The New York Times ran a provocative (well, it provoked me) article the other day on independent, super-expensive college counselors. Fees ran a high as $40,000.
It wasn’t the cost that provoked me: it’s the fact that adults turn to a professional for one of parentings’ last and most satisfying adventures. Just when you think your teenager doesn’t need or especially like you anymore, there’s decisions to be made, together. Where and how and why go to college? Country or city? Big or small? Close to home or a plane ride away?
Make no mistake: it’s an undertaking. Time, money, energy, emotion. Our son was invested — intellectually. Getting forms, essays, portfolios out the door was another matter: I recall a particularly expensive overnight package.
We took him to different parts of the country to look at schools, each in our own way. (“Mom,” my son teased, “Dad would have had us in and out of four schools by this time of the day.”)
I was put off by the brutalist architecture and strip-mall surroundings of a certain storied institution in Rochester. (Our son, rightly so, focused on what he’d learn: he loved it!) Similarly, my Dartmouth grad husband fell in love with Bard College and its way of educating students. Our son wouldn’t even apply: too broad an education, too bucolic.
I took him to Pasadena, where he’s now a student at Arts Center College of Design. Again, the campus, that part of the country: not for me. But what a place for him! A great school that would allow him to study photography from his first year on.
Sure, some questioned his narrow choice. Others wondered if a photographer should go to college. After all, it’s a craft.
Was it tense? Of course. But memorable, and sweet: when college letters arrived during school hours, my husband would hold the envelope up to the light, straining to see what it said inside.
In the end, our son went four for four. He got in everywhere he applied.
Our second child begins the college process this fall. Am I nervous? For him, a little. But what a great adventure. You’d have to pay me to hand it off.