The University of Insanity.

This is my goal over the next four years, and foolhardy it may be: To get my daughter admitted to the University of Michigan. She doesn’t have to go there. But as I have told her since we moved here:

1) It’s the best education for the money that we are likely to have available to us; however,
2) If you can get into Michigan, you can get into a lot of other schools. We have money saved, and you’ll be able to get more elsewhere. All bridges will be crossed when we get to them. But for now, aim high. Aim for Ann Arbor.

So. Last year she took two courses that offered high-school credit. She got an A-plus in Spanish I, and a B-plus in Honors Algebra, missing the A by a whisker. Still, a very good start, I thought. Earlier this summer, a letter arrived, informing us that we could have those grades entered on her high school transcript as credit only, or grade and credit. I did what I always do with perplexing or disturbing mail — set it aside for the remainder of the summer.

But now the deadline for deciding is approaching, so I called her high school, figuring the counselors were back on the job by now, and sure enough, the phone was picked up by the person I needed to talk to. Explained what I just told you, and asked her opinion.

“Hmm, well, the thing you don’t want to do is take credit for one and grade and credit for the other,” she said. “That’s a red flag.” Noted. Grade and credit for both, then?

“Well, there’s that B-plus,” she said, as though I’d presented her with a dead mouse or something.

“It’s an honors algebra course,” I pointed out. “Accelerated math.”

“There will be many other factors determining whether she’ll get into Michigan,” she said. “But for now, you want to play it safe. We’ve had students with 4.0 averages not get in.” She advised credit-only. I put down the phone with a variety of emotions, but one swam to the surface first — eye-crossing anger. It just occurred to me what my poor, sweet, smart daughter will be up against to join the student body at my state’s premiere university four years hence. She’ll be angling for one of the spots available for kids who aren’t rich, who aren’t Olympic athletes, who contribute nothing special to the diversity profile, and who aren’t — a burr under my particular saddle, because they’re so thick on the ground hereabouts — a Topsiders-and-madras-shorts-wearing, entitled brat whose lawyer daddy is a legacy.

Four years stretch before me, years of applying the whip on the grades front, and winter months scouting the sorts of fascinating summer camps and volunteer opportunities that will make her stand out in this crowded field. All so my sole offspring can get a toehold into the middle class, a stratum her own parents are rapidly sliding to the edge of. All so she can maybe attend a university I had my own experience with a few years back, filled with undergraduates who didn’t have the sense to change out of flip-flops on a February day, among many other dullards. (This really happened. A girl stopped in front of me to adjust her backpack in the vestibule of a building. I looked down, and beheld her toenail polish. The temperature outside was in the low 30s. I asked her why she was wearing rubber sandals. Her answer: “Because my dorm is, like, really hot.”)

I’ve told this story before, about the UM women’s sport-redacted coach, who complained in one of our Wallace House seminars about her players, who stand like children before her, awaiting orders. “They have to be told when to warm up, when to cool down, what uniforms to wear, when to wash them. It’s like they’ve spent their entire life getting into the back seat and being driven to their appointments.” And they have. Their mothers and fathers have functioned as their personal assistants. They’re like the powerful men I know, whose jobs are so all-consuming they’ve come to rely on their wives to run every other aspect of their lives. One gets a weekly allowance. Srsly.

I don’t want to raise that kind of kid.

I told the counselor, “I’d rather she swing for the fences and miss a few than play it safe for the sake of a grade-point average.” She said playing it safe isn’t enough. You must swing for the fences and clear them, every time, to get into a top college.

Personally, I think she’s full of shit. But for now, credit only.

Perhaps you’re wondering where Kate wants to go to school. (Ha! Like that matters.) The only one she’s mentioned so far is UC/Berkeley, because she remembers Telegraph Avenue from our trip a few years back, and “it seems like a cool place.” Maybe if mom writes three best-sellers in the next four years, we can swing it.

OK, time to hop to the shower and embrace the day. A little bloggage:

Via Nancy Friedman, Hollywood clichés in infographic form. Funny.

That Mark Bittman can even figure out a way to improve spaghetti and meatballs. I think I’m going to try this one.

Neil Steinberg considers the new Michael Jordan Steak House in Chicago:

When you can get a fantastic steak three blocks from your office, why go elsewhere? This is not to ignore Chicago’s other fine steakhouses, in no particular order: Gibson’s, Chicago Cut, The Capital Grille, Smith & Wollensky, Ditka’s, Ruth’s Chris, Sullivan’s, Harry Caray’s, Chicago Chop House, Lawry’s — there are many more, but those are the ones off the top of my head, places that I have patronized.

