What I Learned About the College Process While Climbing a Glacier

We landed by helicopter on the Mendenhall Glacier with ice peaks and mountains as far as the eye could see. The guides outfitted us in ice hiking gear complete with gloves, crampons, and boots to ready us for our climb to the top. Gabe, our guide, explained how to use our crampons and ice pick to help us hike up the ice hills. He started off putting the ice pick up above his head and then effortlessly kicking the toe of his boots into the ice hill and one, two, three, he was at the top. My 13 year old, rock climbing, gymnast daughter went next and made it look like the easiest thing in the world.

Then it was my turn. I did what he said. I put the ice pick above my head to serve as a pulley. I then inserted my right foot into the ice hill as the guide and Gabby did before. I took a big step with my left foot up over my right, but the agility that I saw before did not come. I was inert, and worse, I felt like I was slipping down the hill. I looked up and started to panic. I screamed out in frustration:

“I can’t do this. There is no way I can make it all the way to the top!”

“Lisa, calm down. You are taking too big of steps. Just put your ice pick up and take small, little steps. First your right foot, then meet it with your left foot. That’s it. Now just keep climbing up with small little steps.” Gabe, gently replied.

I listened to his sage advice, and slowly, but surely, I got to the top. Then as we moved toward the next hill, I got up with much less effort. By the time we reached the top of the glacier it became second nature, one step, then another.

This experience reminded me of the college process. It seems daunting and overwhelming when looking at is a rising sophomore, junior, or even senior. But as this experience reminded me when I was on the other side of the panic, that everything in life requires small steps. Rather than looking at all of the steps as a whole, it is important to approach each step in the journey as a separate hill. This is as important for parents as for students to recognize the journey.

Just like I was able to climb to the top of the glacier with the constant encouragement and guidance from my guide, I see each student reach their goals as they take their own small steps throughout the process.

So take a deep breath and begin your journey one step at a time.

The Top of Mendenhall Glacier

The Top of Mendenhall Glacier

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