What are you so scared of?

Last Updated on November 10, 2020 by Real College Matters

What is the most profound thing you’ve ever heard? Who said it to you?

Amy Frederick is a fellow mom at my church. She is someone I’ve always respected because of her intellect and character, but I can’t say that our lives leave room for a lot of time together. Anyway, somewhere in the dense church mom-fog between infant room drop-off and mission trip send-off, Amy and I found ourselves in a theological discussion. I don’t remember the main topic, but a part of the conversation stays with me. “Do you know what the opposite of love is?” Amy asked. “Hate?” I guessed. “Evil?” “No. It’s fear. Fear is at the heart of all things which are not grounded in love.”

Whoa. Really? I had to think about that. Amy went to Duke; I’d been raised to consider Duke the heart of all things which defy love. I’m kidding, but more seriously, after reflecting on Amy’s words for over a decade, I not only believe that what she told me is valid; I believe is it the most profound truth I’ve ever heard.

Do not confuse common sense and fear. One should be aware of threats, and cautious of those. We hope our toddler is afraid to jump off the roof, that our teenager is scared to drive 130 miles an hour. According, though, we don’t want our kids to be paralyzed by dread or panic.

You know where fear really isn’t helpful? College admissions.

But, but, but, but, but, but……I hear you already, and they boil down to one “but:” “But what if my child doesn’t go to a good college?” There are related questions and fears of course, too many to unpack or, certainly, analyze in this space. Fears are a kind of cancer within the world I work, and they are malignant–growing too fast in the aggregate to be controlled by existing treatment modalities–a web of books, articles, conversations, social media arguments, political debates, parental angst, and teenage despair. If a cure is in sight, I don’t see it. Instead, I see a condition best characterized by the adage, “When in danger, when in doubt; run in circles, scream and shout.”

You know, act like zombies.

It’s been said that a college counseling office–independent or school-based–ought to be marked with the motto, “Where dreams come to die.” More positively stated, I hope my office is where dreams come to be reassessed through the lens of reality, predictability, and family priorities. I ask the right questions, and there are a lot of them to consider–cost, academic objectives, parental parameters, and all manner of student preferences. If the college list changes as a result of those conversations, it’s frequently a matter of a college not aligning with student objectives, not the student falling short of the institution’s objectives.

That’s not scary; that’s savvy.

Even though the broader culture succumbs to fear, you simply do not have to. You can decide that you will concentrate only on the facts as they relate to your own college search. Seek them out. To be sure, there are complexities to navigate, but they are surmountable. Find someone–school counselor or otherwise–who can help you establish the college search on your own terms.