By May 1st most high school seniors have had to make their college choice—a choice that is complex. While every family makes the decision differently, here’s our family’s story.
Many of you may know that I have three kids: one just finished grad school at Clark University, the next is finishing his remote sophomore year at the University of Rhode Island, and our youngest is finishing his junior year at Natick high school. With my wife Katie and I graduating from Holy Cross and Boston University, respectively, we thought our kids would follow the same path of selecting a well-known school. However, a lot has changed in the 35 years since we went to college.
College: The journey to adulthood
To us, deciding on a college is as much about finding a good academic fit as it is about finding a good social and environmental fit. After all, college is where many people make lifelong friends and begin to explore careers that hopefully will be meaningful to them. The people you meet in college—classmates, professors and coaches—can have a significant impact on where your son or daughter goes from there.
No two kids are the same
Every family seems to take a different approach with the college selection process. When our daughter was trying to decide between Connecticut College and Clark University, we encouraged her to choose a school with more diversity of the student body. While Connecticut College is a great school, it is not very diverse. The other deciding factor was financial aid. While she did not qualify for need-based aid, her academic record was solid and that helped her get an institutional scholarship. Looking back on her time there she has said to me several times that Clark was the better choice for her. Who knew?
My son Reid has been an avid reader and interested in writing since middle school. He is interested in dystopian worlds and other fictional settings. Writers, in my opinion, are kind of a quirky lot. They don’t always fit into the neat academic boxes that universities have for creative writing and, I don’t think he will be any exception. His writing has recently taken a turn towards politics--he has attended several rallies and posed for selfies with Senator Ed Markey. (If you know of a good journalism internship for this summer, please let me or him know!) He seems to be finding his voice in many of causes that have surfaced over the past year. We will see where this leads.
While his older sister applied to about a dozen schools, he was less interested in a broad approach. During our first visit to URI, it was a raining day and he could not wait to get out of there. We left a little early. But later in the process, the bigness of URI became more appealing and the Harrington School of Communications and Media and a journalism program, in which he is now enrolled. (It was a beautiful day for the second campus visit.) Will he be a journalist, speech writer, political commentator, or fiction writer? It is hard to say but if I had to guess, I think he’ll be all of the above. It is weird for me to think about him being a writer because I was a financial writer and editor for many years before becoming a Certified Financial Planner. Following in dad’s footsteps?—Not exactly.
My youngest, Kendall, is just starting to think about colleges but mostly in terms of which schools have a good men’s volleyball program. His skills have been improving significantly over the last few years and now is a starting hitter on his high school team. For about the last 20 years I’ve been bringing a volleyball net to our Wells Beach, Maine vacation. From a young age Kendall has been out there making wild hits on the beach or shagging balls for his older cousins. I think the seed was planted then. We’ll see where this takes him. For now, we are excited to be proud parents and cheering spectators at every game we can attend.
Give them the space they need to grow
The college journey is different for every child but the objective is usually the same: finding the right school that helps your son or daughter grow into a responsible adult with skills and a career interest to last the rest of their life. While not every student finds a direct path to their favorite vocation, choosing the right environment can be a big help to a lifetime of happiness.
If you have questions about choosing the right college, give me a call. I’m here to help.
Lyman H. Jackson
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