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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 13, 2001

Family Matters
How to earn good grades in the college application process

By Kaohua Lucas
Special to The Advertiser

"Yes, I already know that, Mother" my 17-year-old says in that sing-songy voice thick with irritation.

"I just want to make sure you have met the deadlines," I say with a tight-lipped smile.

This time of year many of us who have high-school seniors are tense with anxiety.

Our children have already applied to colleges and have received responses.

We have spent endless hours filling out the unwieldy FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid) form, which determines how much a family can contribute to their child's education.

Some of our children have searched the Internet for scholarship opportunities that will ease the financial burden on the family.

And many of us are glued to the mailbox, waiting not-so-patiently for an award letter congratulating our child on receiving a much sought-after scholarship.

Has anyone ever calculated the time invested in filling out and filing forms before a deadline, as well as measured the stress it places on a family?

"Mom, I faxed the housing form today," my daughter announces.

"When was it due?" I ask.

"Today," she says spinning on her heels and heading for her room.

"Wait a minute," I say, bristling. "Isn't there a deposit due?"

"It didn't say the deposit was due TODAY, only the form," she snaps.

I have to agree the process is confusing even after your child has determined the college of her choice, because much depends on the financial aid package the school offers.

My daughter's first choice is on the Mainland.

As with other schools, there is a financial-aid priority deadline to fill out forms that has to be met by the student.

In her case, it was March 15.

However, the office will not tell us whether or not she had received a scholarship award until the middle of May.

In the meantime, we've had to submit a $50 deposit to the admissions office to hold a space for her, and a $45 deposit to secure a dorm room.

The stress this can place on the family can cause a lot of friction in the household.

"Honey," my husband asks our daughter, "do you have a plan B in case your first choice of colleges doesn't pan out?"

"Uh, no."

"Well, what are your plans if you are not selected for WUE?"

(WUE is the Western Undergraduate Exchange program, in which many western-state colleges and universities participate. If accepted, the student pays 1.5 times the resident tuition of that state, relieving families from paying the much higher non-resident rate.)

"I'll stay home, then."


The one thing I've learned from all of this is to take a deep breath and try to remain calm, or mai hopohopo (don't worry).

We need to believe that if our kids are adamant about attending a specific college, then they have done everything in their power (along with our gentle prodding) to meet the necessary deadlines.

And if they haven't, then it's a life lesson they can add to their resume.

Ka'ohua Lucas has a 17-year-old daughter and two sons, 10 and 7. She holds a master's degree in education curriculum and instruction, works as a counselor for Native Hawaiians at Windward Community College and writes curriculum with a Hawaiian culture focus.

Lucas and fellow Hawai'i parent Lynne Wikoff take turns writing the Family Matters column. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future topics, write: Family Matters, 'Ohana Section, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; e-mail ohana@honoluluadvertiser.com or fax 535-8170.