Motherhood is a journey, and support from other women dealing with similar challenges helps make the road smoother and more fun. Such were the thoughts of Covenant member Evangeline Herring when her eldest child, a high school senior, started the college application process.
“When Catalina was a baby, I went to a moms’ group and I found support from the 25 moms in the group. We were real together. But when our kids started school, we went our own ways. When this college process started, I thought, ‘I need support just the same way I did when the kids were little.’ That’s where the idea came from. I wanted to get a group of moms together, some who had already gone through the college experience with older kids and some who were experiencing it for the first time.”
Evangeline contacted the Covenant moms she knew had high school seniors and proposed forming a support group. “Everybody thought it was a great idea. I didn’t have a plan. At the beginning I was thinking we would listen to each other; we wouldn’t complain, just listen. I knew I wanted a place where I felt safe and supported.”
The women did feel supported. “It was very helpful just having a place to be vulnerable about this very difficult process,” group member Elizabeth McBride said. “Supporting your child through the college application process brings up a lot of big feelings. Your ego can really get the best of you. I felt like everywhere I went and everyone I talked to this past year has wanted to know about Emma’s college search, and you want to have a good story to tell. You want to sound impressive, but the truth of the matter is that so much about the college search is out of your control. You hear stories of valedictorians not getting into such-and-such school, despite being a stellar candidate. Will the admissions committee see what you see in your child? Will all their hard work pay off? Or will they be the stellar applicant who was inexplicably rejected? You wonder how you will pay for the ‘dream school’ if your child does happen to get in. It can make you feel overwhelmed with anxiety, and our kids experience those same feelings even more intensely, so you are also having to help them manage all those emotions.
“It was so helpful to have a group to be honest with,” Elizabeth continued. “To have a place to say ‘this is hard’ or ‘please pray for me.’ This group allowed me to let the ego-driven need to impress go and get those big feelings outside of my head and hear a resounding ‘me too’ from the other moms.”
Group member Shelly Russell also appreciated the group. “I learned that I am not alone,” she said. “There are many schools that my child would flourish in. Every kid takes their own path and there is no one right way; give them roots and wings. Pray and know that they have the tools to make their own choices and face their own consequences.”
Julia Alejandre explained that she trusted her daughter to make good decisions. “It was my anxiety over her moving out and wondering if she’ll be okay,” she said. “The most important thing this group did for me was to steer me back to trusting God and trusting that my daughter would be okay.”
Each Journey is Unique
As the year went on and the group coalesced, Evangeline invited guest speakers. “I thought about the amazing women that we have in the church. I decided to take advantage of these church resources and invited some moms who had been through the process to come and speak to us.”
The women who presented told about letting their kids explore and follow their dreams without injecting their own opinions. They talked about how different the process was for kids in the same family despite having a similar upbringing.
Laura Tuma joined the group in April. All three of Laura’s children went to college, and each time, the process was unique. Evangeline recalled the meeting. “Laura said that she often had to remind herself to have a listening heart and to pray a lot about some of the decisions her kids were making. She knew she’d prepared her kids to make those decisions on their own.”
“It was incredibly helpful to meet with other moms going through the same thing and to listen to guest speakers who had already gone through this journey,” Shelly said.
Presenters and fellow group members reminded the group of the uniqueness of each child’s journey. “Even kids that are raised in the same family are very different. They have different stories and are in different situations. The important thing is to remember that we got them ready for this process. At the end, they will choose what is best for them. Even if they don’t like what they choose, it’s their decision. It’s their life. They don’t have to go to college, we got them ready for life,” Evangeline said.
In other words, Evangeline said, “We give them all the tools and trust that they are ready to use them.”
Trina Martin was a regular attendee who had been through the experience but found that the process had changed in the five years since her first child went to college. “This time was considerably more stressful. I think a lot of it was the unpredictability of admissions after COVID and the record low admission rates. Plus this time around I had a child reaching for schools that were all completely unpredictable. Even only five years later, the applications and essay prompts were way more complicated, and there seemed to be more hoops to jump through,” she said.
True to what we’d learned in class, every situation is different. This author can attest to that. My eldest’s application process was stress-free; her applications were written when her senior year started. My younger child was working on his applications until the last minute. However, his decision process was easy. He got into the school he wanted to go to in February, while my daughter was wrestling with her choice almost up to May 1.
The group also talked about practical things like financial aid and the college appeal process. A few moms who had been through the process warned the others of “the call.”
That was a lesson Shelly heard. “When (your child) calls and wants to come home in October, just listen and don’t lose sleep over it because this homesickness will pass.”
Julie McClellan enjoyed the group. “At the end of most meetings, Evangeline would hand us a notecard and we were to write our child’s name and a prayer request for them. After collecting the cards, Evangeline would pass them back out, and for the next month, we were to pray for the senior on the notecard we received. I was comforted knowing someone else was lifting up my daughter and praying for her through the college search process, and I felt I was helping someone else just by praying for them,” she said.
God’s in Control
As the year went on, deadlines passed, decisions came in, and all recognized that they were not in control. “I’ve learned that in the end, everything is going to be okay, God is going to take control. We have to trust that God has a purpose. We are here to affirm one another, listen to each other, support each other,” Evangeline said.
Some group members said this experience will help them approach the college journey with their younger children. “I am already starting to talk to Charlie (my 10th grader) about his college list,” Elizabeth said. “I feel excited to dream about what’s next for him, instead of anxious. I know that I don’t need to hold onto this process so tightly because God’s got this. Witnessing what my friends in the group have gone through and the way everything has worked out is evidence that I can trust in God’s plan.
“I think it gave all of us a chance to take a breath and let God into this process,” Elizabeth said. “We could acknowledge our lack of control and take comfort in our common belief that God has a loving plan for our kids that is better than anything we could come up with.”
Evangeline remembered the support she received from her toddler moms’ group. “When they are little, we have to teach them. Now, most of them are adults; we trust that they will do the right thing.”
Shelly said, “I am reminded from this group that support and connection go a long way during a stressful time and I am thankful for each mom that participated. This group was invaluable and an amazing resource to have.”
The group’s last meeting is Wednesday, May 11, at 6:30 p.m.. Moms of juniors in high school are invited. Contact Evangeline () to learn more.