My son: the ANTI-brag

In years past I was accused of bragging about my son a time or two, so to balance things out, here’s a counter story. Join with me as I roll my eyes!

So, CairoSon is now a senior in college and hopes to go to grad school in physics. Thus, he needs to take the GREs. He took care of the general verbal/quant GREs already, but also needs to take a subject test in physics. He’s had several opportunities to schedule himself. Here’s how it’s gone so far:

OPPORTUNITY 1, over the summer:
CairoSon scheduled himself to take the test. It was not offered on campus (he was there all summer doing research with one of his professors), meaning he needed to get himself to some location in downtown Philly for the exam. This is the kid who basically never strays farther from his dorm than to attend class, go to the library, or eat in the cafeteria, so I knew right away there was some risk involved.

Being the diplomatic sort, I asked how he was planning to get there, and suggested he pamper himself, not worry about public transportation. I said, “if it were me, I’d probably be a nervous wreck about finding a place I’d never been before, and I’d leave myself so much extra time I’d probably be there 90 minutes early. You’ll probably be a little more sane than I would.”

He failed to take the hint and didn’t get his Uber early enough. According to CairoSon, it was the Uber driver’s fault for getting lost on the way. I wasn’t there so can’t comment, but the bottom line is: CairoSon arrived TOO LATE and could not take the exam.

OPPORTUNITY 2, also over the summer:
CairoSon didn’t sign up for that one - he and friends had plans to go to NYC to visit a classmate who had to temporarily drop out of college after a cycling accident (he hit a tree and got a bad concussion, and his recovery has been uneven). Hard to argue with that one, given that my biggest worry while he was growing up was his difficulty relating to his peer group. It’s nice that he has friends now and also nice that Mr. Original Homebody was venturing forth into the world. Still, you’d think this would engender a feeling of urgency about getting the exam taken ASAP, wouldn’t you? See next paragraph.

OPPORTUNITY 3, early fall:
CairoSon waited until the last minute to sign up - and guess what, ALL THE SLOTS WERE FILLED UP.

OPPORTUNITY 4, coming in the next week:
After discovering he had blown the opportunity to sign up for a nearby exam, he had to do a mad scramble to find another place where he could take the test. He’s now scheduled to fly to Ohio, stay in a hotel overnight, and take the test in Cincinnati. Obviously, this is at considerable expense, he’ll miss a day of school, and it can’t be good for his state of mind to have to deal with all that on the cusp of sitting down to take the exam.

Whatever. I know he can afford the airfare/hotel/Uber/taxi, because in addition to working at various jobs over the last couple of years, he inherited a little nest egg from my mother. So, I am not offering to pay for this (maybe his dad is, I don’t know).

Anyway, that’s my boy! I hope he gets it right this time. If not, I think it will be too late to apply to grad school for next fall. He’s welcome to live with me for a gap year if he wants, but if he does the terms will involve adult-level personal responsibility, like getting a job, paying rent, etc. Not that I expect that to happen. But we’ll see.

The GRE was full of life lessons for me.

My mother was heavily involved with getting me prepared for the SAT. But all the responsibility was on me when it came time for the GRE. I spent an entire year studying, holing myself up in a quiet nook of the library so I could drill myself on vocab words and practice all those bizarre analytical problems.

Come test day, I didn’t think I was that nervous. After all, I had studied real hard and I knew I had everything down. My plan was to get to the test center like an hour early, get breakfast, and then kill the damn thing.

But I got lost on the way there because it turns out I really was nervous. I was so turned around that I had to call the test center for assistance from a payphone. I get my bearings and I am almost there when I realize I left my wallet at the freakin’ pay phone. The wallet with my ID in it. So I have to turn back and get it. Fortunately no one had snatched it.

I wind up being an hour and a half late to the test center. Crazy me (with tears running down my cheeks), I decide to still sit for the test. I have no glucose in my brain, mind you. But I still think I have some kind of shot at acing the test.

My scores pop up on the screen at the end and I can see that they aren’t perfect. But not being familiar with the test, I have no idea how bad they are. Until, that is, my twin sister takes the test the following week and she tells me her scores. Then I realize that I really fucked up. My life feels like it is ruint.

Long story short, I retook the test the following month and scored amazingly well. I owe my success in life to my good ole mother, because she was the one who encouraged me to retake the test (she also paid for the testing fee). She believed in me when I was ready to write myself off as an idiot. Moms are great!!

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Ah monstro, that is an amazing story, and so appropriate to this thread. I’m so glad it worked out for you in the end, but even knowing that it did, my heart still goes out to past-you who must have been crazed with anxiety at the time.

Your son is, in some ways, similar to me at that age. I’m not sure why but some things seem more difficult than they are at that age. Taking out the trash, renewing your driving license, scheduling a test. All amazingly difficult. I don’t have a good answer.

I do know that it will likely change. It did for me.

A second theory is that he is looking for a year off in Hawaii. Perhaps subconsciously.

Sidebar, please. What is a GRE?

It took me almost getting thrown out of university on my butt in first year to start taking classes seriously and, like, you know, attend them. But I got the hang of it after that big scare.

The GRE Test: What You Need to Know - Peterson's

Apologies to the non-Americans among us! GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination, or something like that. It is a standardized test that is required for application to any remotely reputable graduate program in the US.

Dunno if you have heard of SATs or ACTs - you may have if you follow US [DEL]shenanigans[/DEL] news. One of the things celebrities and rich people are now being found guilty of in the college admissions scandal is manipulating their kids’ SAT test scores. SATs or ACTs are required for college admission; GREs are pretty much the same thing one educational level up.

ETA: ninja’d by a Rat!

