Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Slice of Life Challenge

Lingering at the kitchen table after dinner, talking. There are only three of us -- our oldest daughter is at college now. Discussing in what colleges our youngest daughter, C, a junior, might be interested.

"So, C, what are you looking for in your college -- what's important to you?"
"I don't know -- I guess I want a college that has fun football and basketball teams to follow."
Laughter from my husband and me.
"That would be great to find a school like that, but what else do you want? Different colleges have stronger programs in certain areas than others. Could you give us a ballpark idea what you might be interested in? "
"I don't know. I mean, how am I supposed to know what I'm supposed to do with my life? I'm only seventeen, and still in high school. I don't even know what jobs are available. How can I choose what I don't know?"

More reassuring words from my husband and me. Talking about some of the colleges she's mentioned before, and what specifically she liked about those schools in more depth. Discussing where her friends are looking, and why. Sharing information about some "broad" majors she could possibly start with, and narrow her focus later. Organizing a trip next week to visit my alma mater (it's not on her list anymore, but it will be a good practice run). C actually generating some names of other colleges she'd been considering. Planning a few trips to colleges this summer. Fabulous conversation.

But then, after all that...
"What if I'm NOT one of those people who visit a college and just 'know' that it's the right one for them? Like K (her older sister) knew right away that DU was the perfect school for her. My friends have visited schools, and some of them already have found the one they love. What if I'm the one who never finds the school that feels 'right'? What if I choose a college, go there, and hate it?"

What I realized in that split second is that for all her bravado and her know-it-all attitude, when it comes to this subject, she feels insecure. Insecure about visiting the different colleges, insecure about finding the college that feels right for her, and insecure about knowing what she's going to be when she grows up. Insecure about all things that come after her high school years.

Note to self: remember this conversation in the next 12 months, and be cognizant of her feelings of uncertainty as she embarks upon this journey into higher education.

For other "Slices of Life", visit Two Writing Teachers.


  1. Karen,
    I think you had an important conversation with your daughter. One that you will remember often. Makes me wonder. Feels like it's harder now than when I was getting ready for college. In the late 60's the college campus was a metaphor for the rest of the world. Now?

  2. What an exciting and nerve-wracking time. I remember going through the same thing, and ended up only applying to one school. LOL. Everyone else had applied to 15 or 20 different schools and I felt like there was something wrong with me...

  3. It probably won't help, but you can tell her your Slice friend Kevin went through four different majors over four years before figuring out what he thought he wanted to do, and then switched careers anyway.
    No one path is true.

  4. Great slice of life...gave me something to think oldest starts high school next year...he has always since very little wanted to be an eye doctor...he still does...he is taking a "science" track in HS...but...I wonder if he has even thougt about college goals!!! Something to ponder over for sure!
    Happy Tuesday :)

  5. When all is said and done, our kids make good decisions about school. I remember gently pressuring (is that an oxymoron?) my oldest to start thinking about where to apply. It was summer pre-senior year and there were no inklings. It caused some friction. Our timelines were different. I let go and decided it was fine if she went to community college, took a year to work or? It was quite freeing, I think for both of us. She got it all done,on time and she couldn't be happier at her college of choice in New England. Me either.

  6. LOVE this story! Maybe because I am at the same stage you are--As a parent, I am totally insecure about all of this college stuff. I think we want them to make the right decision as much as they do. It is all so fun and yet so scary for them.
    Love this story! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Bonnie and Nancy - the conversation did feel important, but I agree there is a lot more stress with the whole college search these days. I don't know why that is. Did our parents worry this much about us finding the right fit?

    Kevin - I'm glad there hasn't been one true path for you, because that allowed you to get to where you are today! I love that you're my Slice friend!

    Blink - what a healthy attitude you had about this whole college search. I envy your ability to let go of the timelines. I think there is a lesson for me to be learned in there somewhere...

    Franki - I'm sure we'll compare notes and have many talks in the next year about the transitions we'll be going through as our girls start their journeys to college. Yikes!!! This is when it helps to have friends!

    Marie - I'm so impressed with people who have family members that actually enjoy and do well in science. That is not a gene I have, nor one I've been able to pass on to my daughters!

  8. A few weeks ago I brought my son to a college visitation. He said, "This is it. This is my college." He went home, filled out the application!" I was so relieved. AND HAD PRICE TAG STICKER SHOCK! We raise them, then they make huge decisions by themselves! Good luck to your child (and you).