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Choosing a college

If Dad's paying for college, shouldn't he choose it?

for The Brooklyn Paper

My high school junior and I just survived our first trip visiting colleges.

Our short, over-scheduled journey was many things — fun, stressful and revealing.

But instead of wondering which institution is right for my daughter, I returned with one big question.

Who decides where she goes to school?

The admission people certainly spoke to the 16 and 17 year olds packed into pretty rooms as if these adolescents would make that call. And the college counselors at my child’s high school told us the choice is their’s to make.

The idea is my daughter needs ownership over their college experience if she is going to invest herself wherever she ends up.

But making the pick will be my daughter’s first real adult decision — one that will set her goals and articulate her ambitions and dreams.

The best way to accomplish these aspirations is for her to stand up and say, “This is the college I want to attend.”

But another part of me sees it differently.

Can a teenager have the perspective or experience to make such a big choice when she can’t even grasp the notion that not washing clothes means they won’t be clean when she wants to wear them?

What knowledge does she have that will help her sort out the issues related to living away from home? Does she really have the ability to step back and look at herself, figuring out if she needs a roommate?

Will she be attending a school with a very social campus or a quiet one?

And how far from home does she intend to go?

But I, The Dad, am qualified in all these areas. I know my girl, understand her habits, her needs. I’ve been to college, I get the dynamics.

I know what it takes to balance academics and social life.

Most of all, my perspective takes in the longer view, comprehending many of the life consequences flowing from which school she attends.

Then there’s the whole money thing — and the fact that I am footing the bill.

College is a HUGE financial investment and one that goes up every year.

As much as I want to take some really great vacations, have necessary work done to our home or pay the electric bill, I believe in higher education.

But my daughter may not realize all the other costs.

She’ll need a new computer, luggage, travel expenses, pizza, beer.

No matter how much she contributes from her savings or earnings, there’s a lot of cash going out the door with her. So it’s my decision, right?

I already know the answer.

If I even tried to lay down the law and tell her where to apply and where to go she would leave home and become a sheep herder in New.

Or, if she sucked down her anger and did as she was told, college would be a tainted, diminished experience.

In the end, it really needs to be her decision.

She will be entering an intense, four-year marriage with an institution of higher learning.

I can’t take her classes or chose her friends. In fact, I’ll be lucky if I get to visit at all between dropping her off for orientation and arriving for graduation.

But in the decision-making process, there is a place for me, my perspective, and experience.

If I share these carefully, thoughtfully, giving her plenty of room to consider and digest my wisdom, then I can help her through this process.

Even if I might do it better, this is her choice to make and live with.

Of course first she has to get accepted somewhere, but don’t get me started on that.

Read The Dad every other Friday on BrooklynPaper.com.

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