Monday, October 8, 2012

The College Frenzy

I have a group of terrific online friends, several moms who met years and years ago on a message board, and have hung in there with each other long beyond the demise of the site that brought us together.  I'm the oldest (!), and these days, fi ofve the women have high school senior kids, and a couple more are right behind.  Others have young people in college and grad school.  As you might imagine, much of our conversation these days focuses on the college admission process.

Two of the women, with funds and miles and time available, are leaving no stone unturned in the effort to visit and explore all possible appropriate options.  Two expect that their children will attend local state universities or community colleges, but even those decisions are fraught with stress and second-guessing.  One is somewhere in between.

Full disclosure here: my three children are graduates of The University of Chicago, Ohio State, and Willamette (via Tulane).  Matt is now in law school at Cleveland State University, and Marissa has just earned her master's degree at Case.  (After Josh died, we all tended to huddle close to home.)  

I probably did more for them with respect to college admissions than I recall, but mostly I reviewed and made suggestions about essays and final drafts of applications and arranged trips to some, but by no means all, of the colleges in which they (or we!) were interested.  We talked college endlessly, but each of the kids made their own application decisions.  One went for prestige, one for ease of application and minimal cost, and one for anywhere on the perimeter of the United States, which conveniently excluded Ohio.  None of them saw the colleges which they decided to attend until after they had been admitted.  (Marissa did see Willamette, to which she ultimately transferred, when we made a trip out west before her senior year of high school.)

Here's what I had to say to my friends the other day.  What do you think?

"There is only so much time and energy, and senior year is actually about far more than college.

And now, several years out, I wish we had given the college process about 25% of the time, energy, and $$ we gave it.  LIFE is about so much more than college.  It's only four years.  I know kids who have been really happy and successful in college, kids for whom it's been the opposite, and kids in the middle.  I think it has almost zero impact on subsequent anything.  I mean, of course whatever experience you have has a major influence on your life, but I don't think it's the be-all or end-all in terms of predicting future happiness, success, $$$, creativity, or anything else of consequence.  I am a different person for having gone to small New England colleges than I would be had I gone to Ohio State, but either way, I think I would have turned out ok."

Please discuss!


  1. I believe that your last sentence is the key reason that many of us traipse across the country to see these various schools. It's about fit and perceived or desired environment. There are success stories in each of the various scenarios but I believe that for some, the most personal growth occurs when going farther from home and out of one's comfort zone or bubble.

    At the end of the day, kids will be happy in many places. Make sense?

    BTW, there are 5 seniors!

    1. FIVE! Missouri, Missouri, NYC, Tennessee -- who am I missing ?

    2. Corrected.

      I should perhaps add that this is not a critique of anyone's else's MO. For obvious reasons, I spend a lot of time wondering what I should have done differently.

  2. I only applied to one place, and what a failure of imagination on my part. My parents didn't say a word to me about it. It was fine, and I got a good education, but it wasn't the best fit for me.

    On the other hand, I'm REALLY glad that we didn't spend all that time and money stressing about the stuff they do nowadays.!!!

  3. In hindsight, I agree with your last paragraph. My advice to parents just facing the college search/application process now would be to give your kids some assistance where needed, but leave as much up to them as possible.