I haven’t been to the new Michael Jordan Steak House that opened this week in the InterContinental, and frankly, as much as I love the hotel it’s in — my wife and I were married there — I don’t plan to go. You have to wonder at the savvy of somebody who could survey the Chicago restaurant scene and conclude: “What this city needs is another steakhouse!”

And I’m off.

Posted at 10:34 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

73 responses to “The University of Insanity.”

  1. Runner said on August 24, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Those overly-cared-for kids later enter the workforce. I work in a very large corporation. We’ve had to train some of those same kids, and their parents, on how to behave in a workplace. There have been parents who attempted to follow their kids to work. There have been parents who called managers and above to intercede when they feel their kid has been mistreated in the workplace.

    A friend works in a similarly large place. They had to make a brochure called something like “So your child works at Our Company: A guide for parents”

    I have taught some basic math to a few twenty-something team members. One could not find an average of three numbers. The other could not calculate a per-piece price. They both went to Big 10 schools. (I went to Western Michigan.)

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 24, 2011 at 11:00 am

    I think your assessment of what she’s full of is accurate. We heard a septic-pumper load of the same stuff at the 8th grade open house Monday night, and sadly I don’t think rage is a misplaced emotion on hearing about the gaming of GPA in middle school.

    Having admissions people across the street and my wife working elbow-to-elbow with the VP admissions chief here at a highly selective liberal arts college, I can only say it’s such a crapshoot. You do stuff to get over the initial hurdles (avoiding C’s & D’s), but what gets you into the mix is so subjective, despite their best efforts to be objective while not being wholly quotarian. Sometimes a defiant, gutsy “D” on the transcript from a highly challenging class outside of the obvious interests can make them say “I like that kid, let’s grab ’em.” Or the glimpse of “C” or a trend towards “B’s” from “A’s” can get a wrist flip to the sludge pile.

    And then there’s the sheer karma of looking like you’re mostly a biology geek, and they’ve seen ten biology emphasis profiles in the last thirty jackets, or being the eighteenth soccer player when they had said “let’s not go much above a dozen this year, OK?” And all the other elements are suddenly invisible.

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  3. adrianne said on August 24, 2011 at 11:02 am

    The insanely competitive world of getting into a top college has really warped high school for so many kids. The grade grinds have taken over the joint. Luckily, neither of my kids are destined for even a top state school. So I haven’t paid much attention to the crazed race to the top.

    Kate will be just fine, wherever she ends up.

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  4. Deborah said on August 24, 2011 at 11:12 am

    My husband’s two daughters got into top notch schools, they both took sat/act prep classes before they took the tests and they both had average outcomes. Their grades were good but not great. They had gone to public highs schools of performing arts, the older one majored in drama and was pretty good, the younger one had no performing arts skills so I’m not really sure what she did there. My husband was not rich and wasn’t an alum in either so I have no idea how those girls got into those schools.

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  5. LAMary said on August 24, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I know it’s sort of racist and it’s a cliche’, but my kids are up against the stereotypical Chinese Overachiever. These kids have no free time. The parents schedule every minute of the day, including weekends and the kids get into the primo schools. This is not to say UC Berkeley and Stanford are all Chinese American. I’m saying my kids’ high school, which is one of the desirable public high schools in LA, is full of the offspring of tiger moms. My son was the only anglo kid on the Academic Decathalon team. The team that year was my son, his friend Jose, and fourteen Chinese kids. The team parent potlucks were interesting. So much competitive sniping between the parents. Sheesh.

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  6. Peter said on August 24, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Oh Nancy, I have a similar problem, and my son does have a red flag on his transcript (he can’t parlez Italian for shit). I’m in it worse because he wants to go into aviation – those flight courses cost a bundle. The good news is that his top choices have pretty low tuition and moderate entry requirements, and he’s considered a legacy at Purdue thanks to my sister and brother-in-law.

    On the other hand, be careful of what you wish for. My niece had a whopping GPA and ACT and got into Illinois, but she went to Tulane instead. U of I offered her a grand total of nothing. Tulane offered so much that it was cheaper for her to go there, and they covered everything – including having her stuff shipped down from Chicago.

    Good luck with Berkeley. My cousin taught there for a few years, and coming from Paris, it was quite the shock.

