This shift has colored the way we look at everything. Instead of the big picture view, where we take in as much information as possible, we're zooming in on the details, trying to decide which attributes are most important. Class size? Study abroad? Location? If we've made the trip to see the school in the first place, it has cleared the academic hurdles: Major. Languages of choice. Real world connections.
It's overwhelming. And I'm not even the one making the decision.
The urge to muzzle well-intentioned adults who promise her that she'll "know" when she finds the "right" school grew stronger (for me) with every such declaration. Though that's exactly what happens with some kids, it's not true for everyone, and tacitly encouraging my daughter to wait for something that might not happen sometimes feels like the college admissions version of waiting for a knight on a white horse. Sometimes he's a prince, and sometimes the horse is brown. Does that make him any less desirable?
If we stop holding our breath, waiting for the knight to arrive, the process is actually fun. Family trips. Conversations about the future. Glimpses of the adult my daughter wants to become.
This is, after all, the only time we'll go through this process in quite this way. Maybe I'd feel differently if I had more than one child, but I don't really want to just check this off and be done with it. As endless as the process may feel at times, it's going way too fast. May is just around the corner, and with May 1 comes a choice, one that will define the next four years of her life.
And so my daughter is taking her time, weighing her options, balancing the pros and cons. (Or dragging her feet, tuning me out, driving me crazy. Depends on the day).
And that is, after all, just my dress rehearsal for all the years that lie ahead.