I deal with colleges and universities and all the trends in higher education on a daily basis. It’s my job. I’m the higher education writer for The Kansas City Star. I know higher education, what it takes to get into the top schools. How important it is to do well on the ACT, participate in extra curricular activities, do some volunteer work, travel abroad for study, know a language other than English, and apply for as many scholarships as you possibly can the summer between your junior and senior years.
But I must say I’m kind of like the hairdresser with messy hair, kind of. When it comes time for my child to start the haunt for the perfect college, suddenly I feel over whelmed. At least that’s how I felt when my oldest was doing the college search thing.
But some how we manage to get it all taken care of. We skipped a few steps. But we did take him to several college fairs and scraped together enough money for him to go on a college tour along the East coast and south. That was the clincher. I think after he went on a tour he suddenly began to get serious about trying to find the right college. I think being with a bunch of other high school students his age got him motivated. He came home and it seemed that every thing he did after that was with college in mind. I think he even read a few of those how-to-get-in-to-the-perfect-college-for-you and get-a-scholarship books I’d bought for him.
A few of colleges, mostly the local state schools, sent mail to the house. He applied to University of Central Missouri, University of Missouri and North West Missouri State,. They all accepted him. He got a few community scholarships. And then he chose North West Missouri State because it was the one that gave him the most financial help and had what he needed for the career he wanted to pursue.
He has done great there. He’s a senior this year, about to graduate and I’m very proud of what he’s done. I’m not worried any more about him. He’ll do fine.
But now its time for my younger son to start thinking about where to go to college and it is a whole ‘nother ball game.
Jordan, that’s the young one, 16, took took an ACT prep course where they gave them a practice ACT to see how they would score. He got a 31. He’s a sophomore in high school. The highest possible score is a 36. The prep people sent his scores to a bunch of colleges. For the past few weeks we have been inundated with letters from colleges all over the county trying to interest him in their school. I’m talking Stanford and Drake and Duke and Missouri S&T and Loyola and a bunch of other top schools emailing and snail mailing Jordan. I’m over whelmed. He’s already heard from the Trailblazer program that has accepted him into their early college program which would allow him to come on campus for college courses so that when he graduates from high school he will also have his associate’s degree. He enrolled in that.
But this other college thing has got my head spinning. Ask Jordan what he wants to do with his life and he’ll rattle off about five different things - bio-genetics, engineering, nano-technology, movie making, creative writing… He’s good at all of them, but he can’t study all of them. If he doesn’t know what he wants to focus on, how am I suppose to help him choose a school?
We decided to put all the inquiries in a box and then go online and do the virtual tours of each of the colleges. Good thing he is only a sophomore, we have plenty of time.
But I’m thinking that the better your kid does in school and the more interest he or she generates for colleges interested in getting you tuition dollars the more difficult it is to make a choice.
High school counselors aren’t call him to talk to him about his plans. But lucky for us he has a teacher he’s had since middle school and she Cindy Berryman, knows him and is interested in his future is engaging him in conversations about college and emailing me about their discussions. Otherwise I would be lost. This college thing is no joke. You want your child to get the best deal out there and it is so complicated and different from when we were going off to school. It’s kind of like picking the best daycare center you could afford, remember the stress that conjured.
So far we haven’t made any decisions. I’m terrified about whether I can help him make the right choice. He’s not flustered at all. He takes the ACT again in February and he said he’s shooting for a perfect score. I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t worry, just let the boy do what he does and let the cards fall where they may. I should just let him choose and like the last time we did this, let him pick the school that gives him the best deal and expect that it will al turn out for the best. After all, that’s what we did with Trey and he loved the school he chose, did very well, and is well on his way to turning out just fine. And hey, after all, isn’t that all we really want for our children.? I used to say given the stats on young black men in this country-
Almost 5 out of every 100 male African-Americans are in jail, And African Americans, mostly males, accounted for 49% of all homicide victims in the US - if I could raise even one productive and successful African American male I would have done great, as a mom, an American citizen. So far I’m a winner, so are my boys and so is the country. They will do great things.