Thursday, June 15, 2017

College-Bound

 This little one is no longer little. She's nearly 18, and this week she's gone off to her university for Orientation. In a matter of weeks, she'll be gone for those interesting, magical, transformative four years that we call college.
 This isn't really a post about Julia, although I'd love to do one, but she'd hate that. Still, I'll just post photos of her :)
What's on my mind is this whole complicated concept of college. Why do we do it? Why do our children do it?
 My father was the first person in my family who went to college. None of my grandparents did. My mother would've flourished at college, but her first exposure to the setting was after she married; my dad was attending Ohio University on the G.I. Bill, and she got a secretarial job in the university English Department. She loved it. I can tell by conversations with her that she loved the setting, she loved the academics, she loved the professors. She would've loved to take classes, write papers, read (and read and read, which she's always done anyway). My mother's a learner. But before she knew it she was pregnant with Baby #1, followed in very rapid succession by Babies #2-5.

Julia and the boy cousins
My brothers and I grew up in a home where college was expected of us. These days, some say, "Well, it was easier back then; college was cheaper." And it was. But it was not easy for our family! There were five kids, and my dad, although always a very hard worker, served in Christian ministry. He didn't make enough money to "send his kids to college" and foot the bill. My brothers got their high school education at an inner-city school in Jackson, Mississippi, not a swanky college-prep academy. We were expected to get scholarships and grants. We are a smart bunch, an intelligent family. Expectations were high, not for prestige or privilege, but for sheer intellect. We were expected to be brainy, independent kids.
 My oldest brother attended a state university for his degree. I think we didn't really know what other path to take; even most of the Christian kids we knew were going to either Ole Miss or Miss. State, so this seemed normal.
But our family had also been involved with a Christian family camp in Georgia for decades -- Camp Westminster. The second boy in the family attended that camp the summer after high school, and it altered his life course significantly. It altered all our life courses significantly. In fact, you could say that my son Philip would not be married to his lovely bride Kara if my brother Mark had not worked at Camp Westminster that summer.
 Some friends he met there were attending Covenant College that fall, a small Presbyterian college just a few hours north on Lookout Mountain. Mark had no other set plans, as I recall. (I don't recall much; I was 12 years old.) He went to Covenant. Then the rest of us followed him there. My four years atop the mountain reached mythic proportions for me. So when I presented my oldest child with college options, Covenant was at the top of the list. (I just dug back into old blog posts about Philip's last days at home before departing for college. It feels like a lifetime ago. I struggled to let loose of my first born.)
 Now Adam and I are rather old hands at this college thing. He and I went to college, and we both got graduate degrees. In this way, we exceeded our parents academically. However, we have not been more successful than they, financially. College degrees don't automatically produce wealth. Still ... one does not want one's children to have less education, or worse education, than oneself. So Adam and I have steadily encouraged our children to go to college -- in spite of the cost, the debt, the time, the risks, the distance, the travel, the worry.
I know lots of families whose kids won't go to college. It's simply not the norm in those families, and those kids will do fine. They will go into the military, or they'll get a certification or a 2-year degree at a community college, or they'll do vo-tech work and find good jobs. College is not the magic bullet. Kids finish a 4-year degree at a residential university with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. So why-in-the-world have we still encouraged our kids to do it?
1. Philip and Peter met their spouses at the colleges they attended.
2. Anna would not be in Japan in the adventure of a lifetime, if she hadn't gone to her college.
3. Kids separate from their parents and mature at college, at least many do. Ours did. Since all our kids have been desperate to get away from us well before high school graduation, I'm glad to send them to campuses where there are rules, oversight, accountability.
4. College is work. It's not a 9-5 job, but it's still a lot of work and responsibility. It's a good transition for a teen when you want him to understand that he must begin to be responsible for himself, but that his time of learning is not over. In fact, if you want your children to continue to be life-long learners, attending school until they're 22 or 23 helps. If they close the book on learning as 17 year olds, they're more likely to think that "education is over." That's a generalization; some people are self-taught, and are that way no matter what they do.
5. For many people, a college degree still means a better job, or better pay.

College is still, in 2017, a wonderful experience for many kids. It takes courage for a young person and his family to embark on college admission, especially if it's not in their family history. Isn't it amazing to see a family send that first child off to college -- the first one in that family ever to go? Dozens of obstacles and hoops stretch before you. But you're giving your child a gift. As homeschooling parents, the immense effort we've put into Julia's transfer to university is part of our commitment to her education, and I know she knows that, she feels that, she absorbs that and takes it as her own.

2 comments:

  1. Such a beautiful post. It sounds like with the role models your daughter has had that she will do wonderfully. Blessings.

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  2. Wow college already - She's certainly grown into a lovely young woman and I wish her much success in College. I' on the fence about college. I just attend 2 years at a Community College and then never finished but I don't think I missed out on anything. Life itself is a learning experience and it's what you put into it that counts. Education like you said is not for everyone but just because you don't attned college doesn't mean you can't still make something of your life and be successful. I enjoyed your thoughts very much on the subject.

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