The Beginning: Deciding What To Do About Our Kids’ College

college or not?
Ivy-covered towers? Maybe not in my kids’ futures. Source: Publicdomainpictures.net

Today, Aimee and I were talking on the phone about college. It’s constantly on my mind these days having two high schoolers. Gulp. As I said in a previous post, my husband and I have a plan–and as we know, the best laid plans…well, I don’t remember the exact quote, but here’s our hope: our kids start out at a community college, then go from there whether it’s a transfer to a four-year college or job and college part-. It’ll be up to them. It’s not always a matter of cost. It’s a matter of practicality because we have recently seen too many overwhelmed kids go to four year colleges to either drop out (or worse) or graduate without a clue about how to handle their future.

So, with all that said, I’m going to start somewhat of a diary of our journey towards the college years. I don’t know how often I’ll post, or how long the posts will be. But my intention is to help other readers/parents realize they are NOT alone. In fact, Aimee told me about a neighbor who has the same plans for her kids: two-years at a community college then go from there. Seems to be a popular option these days.

…except for a mom I know who wants her kid to go to a full-blown college for the “full experience.” Hmmm. Full experience meaning frat parties? Living on a large campus? What is the full experience of going to college? I asked myself that same question years ago when I was attending The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. I wanted to transfer to a college in upstate New York because I thought I was missing out on something that I wasn’t getting from my urban experience. I remember I wanted to go to Brockport College because I heard it was fun–read between the lines–a partying school. I have no idea if it is or is not a partying school because I never did transfer (can’t remember why not). But at 50+, I absolutely do not feel like I missed out on any sort of full experience at college. In fact, I had some pretty amazing and full experiences at F.I.T. and N.Y.U. which I did eventually transfer to for a B.A. degree.

But I digress….

My kids. I have to say they were never huge fans of school. They hate tests (who doesn’t?), they don’t understand why they have to learn what they are learning (I felt the same about history back in school, and now I love history), well, the complaints go on and on. Their intelligence doesn’t revolve around academic smarts, but boy are they sharp and smart in so many other and more important ways.

Do I feel like they will embrace a four-year college “experience”? Hell no. But my son is getting sucked into that “talk” because he hears other kids parroting their parents. My daughter, thankfully, knows herself well enough to know a four -year college is probably not for her, even though she feels the pressure from others–from her well-meaning older cousin to teachers and even an ex-boyfriend who tried to sway her goals. She has gone between wanting to be a hair stylist to now wanting to be some sort of therapist (uh-oh, we explained how much schooling that takes!), so the discussions have definitely begun.

And, in fact, I vaguely know that sophomores can take a PSAT. The date has come and gone. I have no idea if I need to get an exemption for that, is it mandatory, is it not? I haven’t heard from our guidance counselor on this issue, I’ve actively avoided it this year.

My kids both have lots of interests, so the future of where they will go for what degree/certificate/experience is still fuzzy and in the formulate stage. In my downtime I have researched the following….because I love to research and because I’m terrified of what’s to come:

  • community college ranks (collegemeasures.org) to figure out dropout factories (and Connecticut does not fare well here)
  • local hair styling and beauty schools and  tuition (wow, big $$$)
  • talked to my hair dressers about their journeys into hair styling
  • then looked into community colleges for routes towards mental health degrees/certificates
  • and now am frantically trying to figure out whether or not to get an SAT exemption for my kids — they don’t want to take them but not sure if they can take them after they graduate high school
  • also looked into what colleges around the East Coast don’t require SAT scores
  • and scholarship websites (like scholarships.com)
  • then read this CNN article, “How Does Your Community College Stack Up?” and felt my stomach turn (related to community college ranks above)
  • and read this article (one of many I’ve read, but want to share: “Take It From Us: Community College vs University,” Brass Magazine online

All of this is already starting to drive me insane. I don’t want to talk to friends about their plans for their kids. I just do not want to hear the bullsh*t. A couple of my friends are in a similar boat or feel pressured and don’t know which way to turn. It’s the people I’m not good friends with that I’m avoiding because I just can’t bear hearing about PSATs, SATs, college tours, college this, college that, AP classes (ugh!), summer college credit courses, college coaches (!), etc. I may loose my cookies in their presence if I have to listen to it all. Luckily I live on the down-to-earth side of my town.

So, if you are interested and on this journey yourself, please tune in for some camaraderie and commiseration, some insight, some resources, some decisions, some anecdotes and just witness how this all unfolds. Just know. You. Are. Not. Alone.

~Marilyn, TFF

Comment Rules: This is a personal blog with individual views of the author, with the common theme of living frugally. Even if you disagree with a post, please keep all comments respectful, and please join in on the conversation! Thanks! TFF

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