Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Scholarship Apps 101: Or, Why You Paid for Basketweaving Lessons

In parenting, there are many woes. Cleaning up a dirty diaper is bad. Not as bad as cleaning up the vomit of a child who started puking in bed and then walked down the hall, still puking, and by the time they got to the bathroom were finished. And that’s not as bad as taking a sixteen year old out driving for the first time. You end up screaming “Stop!” and stomping your foot. And in response the teenager screams back, “Which one is the brake?!” Of course, any parent with a college student will tell you that all those horrors pale in comparison to the horrors of scholarship applications.

Those of you who have not gone through the horrors will roll your eyes, but that’s only because you haven’t yet experienced it. Have you noticed parents of high school seniors lately? They have permanently etched frowns, facial tics, and a hair-like temper trigger. Those are all the results of scholarship applications.

In order to understand this, you must understand the stakes. The parents view scholarship applications as a means to avoid debt that will keep them and their child in servitude for the rest of their natural life—this is because college fees are now so expensive that if an average human being were paid to donate both kidneys, it would only cover the “technology access fee.”

So, the parent sees these scholarships as a way not only to recoup the investment they made in their child’s education (I don’t even want to figure out how much we paid for music lessons over the last 12 years), but also as a way of being able to avoid personal bankruptcy.

Here’s what happens. Said parent finds a scholarship for “Underwater basketweavers who were born in California on a full-moon and have SAT scores of more than 1300.” So, you print up the application, which is nine pages of 10 point type, and break out your reading glasses. Much to your overwhelming joy, you discover that those 12 years of underwater basketweaving (read piano lessons) might finally pay off. You wave the application under your child’s nose and they say, “Oh, I guess you want me to fill this out, right?” You respond, “Yes, absolutely.” The child says, “Okay, could you put it on my dresser?” Things sound good at this point, right? Wrong!! The next two weeks are spent gently reminding your child of the application while at night you yell into your pillow, “I will not nag!”

After three weeks, your child picks up the application and reads it. You hear a moan from the general direction of their bedroom and head over. The moment you walk through the door, the accusations begin. “This has an essay!!” You blink. “Of course, it does. All scholarships require essays.” The child says, “You didn’t tell me that.” You explain, “Well, they don’t give you money for nothing.” The child scowls nastily and says, “Have you read the essay topic?” You ponder this, it is a loaded question. You say carefully, “Yes, but I’m afraid I don’t quite remember the topic.” Now, the child reads (imagine a painful whine), “Explain the importance of basketweaving both in its underwater and on land forms, and how this impacts the economy of both the United States and the world. Include in your essay how underwater basketweaving makes human beings more compassionate and better leaders!!!” The child adds, “How could you do this to me?”
You scratch your head and say, “Would you like suggestions?” The child sighs, very heavily, and the scholarship paperwork goes on the shelf for another week. Finally, after several “screaming into the pillow sessions” from you and nasty looks from your children at meals, a draft appears next to your computer. The child says, “Well, there it is.” He/she smiles meanly and says, “Dad helped me.” In case you don’t know teen-speak that means, “Mom, you clearly lost all sense of the real proportion of this and so I had to get a sane parent to work with me on this.” And, since this is vaguely true, you say, “Great, honey.”
The child begins to walk away and you say, “Um, did you finish parts 3 and 4 of the application?” The child turns and scowls, “What is that?” You lick your lips and say, “Part 3 is a listing of all your favorite underwater basketweaving classes and why you liked them. And Part 4 is an explanation of how you’ve used underwater basketweaving to serve mankind.”

At this point, your child’s eyes fall out of their head, their face turns purple, and they lose the ability to speak. You decide not to give them the next five scholarship applications until tomorrow and you don’t notice the tic that’s developed in your left eyelid.


  1. What's this about five other scholarship applications you're planning to spring on your children?!!!

    You were right about your interpretation of "Dad helped me." Dad was sane--and he actually gave me some pretty good suggestions :P BTW, I actually did Part 3 of the applicatioin first because it was easier. Although I'll admit to not having done, or even having noticed, Part 4. I was trying to forget the application...

    You know, an essay on basketweaving might actually have been an improvement. Oh, well, seeing as there are apparently five more of these schoarships to apply for, we might still have one on basketweaving to do.


  2. I hope I don't have to do basketweaving

  3. I understand and when I wove baskets in pursuit of an art degree decades ago, I never knew it would be used to store the brain cells I've lost trying to interpret FAFSE's, SAT's, Grant Apps, Edit College Essays and the Like!