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  7. ROGirl said on August 24, 2011 at 11:27 am

    For the record, my father went to Michigan (as did I) but he wasn’t a lawyer, and to my knowledge, nobody in my family has ever worn topsiders with madras shorts. He got in on a scholarship, I went at the right time. I don’t think I would get in today.

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  8. Suzanne said on August 24, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Having gone through this a few years ago, I’d say it’s all a big crap shoot, so you do what you can and hope and pray they end up where they need to be and are happy there. A friend of mine, who lives in a school district with a well-regarded high school, told me about the kids that keep spreadsheets to keep track of their extra-curriculars. Spreadsheets which make it easier to see gaps (“Oh! I see my sports vs charity work ratio is out of alignment!”) Most top achiever’s bios are padded, from what I can tell. When my neice graduated from high school, one of her classmates got an award for exemplary service. She had extra-curriculars out the wazoo and then some. I questioned my neice who told me that the girl joined all these groups, came to one or two meetings, and then she’d be off to something else. It seems no one ever checks the level of involvement of most of these kids; as long as they say they did a bunch of stuff, it’s fine. I remember feeling like a heel with my own kids, trying to spin any little tidbit of anything they did as volunteer service.

    Good luck, though. It’s a nail biting time and as you stand and watch, you tell yourself you will let the chips fall, but deep down, you know that if you have to look at your kid’s crestfallen face upon receiving a rejection, it’ll cut through you like a knife.

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  9. Bruce Fields said on August 24, 2011 at 11:29 am

    “We’ve had students with 4.0 averages not get in.”

    OK, and what else is she not saying about those students?

    I think this is another way of saying “admissions committees are perfectly aware that you can game GPA’s”.

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  10. Bob (not Greene) said on August 24, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Last week No. 2 son left again for Madison. Last year he was a freshman; chemistry major. He did great and loved it. He and two dorm friends found a place and live a few blocks off campus in one of those college-ghetto houses chopped up into several apartments.

    Except that this year, he’s not going to school. He’s spending the year becoming a resident of the state of Wisconsin so that when he goes back to school in a year, he’ll be able to do it without going into debt for the rest of his life. We can’t afford any more loans. The powers that be say basically he can get no financial aid because me and my wife make too much money. That’s a laugh, because we can barely pay our bills.

    At any rate, at 19 he’s basically on his own, because you apparently have to be either super rich or dirt poor to afford to go to college. This is a kid who is also smart, though he didn’t get any scholarships he applied for. Maybe he didn’t look hard enough; I don’t know. Anyway, Wisconsin is where he wants to be, and if this is what it takes to do it, he’s doing it.

    Not that he minds, seemingly, which I think is a good thing. He’s got a job and he’s saving money for next year and he’s figuring out how to be a real adult. In many ways, I’m guessing it’s liberating.

    No. 3 son is a senior in high school. I hope he is paying attention (I don’t know how he can’t be) and casts a wider net when it comes to finding a college — one with a huge endowment, preferably. Or maybe he’ll have such a great swim season or water polo season someone will want him bad enough to pay him.

    No. 4 son is a freshman in high school. One of the reasons it’s so hard to afford college for the others is that for the first time, one of our kids isn’t going to the public high school, which is three blocks away from our house.

    It has failed to the point where sending another kid there would be like tying one of his arms behind his back (freshmen, for example, can’t take foreign language classes anymore; they’ve reduced the number of credit hours it takes to graduate; and have cut the number of class periods per day, replacing one of them with an hour spent sitting with hundreds of other kids in the auditorium, like a warehouse).

    The tuition for the private school we’re sending our son to is $12,000 a year. Thank God they gave us some financial aid. More than we got for our college-age kids. It’s insane. But that’s where we’re at.

    I feel like George Bailey — “Why did we have to have all these kids!” Just kidding, but the whole college thing is nuts.

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  11. Heather said on August 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    The irony is that unless you’re shooting for a very specific career in law or business, or some other field where great connections are a big help, it really doesn’t matter where you go to college, does it? I really think it matters more what you make of it. I went to Northwestern (where I majored in English, not journalism) and while the name impresses people and I’m sure I got a great education, it was kind of a waste in some ways, as I went a little nuts with the partying and the drinking and the boys. Oh, what I would do with those four years today! Also, the tuition, oy. Another reason I am not having kids.

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  12. Connie said on August 24, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    My daughter got into every school she applied to Except U of Michigan. The rejection letter noted that the school received 25,000 applications for 5,000 freshman openings and that only a limited number were available for out of state apps like hers. Both her mother and her grandfather had attended grad school there, obviously that kind of legacy didn’t help.

