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Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Still Don't Know What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

Sarabelle takes her second round of SATs Saturday. It's not to improve her admission applications, it's to try and boost her 75% Florida Bright Futures Scholarship to the full 100%.

Ready for a big confession? We've been downsizing further education plans. We've gone from the nearby private "Yale of Art Schools," to the not too far away State University With a Good Arts Program, to the neighborhood state college. We're thinking of a two-year Associates and a transfer to whatever art program she favors later on.

And the guilt! Oh, the guilt.

Jiminy Cricket is sitting on my shoulder chirping, "Cheapskate!" in my ear, but it's not about the money. Not entirely, anyway. It is going to be a bit of a stretch as Jorge's work is now beginning to slow down and he has clients who can't afford to pay him for work he's completed and we have real estate investments meant for such expenses that are unfortunately currently unmarketable, but we do have relatives willing to underwrite the venture and I have a fund to tap (only as a last ditch effort unless I want to go straight to Hell the head of the Black Sheep line. Again.) Part of it is my belief that a college education is hardly worth more than the parchment proof it's printed on. Is there even a parchment commodities exchange these days? I don't know. It's expensive, but is it valuable? I'm hearing stories from people, like the girl I used to babysit, who at 35 has nearly finished up her Masters to teach art history in connection with a museum. The debt? Is it worth it the financial and psychological stress? And the cost in terms of years lost? Let me reiterate: She's 35 and just now looking to get on with her life after graduation, finally in a position to be competitive in her job market. Life's too short, I think. I might have recommended volunteering as a docent after learning a lucrative trade. Had she asked.

Mostly, Sarabelle just isn't sure. About what she wants to do, about where she wants to go, about what she wants to study... And Jorge and I wrestle with the fact that we felt very undecided in the same situation and had no one offering us any real guidance. Do we push? Do we stand back and let her twist in the wind?

Then there are the ghosts of our ancestors, my Yale Gramper and Sarah Lawrence Grammy, and Jorge's Columbia professor Grandmother and University of Miami Law School Judge Pop, haunting me along with a whole slew of living, breathing attorney and teacher relatives and their Ivy league and almost-Ivy League prodigies, persuading me that this is the only ticket to a successful life. And let's not forget the husband who agrees with them.

Did I mention guilt?

I know everyone has their own place. I'd rather have the girls follow their passions. I'd prefer not wasting money. But there's that whole second-guessing thing going on. Am I a realist? Am I a slacker? And the clock, with its incessant infernal ticking, I hear it.

In the meantime, I'm calling her graduated after the SATs -- I might even hum a little "Pomp and Circumstance" to make it official -- and for her graduation present she is flying to New York to see the Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA before it closes, have a quick visit with her cousins, and hang with Cool NYC Animator Uncle at his place of business.

For all you torturing yourself with similar decisions, check out the posts over at Mental Multivitamin: About College; Paying for College: A Rant of Modest Proportions; Paying for College, Revisited; and Community College.

And good luck.


Snoopy said...

I hear you and agree with your assessment. I also blogged about this a few months ago.


It's scary to me that most of my teens don't know what they want to do after high school or if they do (music), they're really not doing much in terms of concrete steps to secure funds for a higher education in the field or even an internship or volunteer opportunity that might help them to network.

Good luck with your daughter. I hope she gets the Bright Future scholarship (heck, I hope we still have Bright Future as an option by the time my kids graduate!) and discovers a career path that appeals to her soon. Has she used www.FACTS.org? There is a section on career exploration, if I recall.

Meg_L said...

I disagree, college has life value and it's worth a little debt getting it.

But, you have to do what works for you and yours.

Good luck!

la Maitresse said...

Where is she going? Do you know? I really hope she got the full scholarship! I think part of being successful as a student and independent adult is having little to no debt after graduation.

There are too many unemployed recent grads here in NY who do not function well at the jobs they're working at because they cannot keep up with paying their educational loans, live 2 hours away from their jobs so they can afford to live and pay off their loans, lose sleep because of educational debt, are on antidepressants, etc., etc. Education is invaluable, but not the business of keeping our children in educational debt.

A got accepted to Sarah Lawrence, so it's funny you mention it here. SLC did not offer enough scholarships or aid for us to seriously consider them. In the end, for us, it was equally about a) debt and b) opportunity for A to grow at the university once he figured out what he wanted to do. Strong arts programming, as well as strong science, language, international relations programming were key. He received almost a full scholarship toward $59K tuition w/boarding, leaving about $5K to fill if he lives on campus, so the debt he'll accrue is minimal. Next year we hope to have zero university tuition/boarding debt.