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A Personally Delivered Acceptance Letter Meant the World to Us

December 16, 2023
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My son, Samuel, applied last month for early decision at Colby College. Colby has been his choice for about a year, even before he saw the campus. When we went for a campus tour in October, his decision was set in stone.

My wife and I were just as enthusiastic. The college has a beautiful campus, is only two hours from home, and offers great financial aid opportunities for lower income families.

I’d guess that he has checked his email 50 times a day since November 15th, hoping to find an admission letter. I tried to be positive but also realistic, since only 7 percent of applicants were accepted last year. I pointed out the benefits of a few other schools, just in case this didn’t work out.

Two college representatives came to my son’s high school to tell him he was accepted. (Photo Credit: Gary Sprague)

Colby College sent a counselor to tell my son that he was accepted

Then, last Tuesday, my son’s guidance counselor called my wife to give us the good news: Sam got accepted to Colby! Not only that, but on Friday they were sending two representatives to the high school to deliver the news to him in person.

The bad news? We couldn’t tell him. It was going to be a surprise, meaning we had to keep the good news a secret for three days.

This was more difficult than it sounds. Our son has Asperger’s, and the early years were difficult. For many years we wondered if he would graduate from high school, never mind go to college. It was only during the last few years that he really began to flourish.

So for him to be accepted at what is considered a “Little Ivy” was enough to bring tears to our eyes. We wanted to laugh and yell and cry and eat a lot of pizza!

Instead, my wife went to bed at 6 every night to avoid saying anything. Good thing, too. She has a terrible poker face. I’m better – at least I can keep a straight face – and I somehow made it through the week without giving anything away.

Our son emerged in an outfit that was inappropriate for the day

On Thursday evening we talked about how we hoped our son would dress nicely for the Colby people, but we weren’t too worried. Sam is the best-dressed student in his high school and wears a tie to school at least once or twice a week. No worries, right?

Friday morning comes, and he walks into the living room looking like a three-year-old who’s dressed himself. For one thing, he was wearing Ravenclaw sweatpants that he’s had since 5th grade. How far back in his drawer did he have to dig to find those? And today, of all days. They were up over his ankles and looked ready to split if he happened to sit down, which he was bound to do over the course of the day.

We never tell our son what to wear, but this was too much. My wife thought quickly and said, “Don’t you have an NHS event tonight? Maybe you should wear those clothes to school today.” He looked at her strangely but went back to his room and came out five minutes later in a tie and sports coat. To his credit, he always listens to his mom.

It was gratifying to see our son who had struggled, achieve his goal

We arrived at the school later, as scheduled, and met the college representatives on the way in. Sam’s guidance counselor took us to a conference room, and when Sam walked in, he was stunned. Our very articulate son was reduced to saying “Ohh!” when told by the Colby people that he had been accepted for early decision. He followed this up a minute later with “I was just expecting an email.”

Once it began to sink in that he had been accepted, he became overcome with emotion. His guidance counselor had tears in his eyes. I spent most of the meeting in some strange hybrid state of smiling and laughing and choking up, while my wife wore a smile that lasted all day. Our son has had his struggles over the years, both socially and academically, and it was wonderful to see all his hard work pay off in a way that he will no doubt remember for the rest of his life.

Colleges don’t normally give acceptance letters in person, but maybe they should start. It meant the world to our family. We had a feeling that this would be the right place for our son to attend college, but now we are certain that it is.

More Great Reading:

My Autistic Son Is a Junior and Finally Thriving In High School

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