Smart Trees


crouching colleges, hidden ivies

Urgency Day 114

500 Things Items 377-79: Reference Books

  • History: Required reading for efficient applying
  • Value: Gave us some good, insidery strategies
  • Parting Pain: No regrets. Period.
  • Un-possessing: Passing along to the next round of applicants

One time in my high school government class, I used the word “incongruous” in a debate.

Not exactly an A-list word, but one girl raised her hand and demanded to know what it meant and where in the world I had heard it. I defined the word and told her that, well, I read a lot.

If only I’d stopped there.

I went on to say that I also like to consult reference books, such as my trusty thesaurus.

The ensuing howls still ring in my ears. You would have thought I proudly declared that I plagiarize every word I write. “You’re not ALLOWED to use a thesaurus! You end up using words you don’t even know just to sound smart!”

Sounding smart. We won’t have that.

Do you buy it? Reference books just let you “sound smart.” Or maybe they help get you to smart. Or at least smarter. Today, I’m un-possessing the three reference books Sam consulted assiduously during the college admissions process to “apply smart.” Or at least smarter.

By the time you start applying to college in your senior year, so much of the admissions process is already determined. If your grades, scores or intangibles aren’t highly desirable, you have some hard choices to make. Even if they are, you have some hard choices to make.

From the start, I feared we would flounder through the entire process, two steps befuddled at every deadline. Why not, I wondered, apply efficiently? My favorite thing. We did our research and bought three college admissions reference books with

  • Tips!
  • and Time Saving Hints!
  • and Information the Ivies Don’t Want YOU to Have!

And don’t be fooled. College apps. are a family affair. Even if your only job is to cajole encourage, as a parent, you are still involved. As a recently cajoling encouraging parent, here is one of my abiding impressions of this entire exhausting, convoluted process:

When your child is applying to college, you encounter a lot of trees.

  • Trees in the form of paper; oh my sweet lord, paper for everything. Even with electronic submissions. So. Much. Paper.
  • Sure, paper, but also trees as in actual Trees. We met some great trees during this process. Several of the campuses we visited are home to some spectacularly inspiring trees.
  • But don’t miss the forest for the trees. (Interpret as needed.)

I know my darling librarian friends are wondering why on earth we didn’t just use our Award Winning library instead of buying these books. We did. We researched and consulted the amazing reference librarians at Nichols Library: They don’t just sound smart; they are smart. But after we had renewed the books the three-allowed times, it was only August.

August, 2010, when we saw the Red Tree.

And when I still had 384 days before Sam leaves.

Swarthmore's storied Red Tree: Sorry.

Vassar's captivating Sycamore: Oh yes.


3 Responses to “Smart Trees”

  1. melanie Says:

    I can just imagine your high school self defending Words in all their glory. Laughed out loud about the cajoling (cough, cough) I mean encouraging parenting.

    If you chose schools based on the tree, then you’d really be going out on a LIMB. Haha. Well someone had to say it!

  2. Donna Says:

    We must also not forget the “tree of knowledge” (and who coined that one, anyway?). I hope that Sam’s future among the trees will include so many more outside of his window, and so many fewer on his list to “chop down” at the college bookstore. Perhaps his will be the generation that stops the school textbook madness. Which is not to say that no one should own books , as you well know. I’ve seen pictures of the Vassar library and I’m totally jealous.

  3. sthibeault Says:

    I remember climbing a particularly fantastic tree with you near your dorm at Wm.& Mary. We took sister pix in front of it, too, to give to mom and daddy for an anniversary. So many trees I adore. Yes, I hope textbooks go digital. What a profound legacy that would be.

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