    On the money front Butler University was extremely generous with both merit scholarships and financial aid, and cost us annually a smidgen less than Purdue would have cost with the small amount of aid they offered. So don’t let price at a private U scare you off.

    I have numerous co-workers with kids at Michigan in everything from physics to voice. Yet every younger person I meet around here goes to Oakland Community College and Oakland University. Is that metro Detroit’s cheapest option?

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  13. Joe Kobiela said on August 24, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    My brother Dave who chimes in from time to time, was a Deans list 3yr football letter winner at Hillsdale, maybe he could help Kate get in there. I know they have a lot a financal assistance available, and non of it comes from the goverment,so she wouldn’t be adding to the national debt.
    Wasting the day away in Omaha.
    Pilot Joe

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  14. basset said on August 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    I have no idea how I got into IU close to forty years ago… decent grades and not a bad SAT but I played no sports and did nothing to stand out from the crowd, probably would end up getting shuffled off to Vincennes or Ivy Tech if I applied today. Come to think of it, I did have a counselor freshman year who told me I belonged in a trade school. And (expletive deleted) him, it took me seven years but I did graduate, first in my bloodline to do that.

    Meanwhile, Basset Jr. is at Middle Tennessee State on a partial state scholarship and making good grades… will graduate with a history degree next spring, we’ll see what comes of that.

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  15. Connie said on August 24, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    It seems extremely unlikely that our hostess would ever consider sending her kid to Hillsdale.

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  16. LAMary said on August 24, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Older son is at Cal State LA and I’m fine with that. I’m pretty sure he will want to go to grad school and I think ultimately that will be what gets looked at when he finishes and goes job hunting. I know it’s an awful time for new grads right now and if he wants to hang out at a state U working on a grad degree, and we can patch together the bucks to do it, good on him.
    Younger son will probably do the community college for two years routine to figure out what he wants to study in college. I’m cool with that. Let him do his exploring at 5K per year rather than 40k. He might end up at Berkeley. Who knows. I think it’s where you finish that counts.

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  17. april glaspie said on August 24, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    My kid went to Boston University, not quite Ivy League but close, and just as expensive. Her mother and I are still paying for it. She is too. Then she went to a prestigious graduate program run by Mass General Hospital. Now she has an annual salary exceeding my total income in the best earning year of my life. She’s great at her job and doing something for a living she loves to talk about. All worth every dime, though it’s painful in practice.

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  18. kayak woman said on August 24, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    My kids grew up in Ann Arbor, had good grades (but not straight As) and had no interest in the U of M. They chose Kalamazoo and they got scholarships. I think we paid about as much as it would have cost us at U of M. They had top-notch educations and loved it there. Not suggesting K or any small private school would be Kate’s cup of tea, just that there are all kinds of options out there.

    As many others have noted, the college admissions process seems like a crap. Try not to stress 🙂

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  19. Bruce Fields said on August 24, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    “what else is she not saying about those students?”

    (And, apologies, that could be taken wrong. They could be fine students, I’m sure it happens. But if UM turns away 4.0 students, it’s not because they’re unbelievably selective that they can afford to turn down star students. It’s because they looked at those particular applications and made their best guess, and maybe they guessed wrong, but I bet they guess right more often than they would if they really just stopped looking at the application once they saw the 4.0.)

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  20. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Basset — Ha! I got out of Purdue with a degree in 6.5. Everyone told my parents “oh, dear, if he doesn’t graduate in 4 years he won’t make it.” I like telling that story to students who are wrestling with their fulltime jobs and parttime class loads: don’t buy the hype. You’ll do fine, and soon, no one will notice unless you point it out. Pay as you go, skip the student loans as much as you can, and graduate free to do what you believe in, and not have to go to whatever will pay enough to cover the monthly student loan bill.

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  21. Deborah said on August 24, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    April my husband’s older daughter went to Boston University too. This is a sore spot for us because she has done nothing with it since. She got married, has kids and has never worked in anything but retail and that only sporadically. My husband and I got married after our daughters were out of school but I ended up paying for part of their educations because his debt was so deep. His younger daughter went to USC undergrad, so it was a double whammy for him (they’re 2 years apart). The younger daughter also got a grad degree at USC in arts administration, did that for less than a year, hated it so went to one of the Claremont colleges, I forget which and got a second grad degree in education. She taught for two years, hated it. She is now a stay at home mom with her 3 year old. We don’t think she will ever go back to teaching. It is very frustrating for us because it costs soooooo much to put those girls through school and they don’t seem to be doing anything with their educations. My husband is way more upset about this than I am, about his own daughters.

