Elizabeth Egan’s op-ed, “Stop Asking About My Kid’s College Plans,” was one of those heart-stopping moments of ugh/aha for me. After I read it, I wanted to tell Egan I was sorry, that I hadn’t realized I was doing it. But then I had an aha — I needed to apologize to my daughter, not Egan.
Egan’s opinion piece made me groan because just last week, at dinner with my almost sixteen year old, in a conversation vacuum, I suggested we write down a list of the schools she might want to visit. We were on a week-long trip and had eaten many a meal together without discussing her thoughts on college, and we would have continued to not talk about it had I not brought the subject up. But ugh, I did.
She is plenty aware that college is around the corner. With eight older cousins, five of whom are currently in college, it’s got to be on her mind a lot of the time, even if she doesn’t raise the topic with me.
Our list-making was pretty silly. She has no idea what college she wants to go to or why. And actually, I don’t either. She doesn’t know yet what she’s really interested in studying when she’s older. She’s taking a number of courses that are making her smarter and more skilled, but none of them are the reason she gets up in the morning. She likes them all pretty much equally, and while that may not make her “pointy,” it does make her great to talk to and be with.
Which of course, in addition to gaining skills for future jobs, is the point of education, and its pursuit. This week, as high school seniors find out whether they have a place at some of the schools on their lists, it’s good to remember what the purpose of college really is – a chance to study more, deeper, different, better. Remembering that will help students and their parents to feel happy about any opportunity, not which.