“When my job’s done”

I bought a ticket today. It wasn’t for me, nor did I buy one that was for me. No, this ticket is for Aubrey. Next month, I will put my daughter on a plane, send her to a city where she’s never been, to a place where she knows no one, by herself. It will be her first taste of what real college will be like, as she will stay in the dorm with a student, attend a class, meet professors, and be mostly in charge of herself for about 36 hours.

This isn’t just a regular college visit, as it is also a scholarship competition for a full-ride at Agnes Scott College. For those of you unfamiliar, ASC is a microscopic all girls school in Decatur, Georgia. This isn’t just an M.R.S. factory in the deep south. These women are serious scholars, and they offer some hardcore majors, like neuroscience. They also offer some amazing research opportunities, and work-study jobs at places like, oh…the Center for Disease Control. For a science nerd like Aubrey, that’s like Michael Jackson’s ferris wheel and ten year old boys.

ASC has the slickest marketing department of any college we’ve seen. In an effort to lure young, brainy women to the backwoods of Georgia (although admittedly, Atlanta is very progressive), they offer up a pretty amazing scholarship opportunity. Incoming freshmen math and science majors can apply to the GEMS (Generating Excellence in Math and Science) program for the summer. For six weeks, she would spend four hours a day, four days a week in class. She would get six credits, four of which qualify as her freshman seminar, and two of which are a course in how to succeed in math and science, and it qualifies as an elective. On Fridays and Saturdays, the students are taken on excursions into Atlanta. When Aubrey saw that one of the excursions is to the Medical Examiner’s Office, I thought she’d swoon. The best part is if a student is accepted into the program, it’s an automatic $5000 scholarship to cover the entire six weeks. Room, meals, books, classes, excursions, everything except the flight in and out and pocket money.

Here’s where the slick part comes in…With most schools, students have until May 1st to make their decision. With ASC, in order to participate in the GEMS summer program, Aubrey has to decide by the first week of April. That means even if she hasn’t received her financial aid packages from her other schools, she still has to make a decision, or forfeit the opportunity. It’s like telling a kid, “There might be a parachute attached to that ripcord, but in case you’re not sure about jumping, here’s a huge pile of candy.”

However, I don’t think it’s going to be a tough decision after she visits. I’ve been to Atlanta, so I know she’ll love it there. And if they woo in person as well as they woo electronically, she’ll be signing on the dotted line before she gets back on the plane.

Of course, the downside to this is, instead of having to offer up my daughter to her brave new world in August, I will have to send her off in June. I will miss her 18th birthday. But how can I possibly NOT let her go? The paths that lie before her are ones that I would kill to have back. This is the moment that, 18 years ago, seemed impossibly far away, but here it is, faster than a blink. Did I do my job? I hope so. I guess we’ll find out.

“All the things you treasure most
Will be the hardest won
I will watch you struggle on
Before the answers come

But I won’t make it harder
I’ll be there to cheer you on
I’ll shine the light that guides you down
The road you’re walking on

You’ll fly away
But take my hand until that day
So when they ask how far love goes
When my job’s done
You’ll be the one who knows”