connorThis year has been an eye-opener for both my eldest son and I.  He is a senior in high school, and beyond the excitement of finishing his childhood academic career, it is time to focus on what’s next.  He is exceptionally intelligent and going to college has always been a given, yet he has always marched to the beat of his own drum, which means his pathway there hasn’t always been traditional.  Having suffered the punishment of being different at times from his peers, he has grown into a man that everyone talks kindly of and with a great deal of respect (with the exception of his brother, which is sibling stuff).  He is able to engage in conversation with most adults on issues of the time, and has articulately stood up for social justice issues in the face of judgement of many of his peers. While I may not understand how his brain works at times…especially his disregard of the importance of homework as a simple mechanism of measurement, he has a deep thirst to understand everything he learns in school and it’s application to the world.  His viewpoint is that if he get’s good grades on the tests, homework is an incidental annoyance, biting into his already busy world of activity.  And while I agree with his logic, getting him to understand that the world just work that way never really took….until he applied to college.

The application process has been a frustrating experience for him.  While both my husband and I, and his guidance counselor’s have been talking ourselves silly about how competitive it is these days to get accepted to the college of your choice…it finally hit home when he realized that there were plenty of colleges who wouldn’t even look at him because of his GPA.  All I keep thinking is what a loss.  Can we continue to measure kids based on these kinds of numbers?  And while I realize there needs to be some kind of threshold, I’m appalled at how many are so restrictive.  Mind you this is a kid who breezed through the ACT, has amazing extra-curriculars and passionate letters of recommendations from his teachers.  There are colleges who have begun to expand how they critique their applicants, but others who simply wouldn’t even bother.  One college, close by, didn’t even wait for him to get all of his material in and rejected him only 5 days after he paid an exorbitant fee just to apply.  Of course it was hard to see the pain of rejection on his face, but it also fired me up a bit.  This is a kid who has taken beyond grade level classes since he was a freshman and would be an asset to any University…but how do we get these institutions to see that?  Here is part of his essay to explain:

Knowledge Without Wisdom

By Connor J. Edling

Sitting and writing an essay for my application to college, I have been told by a multitude of people that it isn’t necessary. I’ve been told that GPA, ACT scores and extra-curricular’s are the things that matter and all the while these people tell me this, all I can do is think that if I don’t write a letter, I won’t have any chance. Any student can send in transcripts, test scores and letters, but scores don’t show their true character. Character, is what I hope to express in this essay.

I have had, in my opinion, a very fortunate and very thoughtful childhood. It is only in the last year that I have realized how fortunate I have been. There are so many on this big blue marble who lack many of the things I’ve experienced, from swim camps, to music festivals, experiencing so many things my parents believe add to anyone’s education. What kind of person would I be, would I have become, if I hadn’t been challenged to spread my experience to all those who in many cases are less fortunate than I am. That is why since the summer 2010, I have participated in youth mission trips across the country.

So far I have completed three youth mission trips. Each summer the organization “Group Work Camps” pick areas all around the US that need relief. Each summer I’ve traveled with a group of about 45 high school students to one of these areas. We get set up in a high school where we stay for a week while performing work. For five days we travel to a house and repair it for home owners that are unable to do it themselves. Each time I get to meet people who are facing challenges, and they have shown me the kind of hospitality that no one in the rest of my experiences has even come close to matching. It has been my goal to try to reflect the same kind of hospitality and kindness in my own daily life.

Traveling the country for ten days every summer to help create a better balance in society, I fill the other days with my own hobbies. One of these hobbies is video games. I am a “gamer” and have been for many years. Most people tend to look down upon video games as something for social rejects and children. The reality is far from what most people think. The Video Gamers I associate with are a community of thinkers, and intellectuals. The mechanics of video games and other interactive media are so complex that most people don’t have the capability to understand. There are unbelievable feats of computer engineering that take place in video games. Like literature, they have the capability to open people’s imaginations; to let their minds roam where they thought was not possible. I have not played a single video game where in the end I wasn’t stuck with the thought of, “How did they do it?” One day I hope to be on the other end of the spectrum, getting others to ask the questions I always did…

He does go on to speak about growing beyond the arrogance of youth, thinking homework doesn’t matter and that his senior year complete with three AP classes, he has shown he can get all A’s and B’s.  I just want him to know that in my eyes he has been weighed and measured and I have found him exceptional.  Thanks to Brad Nygren on this photo…he did an exceptional job on his senior portraits.

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