Tuesday, June 5, 2012

“You are going to college!”

I heard a father telling that to his daughter on a Gerber Life Insurance commercial, and I thought that used to be me.   But over the years I have made a 180° or 360°, as some people would say.  And it’s not that I think my children aren’t college material; they definitely are.  I just think that college is not for everyone.  And not everyone wants to go to college right after high school.  And it’s not because I’m some right- wing nut job like Rick ‘What a snob’ Santorum, either.  It’s just that I am aware that I cannot live my children’s lives.  Give guidance? Yes.  Give advice?  Yes. Give enough information for them to make good choices?  Yes.  Run their lives? No!  Plus I am busy enough trying and erring with mine to add theirs to my schedule.  They have to know what will make them happy.  It might not always make me the happiest, but I’m sure there have been times when my decisions did not always put smiles on their faces either.

So far, they have been encouraged to go to college.  I think a college degree is the best shot to financial independence, [second to winning the lottery (you know I am joking, right)], but if in six to eight years when they are done with high school, and their minds have changed, considering that they have real concrete plans, I’m cool with that.  As long as they know that I’m not supporting them forever, and they have reasonable, legal and moral resources to take care of themselves, no harm. 

Then there is the economy.  One has to be real prudent about college.  It’s not like yesteryear where kids just went to any college after school or studied anything just to say they have a college degree.  With college tuition costing more than most mortgages, with college graduates remaining unemployed while stuck with college debt, one cannot be Willy Nilly about college anymore.

I believe if a child wants to go to college, she better have a good idea by age 16 what she wants to study.  I don’t think it is wise to be at your high school graduation thinking that you are going to major in Liberal Arts until you figure out what you want to do or saying that you are going to take all your core credits and then pick something.  And yes I’m aware that a certain individual followed that path and is now President of the United States, but the last time I checked only 44 people made that gang in all of 236 years. 

And I certainly don’t what to hear that you are going to major in English unless you expect to be become a professor or a teacher.  Granted you might not know what kind of medicine you want to specialize in, at least know that you want to be a doctor.  You might not know what kind of law you want to pursue, at least know that you want to become a lawyer.  You might not know what kind of engineer you want to be, at least know that you want to major in Engineering.

If you graduated with a degree in Journalism, please do not apply to banks for employment.  My God, follow through and not make it up as you go along.  And I’m not forcing a musician to study law or medicine because it sounds good on paper or to my friends.   There is too much is at stake right now.  Too much money, too much debt, too much unemployment, too much competition!

So don’t forget to do your research:  What kind of jobs will be in demand after four years?  What kind of job do you want to do for the rest of your life?  Will your passion equal what is in demand?  How much debt should you take on?  Would you be able to pay off the debt from the job that you intend to pursue?

I have 11 year old twins, and in an effort not to label them I will not say that my daughter is smarter than my son; I will say that she is more focused.  Plus some people are better at academics than at athletics.  Okay, bad example here.  Currently, he wants to be a doctor, and she wants to be a chef.  He has wanted to be a doctor for the past five years, but her choices have changed over the years.  First she wanted to be a pilot, but realizing that one of her regular days on the job might not end so regularly, she changed her mind.  Changing minds at that age is fine.  No need for pressure at this stage.

Now fast-forward six years when they are done with high school and still feel the same way.  Also take into consideration that she continued to do well in math and science.  Do I force her to become a doctor?  Do I force her to become a lawyer since she is NEVER wrong and can change her rationale for any answer in a second?  Do I encourage her to leave her passion and do something that I think she could be good at?  Heck no!  I encourage her to excel at whatever she chooses to do for the rest of her life.  You want to be a chef, then be the best chef there is.  You want to study culinary arts, then apply to the best school.  With her strong skills in math, she would be able to measure her ingredients without utensils.  That will quicken the process and she will have more time for the next task.  Or if she is a great chef and owns her own French restaurant (I mean, if you are going to be a top chef, you can’t own a burger joint, right --I’m kidding, it’s her life), but, seriously, there is party scheduled for 200 people, in an instant she should know how many staff to have on hand.

But at the same token, if any of my kids happens to realize that going to college was a better option or that the chosen career path will not be a lifelong one, guess what (I must be getting mellow in my old age) I’ll actually be there to assist with the transition.  Know why?  Life changes.  People's minds change.  Circumstances change.  

Perspectively speaking, I have one job as a mother – to make my children happy. 

PS: Good luck, Grads.......seriously, GOOD LUCK!!!

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