Well, I do have two magnificent cats (and a third okay cat) and he is utterly cat-obsessed. A point in favor of your theory.

On the other hand, his girlfriend* is a freshman at Bryn Mawr and they are in LURVE, so that argues against him wanting to move all the way to Hawaii. Also, he doesn’t like me very well right now because he’s mad at me for divorcing his dad. (Who lives in Jakarta, so no question of him staying with his father for the gap year.)

So, I’m not so sure. But I do think your theory is worth keeping in mind. He’s been working himself to utter exhaustion over the past year or two. Maybe there’s a part of him that desperately wants a break.

*For anyone with a prodigious memory who actually recalls CairoFamily circumstances, this is NOT the girl he’s been dating since 7th grade. She broke up with him last year, utterly devastating him until a couple of months later he met Girlfriend 2.0, who I think he’s even more passionate about than GF1.0, if that’s possible. For better or worse, he sure loves him his girlfriends, I’ll say that about him.

Your son sounds like a great kid, and I admire your attitude and fortitude. You’re expecting him to be an adult and figure it out, and even though he’s far more skilled at navigating the academic world, I have no doubt he’ll get better and better at finding his way around this one, which can be pretty intimidating at first, even to a brainiac.

Aside from what has already been explained:

There is a short-essay part. Very short, I think it was along the lines of half a page when I took it.
A vocabulary part; curiously enough, this part is found easier by a specific group of ESL people than by EFLs. You see, the really big words are all Latinate and Greek roots, so if your native tongue is a Romance one you have it easy from a combination of “gee, I wonder if ophtalmologist is in any way related to oftalmólogo” (big words can be false friends, but they rarely are) and of having studied those roots. Some of the questions are along the lines of:

Shoes is to foot as gloves is to…
a. head
b. hand
c. dog
d. hands

A math part which, back when I took it, didn’t go further than fractions and percentiles. Thing is, that’s the level of math most people ever need and there’s a lot of people who don’t get it. Some of the questions were straightforward, some were mini-word-problems.
Then you have your specific GREs. Chemistry, Physics… Depending on which field of study you’re going into. If you’re attending Law School they’re called the LSAT instead. The level wasn’t terribly high (it’s multiple choice, they’re not going to require you to do one of those solutes problems with 8 equations), but like in the word example above you do need to pay attention.
Many foreign students are also required to take the TOEFL to demonstrate English-language ability. More multiple choice. The part I had problems with was the Listening bit, becaaaause the taaaaapes spoooke so slooooowly that by the time whatever bit of information we had to listen for came up, I was half-asleep; there were a couple of questions to which I went “eeny, meeny” because I’d totally misszz it. But I’d been very lucky with one of my ESL teachers so my level was exceptionally high, the exam isn’t particularly easy.

My son’s story is exceedingly similar (including Physics), but he’s approaching opportunity #2 in a few weeks. We’ll see how that goes…

I ended up with a parking ticket when I took the GRE. I drove to the site and discovered when I got there that all the parking spots within any sane distance of the building had parking meters with 2-hour limits. Well, 4-hour test, clearly that’s not going to work. But I had no chance to look for more parking so I just left the car in a 2-hour spot and spent a good bit of mental effort during the test worrying that I’d be towed and trying to think of what to do if I was. I did fine, but that’s all I remember from the day. That, and outsmarting myself guessing the meaning of the word “protuberance.”

I took five years between college and law school, and I feel like that was the right decision for me in so many ways. I would have been just like your son had I tried to take the LSAT my senior year. Instead, in my late twenties I went the route you were trying to nudge him toward: over-preparing and getting there early. Three years later I doubled down on that strategy for the bar exam, and it really paid off. Among other things, I paid for an extra night at the hotel for after the exam was over (it was 3 days back then). This was so that I wouldn’t have to worry about checking out in the morning before the last day of the exam, and I’d have a quiet place to go during lunch, away from all those confidence-shredding assholes asking if you got the hearsay issue in that last essay, which looked like a straightforward torts question but might’ve been an evidence crossover now that I think about GAAAAHHHH!!! Anyhoo, not only did the extra night serve its intended purpose, but it saved me from the stress of something I couldn’t have predicted: Barmageddon. Essentially the software we were required to use crapped out on several test-takers when they tried to upload their exams, which we couldn’t do at the testing center; we had to upload after we got home. Those of us who stayed at a hotel next door to the testing center beat the rush and had no issues uploading on the first two days, though that didn’t help those who had a long drive home the third day. I had no issues at all. I guess what I’m saying is, your son sounds normal and great and he’ll probably continue to get better at this stuff over the next decade. His brain probably isn’t even all the way finished growing, and the good judgment lobe grows last. :wink:

When I arrived (early) to take the GRE there was a guy pacing and talking to anyone who’d listen about how this was the most important test of his life. Once the test started, he raised his hand and a proctor escorted him to the bathroom, where he apparently vomitted, then returned coughing/gagging/wiping his mouth.

On two more occasions he had to go and vomit, each time rushing back to his exam. I did very well on the GRE, but I don’t think I could have handled vomitting three times during the test.

CairoCarol, here’s hoping that you have an utterly boring followup to this thread next week. And not an anecdote that involves words like “Cincinnati chili”, “gastric distress” or “arrested”.

A former co-worker of mine went into labor during her rating exam (which is a test Navy enlisted folks have to take in their specialty to be promoted to the next rank). She finished the exam and passed (and then went to the hospital to have her baby)!

Nothing but full of sneak brags. :stuck_out_tongue:

You now have my permission to brag that you know how to make people laugh. Me, at any rate. I’m having a good chuckle over here.

Interesting. I didn’t have to do the GRE for my post-grad in the States. Maybe my LSAT was sufficient?