That College Scandal

When I applied to college, I didn’t really understand it was a matter of them choosing me. I thought I chose them. I remember being in awe of my friends who paid the exorbitant $25 application fee to several schools. I decided UNC-CH would be my “winner”, filled in my application… hand, got a check for $25 from my parents for UNC Admissions, sent it in and waited for my acceptance. Not anxiously…..because like I said….I had no clue they could turn me down.

And I did receive that acceptance…..pretty quickly. Before some friends who had applied “early decision.” Once again, I hadn’t. It seemed really binding and as this was really my decision, it was as though they were unnecessarily forcing me into a marriage. Because what if I changed my mind? (Not that I planned to pay another application fee.) Remember I don’t like people telling me what to do.

I remember I received the acceptance before the early decision friends because at least one got mad at me because I was accepted before they were. I didn’t understand their problem. Why did it matter when you got the letter? We were all getting in.

And then some friends did not get in, and my innocence waned. Soon I was on pins and needles for my friends, and I understood why people applied to multiple colleges. I understood why they went early decision when they knew that was where they wanted to go. And I finally understood how fortunate I was……Carolina certainly does turn people down. A lot of them.

I remember very little about the application. It was long. I filled it out myself. In ink. My parents didn’t help, and I don’t think they even read it before I sent it in. I’m sure the thought was that I was applying, and therefore it needed to be my work. And I probably didn’t want to hear that I should have been more careful with my handwriting.

But as tough as I now know it was for students to get in college then, it has gotten far crazier since then. I helped both my niece and my goddaughter with their applications to UNC (and incidentally both got in, though my goddaughter chose another school.) The application process is easier in many ways than it was when I was applying…..the common app helps so much when applying to multiple schools. But then there are the many extra questions, which varied by school, and out of control. Wish I could remember them now. One of Maggie’s was “Who is your most favorite and least favorite superhero and why?” From my memory, my two or three questions were all related to why I wanted to go to Carolina and why I was qualified to be a student there. I’m sure the superhero question got a far better quality of student. Progress. (Yes, I am being sarcastic.)

Note that while I did help my niece and goddaughter (and a few others) with college applications. I will say it was grueling for them and I made them come up with their own answers. But I was like Chuck Barris and kept pulling out the gong when their answers didn’t cut it. I kept saying “No, no, no!”, “The people reviewing these are probably going to be people my age”, and “Read what they say they are looking for and tell me how that answer will sway them.” They hated me for a time during the process….this I know. But it was a necessary time of torture. I suspect some parents are outright writing their kids applications for them…..but Aunt Kim felt like it needed to be their work. With a bit of coaching.

It’s a competitive world out there for college these days. When I took the SAF, I did not study for it beforehand. It didn’t occur to me you could. Taking it even once was horrendous for someone like me who has a short attention span. And it was a Saturday morning! The first hour I was good. The second my attention was sketchy. By the third hour I was making designs down the answer sheet and not reading most of the questions. Somehow my scores were still enough and sufficient to get me in a good school. But now there are SAT prep classes and students are taking it many times. It blows my mind. And the number of schools they apply to. Phenomenal. And the application fee is more than $25. Mind blowing the money that goes into that process.

More and more students feel the need to attend colleges be successful. And a 4-year degree is not enough. Most believe they need graduate school for most careers. And yet it still doesn’t seem enough. Many still struggle to find good jobs and once they begin, the jobs take over their lives. I loved my 20s. I made some of my best friends then. We worked, but nights and weekends were ours for fun. A lot of “kids” today are working 12 hours a day. And weekends. Companies reward this. I find it insane.

But then we have my young heroes. Those who eschew convention and decide they can’t be locked up in an office. They are the vagabonds. They travel the world on a shoestring. They work to live an adventurous lifestyle. As much fun as my life has been, I have never been able to toss away convention to the degree they do. But they tempt me. I try to live vicariously through them. I closely follow the son of friends of a friend of a Facebook friend of mine. Yep, you got it. Makes me laugh too. But in a random conversation my friend started he came up with regard to my comment in this discussion. So yes….,I stalk him. (He does a vlog. He doesn’t mind.) It’s a weird world.

But a few young folks are realizing another secret we had somehow forgotten. They don’t need college. There are many, many occupations for which they just need skills and they are working towards building those. Some with parental support, some defying everything their parents wanted for them. But they are earning a good living. Not spending money on college tuition. And strategizing as to how they can build it better. They may take a class if it will teach them a new skill. But a degree? To them it is a piece of paper that doesn’t translate into cash. They aren’t wrong

So back to my original subject. These Hollywood parents. I have some sympathy for them. They have lots of things excess money can buy, and kids that are probably normal rebellious high school students who have never had to work too hard or make their own goals. I suspect these parents were desperate. Embarrassed that their kids would not do what they felt needed to be done to be a success, as they were. So they do what they can….crazy things to those of us looking in….to hopefully get them to the next step. But it blew up in their faces. As it should have. But how many other students have passed through college already in the same way? We’ll never know.I know those types were in school way back when with me.

But yet….I am glad I got into college on my own. I would have liked a guidance counselor who helped me a bit more and shown me how to apply for scholarships. I had no clue and we did not have that then. My parents sacrificed financially to send me to UNC. I still am amazed they did it. I only had one student loan for my time there, my senior year. Which took forever to pay off and taught me a great lesson. Renting money is expensive. There were no semesters abroad, no spring break trips. I worked my summers and any other time I could (though not during school my first three years.) But I was so fortunate with what I had. I always knew that. And I wanted to be there. Very much.

Did college make me a better employee? No, I don’t think so. A strong work ethic and co-workers at my first job who were great trainers did that. I already had decent basic readings writing, and math skills, which also have helped. But college did make me a better human being. I learned how to live with others….some different culturally and economically, some just brats and prima donnas. But many superstar human beings.

The world opened up to me….I was able to see history being made up close and personal and hear lectures by some of the finest and most provocative speakers around. I had professors who were celebrities in themselves….Walter Cronkite’s head writer, the former head of UNESCO, a couple of famous authors, experts in subjects far and wide. Interesting and compelling human beings. I debated issues of importance…..really debated, in real life situations and challenging and being challenged on ideas I thought to be incontestable. They weren’t. That confused and delighted me. I learned. Just not always in the classroom. These were my selfish years…..and I am so grateful.

Don’t force your children into college if they don’t want to go. There are many paths to a happy and successful life. Don’t try to make them live your dreams. Encourage them to live their passions. At the end of life, doesn’t happy and purposeful trump everything? And remind them they can always change directions. Remind you of that, too. It’s not too late. We forget that sometimes.

Yeah, I’m not a fan of lying and cheating and throwing around large sums of money to get your way. I have major issues with the entitled. Parents on a mission for the flesh of their flesh can become monsters….but I suspect they’re really caught up in a warped idea of what will make for a good life for them and feel it is their responsibility to give that to them. Misplaced love.

Love your child enough to give them wings. Teach them how to be humble and happy…,and chart their own course. Yes, they could have heartbreak ahead. But maybe God’s plan for their purpose is something glorious you never considered. Be there when they need you….but push them out of the nest and wait for them to fly. That’s the purpose for which they were designed.

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