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Return to sender

Are there ways that people say some things that strike you as fundamentally wrong, yet the ideas they promote seem to be universally accepted? There aren't a whole lot of things that bother me like this, but there is one that gets under my skin in a strange way every time I hear it said.

It's the idea of parents "sending their kids to college."

Parents send their kids to daycare. They send their kids to preschool. They send them to soccer practice. They send them to summer camp or to Grandma's house.

But they should not be "sending" them to college.

I fully understand that parental support, especially financially, is often a vital part of being in college. Many parents bear the financial burden of their children's higher educations. But I'm not talking about who is paying here - I'm talking about who is owning the college choice and experience.

I hear a lot of talk that sometimes goes like this: "I would never send my child to [fill in the blank] school." "Parents should be sending their children to [wherever] because of [whatever]." "If parents are going to send their children here we have to [something or other]."

Let me get my position straight here: college is not a place for children to be sent by parents. College is an experience that will only be beneficial if it is completely owned by the student as a life experience that he or she has chosen him or herself. A student should be condfidently saying nothing other than "I chose to go to Kansas State/OU/Harding/Purdue/UCLA/Wherever because [fill in the blank]." Parents should never predetermine a college choice. I cannot count the number of students I have known who have been set up for failure because their college life -- sometimes not only the institution but the major as well -- has been predetermined by at least one parent. I have seen students sobbing because their lives are miserable but they dread changing anything because of the potential negative reaction from a parent who had carefully laid out their entire plan.

I am not saying that going to college should be a "hands off" process for parents. I am very thankful to my parents for supporting the process for me in many significant ways and helping me make the best decision. But I am also thankful that they allowed me the freedoms to pursue many options and make my own choices based on my own criteria. They identified many opportunities and encouraged me to action in ways that I probably wouldn't have on my own. This is a good thing. But I did not become a student at the University of Oklahoma because my parents "sent" me there. I chose it. I owned the decision. I had no one to blame/credit for my presence there but myself. I went on college visits with my parents initially but only once to each place in which I was interested. After that it was up to me to go myself and ask my own questions and find my own way around. For this I am very grateful. This allowed me experiences at every college I considered that I would never have had with my parents by my side. These experiences figured prominently in my ultimate decision making.

I want to do the same for my children. Everyone knows that I am now a Sooner for life. I'm also a proponent of the state school experience for Christians. But I am committed to helping my children explore every option that they want to explore -- state schools, Christian schools, trade schools.... even no school. College is not right for everyone. I'd have to swallow a lot of pride but I suppose I could grit my teeth and even let my children enroll at University of Texas should somehow that be the right thing for them. Not sure why anyone would do that but I don't claim to know everything.

The point is, I don't intend to "send" my children anywhere when it comes to the college years. I will stand behind them as they "take" themselves. I will help them. I will support them. I'll drag all of their junk up ten flights of stairs to move into a cracker box. But it will be after they have made the choice for themselves to be there. I will hope and pray - starting even now - that they do the right things and make the right choices. But I hope that I will have instilled in them enough faith and confidence in themselves by that point that it is not a worry.

So, to all parents everywhere, trust your new college students enough to treat them as adults with their own abilities to run their lives. Your "sending" of them anywhere should stop long before college is even an issue. Trust is much more effective than control.


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Blogger Mandy - 12:38 PM

Interesting. Though, in my parents case, they would absolutely say they "sent" me to college. But they didn't choose where. They probably could've cared less. It was simply a matter of getting me the heck out of their hair. =)    



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