Mama Bear

It’s that time of year, readers. No, I’m not talking about the holiday shopping season (though I’m a medium and Rico wears everything in oversize if you’re shopping) and I’m not talking about the start of basketball season or anything like that. I refer instead to the time of year when my students’ early applications have been submitted (and most of the regular applications too – after all, why wait?) and in theory we should all be sitting around waiting to hear wonderful, exciting news about admission decisions and scholarship offers and next steps for spring as final decisions approach – but we’re not.

To be clear, there have been many early accept letters and many scholarship offers that total tens of thousands of dollars and hint that more could come for my top students if they compete or interview for it. There have also been many wonderful admission counselors and riding coaches who have forged relationships with my students and keep tabs on them as they prepare to wind up their final fall semesters of high school.

…and then there’s the other side of the coin.

That’s the place where admission staff don’t communicate, riding coaches can’t be found with a map, and my once oh-so-poised and together students flounder in the college application wilderness in ways I never expected them too. (Shout out to the one who texted at 6:14 am EST the other morning – you get a gold star for being the first one to do that in a while.) And when all of that falls apart (usually simultaneously), we see the emergence of that rare but imposing creature – my very own inner Mama Bear.

Because no one messes with my students, readers.

Chronicle of the Horse blogger (and dressage trainer, clinician, and future Olympian – mark my words – extraordinaire) Lauren Sprieser had a piece a few months back about her coach (and my favorite clinician) Michael Barisone, wherein she talked about how Michael will walk through fire for his students, no questions asked. And I know Michael so I know she’s absolutely right – but I also recognized some of myself in the post, especially the part where she describes how her working relationship with him formed. She needed a coach to help her get to the next level of her training and Michael simply told her, “I’ll be your guy.”

It’s a simple idea, really. Regardless of sport or industry, regardless of whether a relationship is formal or informal, we all need the guys – and our girls – in our lives who help us when we need it. We probably have a lot of guys and girls, in fact – I personally have a car guy, a vet guy, an international travel guy (that one comes in super handy – everyone should have one!), a “talk me off the ledge” girl, and a host of others. And when my students come into my practice as sophomores or juniors, I return the favor and become their college girl.

Don’t understand the FAFSA? I’m your girl.

Need to ask that coach a question but not comfortable making the approach? I’m your girl. (I mean, you’ll do it yourself – but I’ll give you the tools you need to make it happen.)

And when your college future seems to be falling apart before it even takes shape (point of order – it isn’t actually falling apart; it just looks that way for five minutes), I am your girl.

I will pick up the phone and make a call on your behalf when necessary. I will nudge a coach via text message to respond to that video link you sent. I will sit on Skype or Facetime with you for as long as it takes for you to complete the Common Application or tweak an essay in Google docs for the millionth time. I will answer frantic text messages at 9:30 at night – and apparently now at 6:14 in the morning (though let’s not make that a habit). And if you make the mistake that one admission counselor did a few years back and make one of my students cry, I will make you rue the day you chose a career in higher education.

I will do all of those things for you (especially that last one – no one makes Mama Bear’s kids cry) because the college application process is stressful. It’s confusing. And it’s really scary. And the only way to mitigate those fears and uncertainties is to rest easy in the knowledge that if you, my students, pick up a phone or send a text or an email, you’re going to get help. No need to wait until school resumes and your guidance counselor is in the office; no need to suffer a sleepless night of wondering “what if;” no need to feel alone and lost. Uh uh. Not my kids.

So this time of year – the time of year when my inner Mama Bear emerges before she hibernates until the next application cycle – is never easy and never straightforward. But it is survivable and it is short-lived.

And if you need me to help you through it, give a call. I’ll be your girl.

(I’ll also be your girl remotely if you pick up a copy of my book.)


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