Your Princess is in Another (Ivory) Tower

Your Princess is in Another (Ivory) Tower

In amongst all the other craziness of the last 6-8 weeks, we have been getting Morgan ready to start college at our local community college.  Pretty straightforward, you might think.  But with Morgan, nothing is really straightforward.

He graduated high school in the spring of 2013 by the skin of his teeth.  Not that he’s not a smart kid, because he totally is, but he’s really good at self-sabotage, i.e. not doing his homework.  It’s how his ADHD manifests.  He also has pretty bad social anxiety, so when he gets overwhelmed, he can’t ask for help, so instead lies and avoids until a fairly small problem becomes gargantuan.  He literally turned his senior project in on the last day possible.  Not the last day it was due, that was 4 weeks prior.  No, the last day they could make an exception for him before they were forced to fail him.  Same with two English papers.  So high school was not a good experience for him.  After graduation, I told him he could have the summer off-ish, but he needed to decide whether he was going to get a job or start at the local community college in the fall.  He decided to go the job route, except a combination of the economy and his social anxiety kept him from ever actually getting a job.  Cue months of the two of us doing war over where he’d applied, how he’d applied, and had he ACTUALLY applied anywhere (see lying and avoidance above).  I even, in desperation, threatened him with the military.  He had to do SOMETHING.  Finally, after Christmas, he agreed that this wasn’t working and that maybe if he tried community college, he could get some work experience there that would make it easier to get other jobs, and he’d get a sense of whether he liked college or not.  So we sat down and did his application and his FAFSA and started jumping through all the hoops to get him registered.

Or at least I thought we did.

Any thoughts I’d had for him taking 1-2 spring term classes quickly went out the window as he put off and put off and put off taking his placement tests.  The Financial Aid office sent us requests for supporting materials that he didn’t take in (but told me he did).  It was agonizing months of me trying to trust him to do things and him being certain someone would get mad at him or yell at him or just make him feel bad when he did any of them.  Finally, FINALLY, in June he took the placement tests.  And bombed the math part.  So bad that he would have to take remedial math before he could take the math class that was a pre-req for one of his computer science classes.  *sigh*  Okay, we’d do what needed to be done.

He scheduled his orientation for just after 4th of July.  Got his program description, his suggested class lists for the semester and they walked him through registration.  And he was told there was a math refresher class which, if he took, would allow him to retake the placement test.  Hooray!  Get him back in the swing of math and give him a second chance on the test!  He was actually pretty good in math, so hopefully this would at least get him into the pre-req class if not jump him up to Precalc, which is one of his program’s required classes.  So he went and took the test and we waited for the results.  And waited.  And waited.  Weeks.  “I thought these results were supposed to be instantaneous.” “I don’t know.  They said they had the scores, they just haven’t gone up yet.”  Finally, in desperation, the week before we went on our big trip and three weeks before the semester was to start, I took the afternoon off work and said we would go in, get his scores, get him registered for the remaining classes he needed and get his payment plan set up.

The best thing I ever did for him was grant him immunity that day.  We grabbed lunch in the student union, and while we were eating I said, “Look, we have a lot we need to get done this afternoon, and I need you to be honest with me about what you have and haven’t done.  So, for the rest of today, I promise not to get mad at you for anything you have lied to me about as long as you tell me the truth now and we get it fixed.”  “Okay.” “So, did you really take the make-up test?”  Pause.  Shoulders slump.  “No.”  Deep breath, count to three.  “Okay, then that’s our first stop.”  And it was.  I hung out in the library while he took the test.  Which he improved on by 25 points.  Not enough to get into Precalc, but enough to get into the pre-req math he needed.  So hurray!  Then off to Guidance to deal with his registration.  We’d tried looking at his schedule the night before, but for some reason his classes weren’t in the system.  We found out in Guidance that the reason was that we hadn’t paid for them by the deadline the week before so they all got dropped.  Okay, we can work with that.  Between him, the counselor on site and a little too much help from me, he got registered for 12 credits.  Not an exciting schedule (Math, English, Art History, and a Communications writing and lab combo), but enough to get him started.  Then we went straight to Enrollment Services to set up his payment plan.

One thing I like about the way MCCC works is their Enrollment Services office.  These are walk-up windows where you can make payments, get help with registration, check your financial aid, everything all in one place.  So easy!  And in our case, fortuitous.  We met with a very nice lady who totalled up his classes, looked at the state financial aid award we had just gotten notice of the day before, deducted that from his balance and set us up with a monthly payment that I can thankfully manage just out of my salary even if a Federal award never comes through (but please, ghod, let there be a Federal award!)  But funny I should mention that… “Did you plan to finish your Federal financial aid application?” Me, dumbfounded: “We did.  Weeks ago.”  “No, we’re still waiting on your IRS transcript.” (Your tax return isn’t good enough.  You have to turn in this IRS transcript which is a pain in the ass to get.)  “We turned that in weeks ago!” I turn to Morgan. “Didn’t you turn that in?”  “I thought I did.”  Deep breath, count to 5.  “Okay, we’ll go home and see if we can find it.  If not I’ll print out another one and you’ll have it by tomorrow.”  Thankfully that was our last stop, as it was 4:30 by then.  Home we went, and sure enough, he “found it in a folder”.  Turned right around and took him back to school to turn it in.  So there.  He was now officially a Montco student.

Getting his books turned out to be another challenge, as there were too many options and he ended up feeling overwhelmed.  In the end, two days before classes started, he just went to the school store and bought or rented them all there.  Which is fine.  More expensive, but in this case it was his money (we cashed in a bunch of savings bonds his grandparents had given him over the years) so he could do it how he wanted.  I was starting to worry about whether he would actually GO to his classes.

Yesterday was his first day.  He went to class. (Huzzah!)  I think he liked class, although the syllabus for his Communication lab is a little ridiculous.  10 pages?  Really?  But it’s part of the experience.  He has one class today and one tomorrow, so definitely easing into the semester.  His English class doesn’t even start until the end of September!  But he came out of the day upbeat and interested, wasn’t hard to wake up yesterday or today, so I’m hoping he has a little more confidence now that he’s more familiar with the place.  He needs to make some friends, but that will happen.  And I keep telling him, even if one of the classes ends up bad, it’s only 15 weeks and then he never has to take it again!

But doing all this school stuff for him has reminded me how much I loved college.  I really did.  I found so much freedom when I went to school.  I had to, since half my family had moved to New York as soon as I graduated!  I was a little uncomfortable helping Morgan with so much of this, as I had done all of it myself when I started, from the applications to the FAFSA to the room requests and registration, all of it.  I had to help my mom with FAFSAs when she went back to school six years later because she had no idea!  I don’t know if I could go back to school now.  I loved being in college, but I didn’t always like actually doing the school work.  It was the environment that appealled to me.  I would love to work in a university publishing house or something similar, where I got to be in that environment but didn’t have to take classes.  I envy him the experience, though.  And more than anything, I hope he has a good time…