Acceptance

A Novel

Susan Coll

Picador

"Mom, are you all right?" Harry whispered in her ear. "You look kind of funny."
 
"I’m great," Grace replied, managing to pat him reassuringly on the knee.
 
Another parent asked a question about the importance of grades versus standardized test scores, and then wondered aloud about how much weight would be given to her son’s fluency in three languages and his forthcoming summer internship at NASA. "Think of the application as a jigsaw puzzle," the tour guide said. "Grades are one piece, scores are another." He sounded bored with his own answer, as though he uttered these same words several times a day, which he no doubt did. He had been asked some version of this same question at least six times in the last thirty minutes, and the schedule indicated that there were four separate information sessions being offered that day. The interrogator in this instance—a squat, wild-haired woman in her mid-fifties who resembled one of several hermit-like, mentally unbalanced chemists in Grace’s office—was not this easily put off. She wanted numbers, percentile groups, statistics, solid granules of information to record in the red, three-ring binder balanced on her lap. Specifically, she wanted to know whether her son, the skinny, meek-looking youth sitting next to her with the same unfortunate DNA, was going to be able to use Yates University as his safety school. There was a murmur in the room, as the rest of the audience absorbed and remarked on the arrogance of this question. Her poor son slumped in his chair.