For those of you who are waiting to receive decision letters and have been through the rigors of applying, January is the time that college decisions get made.
What factors into these decisions? In this day and age, families that can afford it have hired a college consultant to walk their adolescent through the process of reviewing colleges, writing essays, ranking their admission chances, and completing the applications. These teens have been through multiple rounds of test-taking using one of the standard tests that colleges trust to help them select their incoming class. The tension is high in these households even if all looks smooth on the surface. So many factors go into this decision and into the next phase of a child’s life.
I have had many opportunities to see this play out in families. And I remember my own stress as a parent during this time. Launching a child into the “outer” world is just as difficult as launching a rocket into space. Years of preparation have gone into this moment. Some parents are thinking about this day when they send their child to kindergarten. Some had not thought about it until the high school counselor sent home some forms. Many have been setting money aside in some form; a state savings plan designated for higher education, an investment account that they nurture in the evenings as they watch the market fluctuate, a drawer where they squirrel away cash. Some have not faced the reality of this expense and find themselves either panicking or grieving.
This next phase of life is stressful all around.
There is a good reason that it is called “college-bound”. Someone in this child’s life is bound to pay the price. Recently, the government will be covering millions of college loans with a debt forgiveness plan. The taxpayer is bound to feel the consequence of that in some way. The student is bound to show up for class and give their best effort, though the temptation of freedom, Greek life, new relationships, new places, and the opportunity to make decisions with no immediate oversight are truly tempting. This freshman year catches many of these teens off guard. Some wash out early. Some struggle to make it past their first year and take their new insights seriously.
College is a right of passage in our culture. Those who choose to take this path forward will be challenged intellectually but more importantly, they will be challenged emotionally and socially to discover who they are and who they want to be separate from their family or origin.