- October 13, 2014
- Posted by: Sharon Greenthal
- Category: parenting
College was never a question for my husband or me when we were growing up. It was assumed in both of our families that we would go to college, and fortunately, both of us fulfilled this expectation – with my husband going on to get his MBA. When our children were very young we began talking to them about college in much the same way. Not only did we expect them to go to college, but we encouraged them to go far enough away from home that it wouldn’t be easy to come back and get their laundry done or have a home-cooked meal on the weekends.
Of course, we were overly-eager about the college process with our oldest child, taking her to see schools in whatever city we happened to be visiting, starting when she was in middle school – Berkeley, Washington DC, San Diego, New York City, and one cold winter break, Boston. Our son, 2 years younger, came along too. We bought SAT and ACT study books when she was starting her sophomore year in high school, anxious to get her started on her standardized test preparation as soon as possible. We helped her plot out her academic path with precision and care, debating the merits of AP classes and choosing a schedule that would challenge her, yet allow her to excel. We encouraged her participation in extracurricular activities, not just because it would look good on her applications, but because it made her happy to be part of the show choir and student government.
During her senior year, after her applications had been submitted, we took her to visit some of the schools she had applied to. She toured the University of Southern California, Miami University of Ohio (her father’s alma mater), Indiana University, University of Maryland, and the University of Michigan. Her grades and ACT scores put her in a gray area – not quite good enough to be certain of any top tier schools, but far too good to be concerned that she would only have safety schools to choose from. As the earliest acceptance letters began to arrive – Indiana was first, then the University of Connecticut, then San Diego State University (my alma mater) Honors Program, then UC Irvine – it became clear that she would be Indiana bound in the fall of 2008 unless one of her top picks came through. We knew USC was a long shot, especially since there were a number of students in her high school class who not only were academically qualified but had parents on the faculty. Michigan also was a big reach for her. We knew UCLA and Berkeley were sure to be declines, with nearly 60,000 applicants at each school. Boston University’s School of Communications was notoriously hard to get into, so we weren’t holding our breath for that, either.
All along her top choice had been USC, where her father had gotten his MBA. She had grown up cheering on the Trojan football team alongside him. Though it was where she believed she would be happiest, the rejection letter from USC is one of the best things that ever happened to her. Had she been admitted there, she would have lived just 45 minutes from home, and would have gone to school with many people who grew up in Southern California – both of which, as far as her father and I were concerned, would have been less than ideal.
My daughter was thrilled to be accepted to the Boston University College of Communications, which was the perfect place for her. By going to school across the country she was able to develop a sense of independence that, in her case, I believe she never would have if she had attended school close to home. Though she thought she would miss rooting for a football team, she found a passion for the Boston Unversity Terriers hockey team to take its place – and could continue to root for USC without any feeling of disloyalty. She loved living in Boston, a city filled with college students, culture, great restaurants and an environment completely different from Southern California, where she returned after graduation. She found her passion – public relations – and had the opportunity to do internships and take classes that ultimately led her to a career that she absolutely loves.
We never guessed, that snowy December day when she was a high school sophomore, as we walked on Commonwealth Avenue and took in the urban campus of BU, that she would someday be a student there. It’s said that everyone winds up at the school where they belong, and though I’m not sure that’s always true, for my daughter it definitely was the case.