It was a dark and stormy night when our 17-year-old daughter, Valerie, got the “Award Letter” from the college that was her number one choice. That’s the letter that outlines how much the school is going to award in scholarships and financial aid.

In reality, it was actually a nice sunny day in April when the Award Letter arrived. It’s just that when an emotional teenage girl gets “dumped” by the college that has stolen her heart, the atmosphere in the house can take a pretty dark turn.

It took a few days, but the clouds cleared. Valerie knew that unless she wanted to graduate from college with student loans totaling well into six digits, that school was not in her future and she would need to come to terms with attending her second choice school. She would still have student debt but it would be more in the range of the cost of a nice SUV and not a jumbo mortgage.

From Steve’s and my perspective, we considered it answered prayer that the school that just “wasn’t that into her” (USC) made going to Chapman University an obvious decision; Chapman, her second choice, had come through with significant financial aid.

Plus, we felt that the smaller size of Chapman would be a better fit for her. I told her how it would have a more nurturing environment. In my attempt to bring her around to the positive aspects of going to Chapman, I’m sure I gave her the impression that because this school really wants her, they are going to smooth the path along the way as she goes through the process of loans, housing and registration. I gave her the expectation that she is special.

So this past week, when Valerie began the steps necessary to register for classes and ran into a couple of roadblocks she was stunned and angry. “Why does everything have to be so hard? I didn’t get any of the classes that I chose as options for my Freshman Foundation Course and all the classes look like they are full or wait-listed. Aren’t I going to a private school so I can get the classes I need so that I can graduate in four years?”

Once again, our daughter gets a cold dose of reality. You can do all the right things, work with wonderful people, and things may still not go as planned. That’s just life and none of us are exempt.

There is always a steep learning curve to figuring out any system. She needs to take some responsibility and be persistent. And it will probably mean that she needs to make some phone calls to crack the code of their online registration system.

After the first semester, she’ll know exactly what to do. It’s just for now, things would go a lot easier for her if she accepted that it is a process and she can’t expect to understand something that she has never had any experience with.

I am trying to teach her this lesson but I would be a great one for me to learn too. Take a deep breath, don’t panic and have a little faith. And be grateful when things do go as planned; it’s a gift.