Saturday, 11 October 2014

University Challenge

A couple of weeks ago my daughter plonked some paperwork on my desk.
          ‘Here you are,’ said Eleanor.
          ‘What’s this?’ I asked.
          ‘Some blurb about funding for when I go to uni.’
          ‘Oh, right.’
          Funding wasn’t required for months.  I put it in the bottom of my paperwork pile and forgot all about it.  Two weeks later I had cleared everything on top of this ‘blurb’, so settled back to have a read.  Within three seconds my heart had leapt into my mouth.
          ‘ELEANOR!’ I roared.
          My lethargic teenager appeared in the doorway.  ‘Yeah?’
          ‘Have you read this?’ I waggled the papers under her nose.
          ‘No.  Have you?’
          ‘This is your future, not mine,’ I yelped.  ‘It says here that you should be researching universities, downloading prospectus, getting yourself organized and going on open days.’  I gulped.  ‘And this was TWO WEEKS AGO.’
          ‘Stop stressing, Mum, there’s plenty of time.  Our directors will tell us when to do it.’
          ‘Actually, I don’t think they will.’  My eyes scanned the sheets of A4.  ‘They’re far too busy having diva fits about students who don’t know monologues off by heart and whether to bring back The Beano.’
          The Beano was the last show my daughter appeared in.  Since then there have been some staff changes and artistic temperaments have got in the way of too many things.  I won’t name and shame my daughter’s Theatre in this blog but, as a parent, I don’t give a stuff about whether they should re-run a show that’s already been done, but I do give several stuffs about kicking seventeen-year-olds’ bottoms and making sure they have actually started their university research and got some open days booked.  If some of them can’t be bothered to learn monologues without nagging, how are they expected to organize their future?  They need prompting.  And if you want to change prompting to spoon feeding, then so be it.
          My son went to a grammar school and staff were hot, hot, hot on ensuring students were doing everything on time.  I don’t recall once getting involved in the whole university process other than paying for train tickets for my son to visit a prospective place of study.  The students spent research time during lessons checking out universities on-line, what degree courses were suitable, and bookings for open days were made there and then.  Personal Statements were drafted under the eyes of watchful teachers, tweaked, re-tweaked and tweaked again.  But at my daughter’s college, clearly it’s a case of Get on with it yourself.
          ‘You’ve got to do this yourself,’ I regarded my daughter.  ‘Pull up a stool and I’ll help you.’
          ‘Oh, but I was watching–’
          Two hours later we had decided on geographical locations, sorted what universities did BA (Hons) Acting, and narrowed it down to three drama schools and five universities.  This will have to be revised again at some point as only five applications in total are permitted.  Picking up the phone, I rang the first university on our list.
          ‘Hello! We’d like to book an open day.  You’re all booked up?  No availability at all?  Do a virtual tour on-line, you say.  Terrific.’  I banged the phone down and looked at Eleanor.  ‘Well this is a promising start.  Not.’
          Eleanor slouched down in her chair and gave me the same look the pooch does when in trouble.
          ‘Sorry, Mum.’
          I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  ‘Okay. Not your fault.  As far as I’m concerned, your directors are the ones who are culpable.  Let’s just keep ringing the universities on this list and keep our fingers crossed.’
          To cut a long story short there were a few more open days up for grabs, and grab them we did.
          ‘But several of them are on a Saturday!’ Eleanor exclaimed in horror. ‘That’s my day off!’
          ‘Good heavens,’ I cried, ‘so it is.  Which also means,’ I clapped a hand to my head dramatically – oh yes, my daughter isn’t the only actress in this family you know, ‘it’s MY DAY OFF TOO.’
          I glowered at my daughter.  ‘As I keep trying to tell you, this is your future.  Now are you prepared to sacrifice a few Saturdays, or not?’
          ‘Okay,’ Eleanor grimaced, ‘keep yer hair on.’
          ‘Keep my–?’
          I pursed my lips and shut up in case I gave way to the rant bubbling just below the surface.  The next headache will be drafting the Personal Statement, which no doubt I’ll be roped into doing too.  But at least we’re now on schedule.  I can only hope my daughter’s peers are too.  Which reminds me.  How many actors does it take to change a light bulb?  Only one.  They don’t like sharing the spotlight…

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