My sister’s son got another acceptance letter this week. Like me, she has two children. Like me, it appears that both of her children will be traveling a distance away from their home to go to school. Other parents I know are also waiting to see what their own next year is going to look like. While some are eager for their kids to make the decision that will leave them close or still at home, others are nervous but excited for their kids to stake out new locales. I understand both sides, but I am definitely more in the camp cheering for going a distance away to college. That being said, I don’t think that moving away to go to school means forever. I just think that it means a different kind of opportunity to live, learn and grow.
While it has been 35 years since my own senior year of high school, my college choice and what it all meant is still very clear. Among the things that I knew back then, was that college would be my first step to get out of my small town. Once out of it, I wouldn’t move back. That turned out to be true, but there were many things that Ms. Know-it-all eighteen year old turned out to be wrong about.
The “where?” to go to college decision was much more limited than what my own kids went through. Unlike them, I did not have guidance counselors and advisors continually encouraging me to expand my world view. At some points in my decision-making, I thought about applying to schools in Boston, Pennsylvania and Canada. When I received a New York State Regents scholarship that was only good for a New York State school, however, figured that it would be foolish for me to not take advantage of that windfall. It turned out that it wasn’t much of a windfall. If I recall correctly, it was $500 per year. For the school that I ended up going to, that did not make much of a difference. No one really explained those economics to me, and I didn’t spend much time with the bottom line.
But, a New York State school it was. My choice was about 6 hours away from my home. I don’t know if it was the perfect choice for me, but it met the geographical criteria. There was a time during my freshman year that I thought I might change schools. I wanted to be someplace bigger with more academic choices. That angst came after my plan to be a doctor hit the skids. I didn’t like the pre-med world. I didn’t want to tie myself to the intense lifestyle that I saw that medicine would be.
But things settled down. I decided what I wanted to do and how I could do it at the school I was at. I had my group of really close friends who became very much a family to me. I was in love and being with him made where I was a good choice. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked and I got through difficult times with the resources that I had. I had tons of amazingly fun times with the people around me. I learned how to learn and I grew up.
By the time I graduated, I was both going to school and working much more than part time. I am naturally a hard worker, but I really do think that if I had been close to home and able to rely on my family more, I would not have learned as much, grown up as much, or even enjoyed as much as I did by being off on my own.
After I graduated, I moved half way across the country. I have lived in the Midwest ever since. I have missed my hometown at some times more than others. Now that my parents are both gone, there are few roots left there. If I had ever wanted to go back there, it would have been fine and my family would have welcomed it. It just never seemed like a good choice.
My own children made their own decisions to go away to school. They too ended up not coming back after they graduated. But they might at some point. We are all a series of choices.