What Do We Really Learn in College?
After attending my first frat party in 35 years, it turns out I don’t miss the collegiate social scene. At all. I might grouse about the high price of a specialty cocktail, but as long as the glass is clean and the contents don’t double as hand sanitizer, I gladly accept my current situation.
I’m no party pooper. I had a blast, fully appreciating the warm welcome from the fine young men of the Cal Poly Sigma Nu chapter. They hosted my daughter’s sorority, the Sigma Kappas and their moms at a backyard barbeque for Mother’s Day weekend. My youngest daughter finally relaxed once a basic ground rule was established – when your male friend is speaking to me, if I am the listener and not the talker, I have not cornered him into an insufferable conversation. Hence, he does not need “rescuing.”
I learned muscle memory applies not only to riding a bike, but also to shot-gunning a can of Coors Light, a contest I agreed to only at my daughter’s insistence. Unsure if I should be proud or ashamed to state I “out-gulped” her by a half-second, I also suspect she let me win, counting it as my Mother’s Day present.
My daughter is very happy at Cal Poly, and this has her parents heaving a huge sigh of relief.
Many differing paths lead to post-high school fulfillment. My role here is to encourage newbie parents to enthuse for all of them, since our community has an especially high rate of following only one: college. The ensuing angst, most noticeable at this time of year as weighty choices are made prior to graduation, is palpable. Tension permeates the air, like invasive pollen or the offensive contributions of my older dog.
If a kid is reluctant to go away to college, don’t waste time and money forcing it. Follow the sensible wisdom of studying two years at a California junior college and transferring seamlessly into a UC by junior year. I don’t provide clinical research here, unless by research you mean chatting at a book club or dinner party. But I have visited with enough of my fellow parents over the years to know this process works beautifully and is not an urban myth.
Gap years are becoming more common, a rare upside to the pandemic. Trade schools are vastly underrated, especially around here.
Many credible options are underrated because Lamorinda consistently yields high numbers of gifted athletes, brilliant scholars and insanely talented artists. But Stanford “ain’t got” room for all of us. Stanford’s the moon, and my kids weren’t astronauts. Fine by me. This world needs a variety of skill sets. Imagine an astronaut cafe. Eggs Benedict in a squeezable pouch? Pass.
Often a graduating senior must choose between several options, all of them good, creating its own unique set of stressors. If your kids don’t love their choices after the first couple of weeks, they might agonize over making the “wrong decision.” Don’t panic. Instead, take deep breaths and urge them to give it one calendar year. It’s astounding how much a potentially bleak situation improves after winter break.
We’ve romanticized our college years, remembering only the cumulative effect rather than daily challenges. Like my frat party example – epic memories of attending frats and formals in my youth. But when the DeLorean pulls up in front of my house, I shall not be setting the flux-capacitor to 1986.
Mimi Bommarito can be reached at email@example.com.