My two oldest apparently checked some box on their standardized tests, so we get junk mail from a bunch of colleges, all of which assure us that my children are “impressive” and “motivated” and of course a good fit to enter their institution. All based on the estimated GPAs my children gave. I was tempted to send notes back saying that an institution that presented itself in such a way, oozing such insincerity on such a quantity of paper, was certainly not a good fit for any children of mine. My daughter admitted it was flattering to receive such kudos and invitations. And the personality and claims of college reps made an impact on my son on college night. All so frivolous. Make way for me, the super-researcher, who sees through it all, compiles lists, cross-checks, takes notes, weighs the pros and cons, and writes a treatise, based on dreaming big and some of my own unmet academic needs. Meanwhile it’s my husband who maintains the practical view that if we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it, and how likely is a good job to come out of it? The part about them meeting their future spouses at college can work in my favor, though.
I’m checking out various library books on colleges, since one of our offspring one will be ready to go in a year and another in two (not that it’s a given). A real mixed bag, those books, from intelligent and insightful and full of useful information and thoughtful perspectives, to shallow and stupid– full of quotes like “Everyone is happy here–everywhere you go you see a smile!” Seriously, the Princeton Review included that in their severely edited pages for one college. The ranking -based books are in the go back pile. On the other hand, I get positively giddy reading books like Cool Colleges for the Hyper-Intelligent, Self-Directed, Late-Blooming, and Just Plain Different by Donald Asher, Colleges that Change Lives by Loren Pope, and The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education by Maya Frost. I get the way they think–looking beyond the Ivy League, the local options, even the national system. And the descriptions of these places, how they nurture the life of the mind and the development of vision leadership! I read excerpts to my kids to get them interested–even my thirteen year old, when I find colleges with equestrian programs.
At this point I’m advising my young adults to consider going straight to another country to broaden their cultural understanding and learn another language by working and/or studying–no need to go through a U.S. university at all (much more expensive, anyway). Plus you’re less likely to get shot by a crazy person with a semi-automatic weapon (I have a niece at SPU who recently escaped that fate by being in the right place at the right time. Maybe back to the Middle East for my son; he’s already bought Rosetta Stone Arabic on his own, and has a leg up knowing Modern Hebrew–both are Semitic languages. I’ve also compiled a list of colleges with a great liberal arts education, which I happen to believe is important for a good number of humans to have in order to be leaders and not just workers, to understand what the world is like and why, and its problems and possibilities. Moving toward a career, a way to get paid and support a family, yes, but meanwhile broadening and deepening understanding and developing life purpose. I hope to see more folks young and older address that disconnect between the call to keep up with “progress,” and a true understanding of from what and to what we are progressing, besides more complexity and a higher GNP.
Then there’s the up front cost of higher education to consider, and the possible future debt load; how does one weigh those against the projected take-home value of an education at various colleges? One side of my husband’s family gave a good deal of financial assistance to their children for college, with mixed and as yet undetermined results, and the other gave none, preferring to teach theirs the lesson of personal responsibility–with mixed and as yet undetermined results. All of them stayed in state–in fact just about everyone I’ve talked to has kept their kids in state. I’d been thinking getting farther afield would be a good idea, but I was reminded today by a friend whose sons are only an hour away of the value of considering travel costs, continued connection with family, including siblings, and the opportunity for parents to connect with their kids’ new college friends.
This is not a science. Lots to consider and prioritize, balance opinions, collect data and narratives, then, I guess, go with some combination of the heart in submitting applications, and the budget (loosely defined) in making the final decision.