I recently heard a coworker talking about his plans for getting his kids through college. He was banking on mostly scholarships, even though neither of his kids are even average in school. He did all this math to figure out the grades needed in classes to get a certain GPA that would get scholarships.
I have never in my life done math to figure out the least I could do to make the highest GPA.
I think I did school wrong.
In fact, I know I did because that sentence I just wrote bugs me (i.e. poor grammar).
Right now, we have three kids in elementary school and I’m frightened of what will happen when they reach college age. There are plenty of non-school reasons for this, but I primarily wonder (1) What if they don’t go to college and (2) What if they all go to college? If none of them go to college, we have failed as parents. They probably won’t get good jobs. They might not be upstanding members of society. They will probably blame it all on us. If they all go to college, how are we supposed to afford it? Are we going to have to do a bunch of math to figure out what grades each child will need to get in order to get enough scholarships and grants to pay for school? What if they all three want to go to very expensive schools with very crappy scholarship programs? Or worse, what if they all want to go to very expensive schools with very incompetent student aid departments who leave applicants’ financial aid documentation sitting in the bottom of a pile of papers on the desk of someone who is on vacation for the summer? (Uh, yeah, that really happened to me.) How much will college even cost when they’re old enough to go? It’s almost doubled since I graduated from high school 15-some years ago.
Then, I think about how I spent the first half of my life measuring my self-worth entirely by numbers – my grades, my weight, my income (or lack thereof). I think about how depressed I was about being dumb, fat, and poor. I think about how much time and effort I wasted on being anxious about how I would explain a B in statistics to any of my future employers.
Still, I turned out just fine. I don’t have a big-paying job, but I do have a job that pays my bills. I started saving for retirement. I have affordable health insurance. My husband is great. My step-kids are loving. My family is supportive. My friends are like family. I never got into drugs. I don’t have a drinking problem. I’ve never been to jail. I have excellent credit. I’m really good at finding discounts and rarely purchase anything full price. I recycle. I Pinterest. I get my 10,000 steps in a few times a week.
In short, life is good and so am I. Life and I are both also short, but that’s beside the point.
The point is, when I sit back and really think about it, I realize that I don’t actually have to stress out about the kids’ educational futures. We’ll just keep working with them, helping them in any way that we can, and will hope for the best. It’s hard to plan for something so far away with so many unknown factors over which you have no control. Hopefully, they will all want to go to college for the sake of learning, bettering themselves, making lifelong connections, increasing their chances for getting good jobs, etc. Hopefully, they’ll also learn that having a degree is not a requirement of having good life and being a good person, that those things depend on your actions way before you get into college. I hope that my kids are able to understand the importance of arithmetic without torturing themselves with numbers.