Decisions, Decisions: It’s College Decision Time


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With the May 1 deadline looming for many families ( and mine) in regards to making the initial deposit at the school that their senior will attend, I find myself revisiting a couple of opinions I have read on the subject of choosing a college. The most recent is a piece by William Stixrud, titled  It’s Time to Tell Your Kids It Doesn’t Matter Where They Go To College, that appeared in Time back in March.  My key take away from Stixrud’s piece is the following:

“Children are much more energized when they envision a future that is in line with their own values than when they dutifully do whatever they believe they have to do to live up to their parents’ or teachers’ or college admissions boards’ expectations. We don’t inspire our kids through fear. We inspire them by helping them to focus on getting better at something, rather than being the best, and by encouraging them to immerse themselves in something they love.”

The point here is that immersion into an area of study can be accomplished at many universities and not just the most well-known or expensive schools.  Stixrud also cites Pew Research that reinforces the point that an elite private university will not ensure higher income or job satisfaction.

Stixrud’s article is in line with many of the points made by Frank Bruni in his book Where You Go Is Not Who’ll You BeI wrote about this book a few years back when my oldest child was going through the college application process.  My biggest takeaways from the Bruni’s book are the following excerpts:

“You’re going to get into a college that’s more than able to provide a superb education to anyone who insists on one and who takes firm charge of his or her time there.”

“It’s not where you went to school. It’s how hard you work.”

As the clock ticks on towards the imminent decision for my child, I am going to rework the following letter from Bruni’s book. It sums up my feelings perfectly and the pride I feel for what my daughter has accomplished thus far. It is so much easier to have perspective some 30-plus years after making this type of decision.  The journey is just beginning for her…

Dear Matt,

On the night before you receive your first college response, we wanted to let you know that we could not be any prouder of you than we are today. Whether or not you get accepted does not determine how proud we are of everything you have accomplished and the wonderful person you have become. That will not change based on what admissions officers decide about your future. We will celebrate with joy wherever you get accepted—and the happier you are with those responses, the happier we will be. But your worth as a person, a student and our son is not diminished or influenced in the least by what these colleges have decided.

 If it does not go your way, you’ll take a different route to get where you want. There is not a single college in this country that would not be lucky to have you, and you are capable of succeeding at any of them. We love you as deep as the ocean, as high as the sky, all the way around the world and back again—and to wherever you are headed.

Mom and Dad

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