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College planning continued, and I’m hoping it will be applicable for the next three kids to come

26 Jan

Ha! I feel like I’m making a kind of progress, since for the last two weeks the number of my post drafts has ceased to mount and commenced declining. More like a steady state, as hindsight has culled a few. Interesting that in the case of one or two on which I’ve labored I feel have something to them, some real ideas pretty clearly articulated, but I’m not sure they represent what I really think right now, and when I try to bring them around they won’t cooperate. Maybe I got to writing along an old track, and someone laid a penny on the rail and so one wheel is off a bit. Maybe I’ll just put disclaimers at the beginning and post them anyway.

College research for my son continues, and the results are mixed. He’s basically looking for a combination of computer science and Arabic, though he has a range of other interests too-pretty broad, actually. Computer science for a marketable skill mostly–doesn’t seem to be smitten by that prospect, but wants to make a good salary and not be a burden. Also has help making inroads there and getting additional training through his dad by joining the family business. He also wants to study languages. Arabic will build on his fluency in Hebrew, which is closely related, and make him eligible to apply for the The State Department’s Critical Languages Scholarship program, which pays for summer classes beyond beginning Arabic. So that seems wise in any case. Somewhere in his heart still, I’m pretty sure, is the desire to teach, or work with kids in some capacity. But since that can wait until the time he’s need to branch off into education coursework, he can brood over that and see if the heart will still have its reasons for going into a lower paying field. Interesting that my eleven year old is now saying that he definitely wants to be a teacher, no doubt at all, he says. It’s cool that though this sixth grade year is tough for him in some ways, he’s seen something that inspires him in some of his teachers. Part of it is some kind of funkiness, an ability to be quirky and silly with kids, and have fun so they stay interested, laugh and learn better. He knows and sometimes struggles with knowing that he dances to a different drummer, and it seems that could work as a teacher. Not that he’s had the chance to observe many other professions.

Plus, I guess, the kids have heard me talk so much about my subbing experiences, and my wonder that despite being a somewhat lazy and introverted person, or at least not very content to be on a schedule and needing regular time alone, I really do enjoy doing what I’m doing. They see how much value the profession of teacher itself, as so important in this world. Is there anything as important? Given that parenting is also teaching to a big degree, of course. Of course I’m biased; there are surely many equally important jobs. But they don’t include doctors, lawyers, or police, or computer programmers, or HR managers, or senators. Farmers might be up there with teachers, and craftspeople, and but I’m not sure what else. All professions, of course, maybe even the oldest, are sanctified by the real desire to do right financially by one’s loved ones, and an attitude of sweet service.

So, college planning: It’s come to light that it doesn’t seem to be worth it for my son to apply to a big-name school that has both computer science and Arabic—U of WA, for example, or a unique private school that has both—Macalester College, for example. The first option means life on a really big campus, and I have serious reservations about that because of the challenge of feeling connected, part of a caring community, soon enough into the first semester for good mental health, on which everything else depends. The second option is just too darn expensive. If we could do income averaging we might qualify for student aid, but it’s been a financial catch-up year, so on paper our income is above average. We didn’t have the foresight to buy lots of stuff like cars and major house remodels as some people apparently do to be able to report fewer assets on the FAFSA. Which to my mind is a perversion of the way FAFSA is supposed to work. Or there’s a perversion somewhere, if rich, educated people can “structure” their assets (see this Forbes article) to seem like any other struggling middle class family whose kids need federal assistance with higher education. I suppose with a son and a daughter due to start higher ed within the next few years and not much savings, our assets will get restructured soon enough. And we won’t be the first loving parents who have refinanced assets to help kids through college. I am checking my privilege, yes.

The most cost effective option (keeping out of serious debt being another way to support mental health) seemed to be continuing at the local community college, which has an excellent cyber security training program at the cost of $2000 per quarter, the intro courses for which have already been paid for by Running Start. Today I really probed my son as to how he felt about studying in town and continuing to live at home. He’s been so flexible, so mindful of the need to make sound decisions affecting family finances, that he hasn’t really expressed, maybe even allowed himself to establish, his real preferences and dreams. When pressed, he said he really didn’t want to continue at the local college and living at home, though he’d be willing if we couldn’t afford otherwise. I told him I felt it was important to try to honor the desires he had, that this was a time of opportunity, and there were ways of making it work to pursue his dreams, to travel, to be part of a learning community rather than just taking classes and coming home to do assignments. One affordable option is to go to a Canadian university. I’m taking a closer look at the in my Nova Scotia alma maters, because my son would be able to be near my extended family for the first extended time–grandparents, two uncles and an aunt, and even an adorable three year old niece. Another two aunts and two uncles not so far away either. My parents are approaching their eighties, still pretty healthy, and they would be thrilled. My son has a special connection with my dad, who has a similar personality, interests and communication style.

My alma mater is a cozy little college (U of King’s) adjacent to a large research university (Dalhousie U), so one can take specialized liberal arts programs such as Foundation Year (classics of Western lit), History of Science and Technology, Early Modern Studies, or Contemporary Studies, study at the respected journalism school, or take selection of the big box classes next door. Or a combination. At the very least one gets to belong to a close knit community (sometimes too close, which has its valuable lessons) and enjoy lots of Oxfordish traditions as well as live in classic, roomy old high ceilinged dorms with clanking water radiators. And one can also go be anonymous, strolling through the crowds of Dalhousie or dozing in a corner of the giant library, or get involved in a club on a larger scale. Great athletic center, easy access to Celtic music, lots of weather… What are my feelings in this? I feel my son will do more justice to the opportunities at King’s that I did, for one thing.  It’s exciting to think of all the cool things that the place offers, and be so familiar with many of them. On the other hand, I had a pang of motherly angst when I thought of my firstborn living so far away for four years–a preview of how much I will miss him. As will we all, and why not, like my husband suggests, have him study closer to home?

Fortunately application deadlines for Canadian universities are still months away, so it’s a matter of finishing up the U.S. paperwork, fitting in as many brief conversations with my son as possible in the midst of his finals and papers so I can ferret out what he really wants to do, and feels is the best way to do it.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Education, Parenting & Family

 

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One response to “College planning continued, and I’m hoping it will be applicable for the next three kids to come

  1. jdawgsrunningblog

    January 30, 2015 at 6:24 am

    That’s really good you’re writing about this– I feel more folks in charge should know what ‘ordinary’ people go through as they make their way towards sending their students to college–the limiting factors aplenty.

     

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