Life as an expat is one big learning curve, but when your mistakes start to have a direct impact on your teen, it enters a new dimension. So far I've managed to commit only venial sins, like trying to make them eat beans on toast (why don't Americans get this?) and not bothering with corn dogs and sloppy joes. Last week however, I almost totally screwed things up for the Queenager.
I'm talking about the college application procedure, which is so totally different from my British experience I might as well be having to speak Urdu at the same time. In my day, you told the teaches which A levels you wanted to take and as long as they didn't laugh in your face, that seemed to be it. You studied like mad (-ish) for two years, turned up on the allotted day in June and took your exam. I don't remember having to book the dates myself or choose which exam board to take.
In the USA my daughter can take one of two exams to help get her into college - the ACTs or the SATs. The first "decision" was to figure out which one to take. Some kids take both but since she has a learning disability, we needed to make sure we got this decision right. Cue extra tuition fees and a little diagnostic work to settle on the ACTs. Now that we've made that decision, we had to apply for a few accommodations (ie. extra time) which she has been given at school since 2001. Despite copious reports from doctors etc. ACT decided that she didn't need them. Cue much wailing and nashing of teeth (done on this very blog too) and a huge appeal by school. I'm glad of their support, although the Queenager didn't appreciate being the "shoe-in" candidate.
Next we have to decide when she does the ACT. You can take it as many times as you want, and send in only your best score. Most kids take it about three times in our school, but the timing is very strategic and usually planned around the math(s) syllabus. Just when you think you're all done and dusted, you get a note from school reminding you that you only have 48 hours to register for the aforementioned test. What? What? Nobody told me that! What the hell are the schools doing if they don't register the kids?
Rush to ACT website, pick date, fill out registration fields, - and find credit card. I certainly don't remember my parents having to shell out for my school exams.
Next comes the college application process, which in my day was done through the UCAS system, on one sheet of paper. Here, although our school has an excellent college counseling department, the kids have to apply to each college seperately, and of course, pay an application fee. Many kids visit the colleges they're interested in before applying, which since the Q is interested in colleges thousands of miles apart, could turn out to be an expensive little exercise. (We are visiting a few in Indiana to start with - only a four hour drive.)
I need to go and lie down.