The holiday season is upon us and all around us we see people stressed out with planning family gatherings, buying gifts for everyone, cooking, shopping• the list goes on.
Several desi families are also very stressed in December but not because of the holidays but because it is the time of the year when their children hear back from the colleges they have applied to.
Since we are desis, our children are applying for early action or early decision or early stress! And of course the stress is more for the parents than for the kids. Especially because we don’t want to tell other parents which schools our kids are applying to. We are all used to a concept called “relative grading (RG)” in India where you do better if the others do badly. If everyone does well then•well, then it is nothing special.
On top of the relative grading legacy we also brought with us a totally non-validated but strong theory that if you share the news with everyone it will affect the outcome. So if you tell all your friends that your son or daughter has applied to Harvard, then you are reducing the chances of them being accepted to Harvard. In simple mathematical terms, the number of people who know about the application is inversely related to the probability of acceptance! It is not for nothing that India has produced great mathematicians and physicists — we really are capable of applying math and physics to two areas, one where they should be applied and one where there is absolutely no reason to apply them.
While we are most helpful to friends and neighbors in every way possible, like doing groceries for them, mowing their lawns when they are unwell, shoveling snow when they are out of town, giving them rides to and from airports, cooking them meals, taking care of their children at a moment’s notice• when it comes to sharing tips on college acceptance we suddenly have nothing to offer. Definitely not if we have kids of the same age. Why? Because our friend RG comes into the picture.
Most kids have great GPAs, great SATs, play multiple instruments (playing well is not a criteria), sing (and we parents love our kids’ voices), dance (while we are trampling on people’s feet to capture their dance on video), can walk on their hands (yes, someone started a club in school for that), have a letter from Obama for community service (if you don’t have it you are in deep trouble), have done research on subjects that we parents cannot comprehend (like the molecular composition of inner sand in outer Mongolia) and, in spite of not having great athletic genes, have somehow made it to some sports team or the other. Does not matter if it is the E team for out of town hockey played with hands — they made it to the team, and the resume is complete with a check mark against all the dimensions we think the admissions team is looking for.
The most stressful part of this whole process is that we cannot show or share our stress. Because, you see, if you share the stress then you will have to share details which then can hurt you and the law of inverse acceptance probability will kick in! So we swallow our stress, don our festive party clothing and attend all the New Year parties we are invited to and drown our worries in expensive wine. When the topic of applications comes up, we strategically move away or throw little titbits of non-information and even add something like, our philosophy is not about putting pressure on the kids to go to an ivy-league school. We want them to do whatever they want in life and just be happy! Of course, our kids know that their happiness depends on our happiness, which is oh so strongly linked to those ivy league schools!
So whether you are in the middle of applications, are done with applications, don’t care about applications or all/none of the above, here’s wishing you a very happy, prosperous, healthy 2015! As for my family, we will be in the process next year and probably applying to •SHHHH, sorry I can’t tell you — that law of inverse acceptance probability!