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The Precipice | Inside Higher Ed


The Boy has been home for the Christmas break for a couple of weeks; he heads back to Virginia soon. He’s in his final undergraduate year, on track to graduate in May.

I remember being pretty freaked out when I was at that stage. I had sent off applications to various graduate schools but hadn’t heard anything good yet, and I didn’t really have a backup plan. It was the first time in my life that the next stage wasn’t obvious. Never having faced that before, I got pretty jumpy.

I’ve mentioned before that he handles being young much better than I ever did. That’s particularly true now; he has a confidence that things will work out that seems to be self-fulfilling. It’s glorious to watch.

Part of it, I think, is that he has a much healthier sense of alternatives than I did. He’s not delusional; he knows that medical school is tough to get into and that any given school could reject him for whatever reason. But he knows that he has a contribution to make and that if it isn’t welcome in one spot, it will be in another. He doesn’t know where he’ll land, but he knows it will be on his feet.

One sign of that confidence is that he’s sanguine about a gap year. He already took the MCAT, and he’s happy with his score, so that box is checked. Apparently now it’s common, and maybe even expected, for applicants to medical school to take a gap year, so he’s not worried about a stigma there. And he has a work ethic such that working multiple part-time jobs doesn’t faze him, either. When he asked me to proofread his résumé, I had to keep reminding myself that he’s only 21. Mine didn’t look anything like that at his age.

Last weekend he connected with a couple of his friends from high school and brought them to dinner with us at a local pizza place. One is a computer science major on the cusp of graduation; he’s worried about the abrupt shift in the market for tech workers in the wake of layoffs at the Amazons of the world. (“Why does an entry-level job require two years of experience?”) The Girl heard that and seemed to feel a little better about English. Twenty-one-year-olds on the cusp of the next great life change have a distinct energy. It’s easy to forget what the world looks like at that age.

This may be the last time he spends more than a few days with us at Christmas. He’s excited to get on with the next stage, whatever that is. I’m just in awe of his confidence as he faces down the precipice.



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