Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost."

Proverbs 22:6