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  22. nancy said on August 24, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    I’ve heard it said that since the ridiculous college process started — sometime after I got out, whenever that was — that kids who once went to the Ivies now go to Michigan, former Michigan shoo-ins are now at Michigan State, would-be Spartans are now at Wayne and presumably those kids are in community colleges. If this is true, and I think there’s a germ of it in there, as well as a lot of crap, I supposed I should simply stop fretting over it and, as many here have advised, just see what happens down the road.

    But as we draw close enough to the track to see the other rats suiting up, I’m not liking what I’m seeing. Mary mentioned the Asian Tiger Mom phenom; while I wouldn’t put the local blondes on a par with them, they are a fearsome breed. I received a letter at midsummer informing me the theme for the homecoming float had been selected, offering opportunities to host a pom-pom party, and wondering if anyone had a flatbed trailer to lend for the cause. (The Tiger Moms are all smiling contemptuously at these letters, I’m sure, putting them aside to show to their husbands after they get the kids home from violin lessons.)

    What I mourn is the loss of these last few years of childhood. I’m a big believer in boredom as the engine of creativity, and I just realized this will likely be the last summer Kate has that won’t run at a significantly faster pace.

    I wonder how many of those kids who have to be trained in how to hold and do a job simply never have, period. How can you scoop fries at McDonald’s when your parents have arranged a series of unpaid-but-VERY-enriching internships from freshman year on?

    This is a rant for another day. Good comments, all. As usual.

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  23. Jan said on August 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    A great read is “Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid into College” by Andrew Ferguson. Boy things have changed since I graduated High School in 1977. You took the SAT’s and ACT’s once. I took those hung over. Now I have to worry about advanced placement classes for my yet to be middle schooler’s. Yikes!!!

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  24. Jeff Borden said on August 24, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    I will not indulge in Bob Greene nostalgia, but it is somewhat appalling to see what has happened to higher education in the almost 40 years since I attended Kent State. My parents were definitely on the lower side of the middle class, but my sister and I were both able to attend state schools without mom and dad having to take out a second mortgage. I had screwed up badly in high school, so my father was insistent I pay much of my own freight. I worked through every quarter of college including driving home weekends to be a sportswriter, but there’s no denying he helped me out. My sister held a few menial jobs in college, but again, my folks were able to handle it.

    Today, with both parents working in many, if not most, households, more and more people are looking at taking on crushing, long-term debt if they want their children to earn university degrees.

    Simply put, what the hell happened? Why has four years at a reasonably decent state university become so freaking expensive? As someone who is teaching as an adjunct, I can say with all honesty that all that extra money ain’t flowing our way. So, what’s the story?

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  25. moe99 said on August 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    After graduating high school in 1970, I went to a small college in Minnesota, one that offered me a full tuition scholarship which made it easier for the family because my father was not in the private practice of medicine but doing a residency in anesthesia at the Mayo clinic, for which he was being paid resident’s wages. It was Macalester College or Rochester State Junior College for me because I was the oldest of 5 kids. So I selected Macalester and it was the best choice I could have made. One thing about small colleges is that you can, if you want, develop wonderful relationships with your professors. I still correspond with my history professor/advisor and his wife. Also, my classmates from college are my very rock–they have been my friends for 40 years now and when I am in Minneapolis, Portland, S. CA or Australia, to name just a few places they can be found, we always find time to get together. So small colleges have lots to offer, and many can make it as affordable as going to the state schools, particularly for someone as gifted as your daughter. Do not despair, Nancy, there are lots of choices out there.

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  26. Bitter Scribe said on August 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Sorry, but that coach’s complaint baffled me: They have to be told what uniforms to wear?

    As opposed to…what? Guessing? Looking it up on the Internet? Deciding among themselves?

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  27. nancy said on August 24, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    BS, it’s whether you wear the road uniform or the home uniform, and apparently there are iterations of both. I never played jack, so I don’t get it, either.

    Speaking of sports, however. Another gripe: Hyper-competitive sports have made the casual, multisport student athlete a dying breed. I was amazed to find that gym was not a requirement in middle school, and there’s only one year required in high school. But even it is two-track — “team sports” or “lifetime fitness.” Guess which one the house bassist chose. I’m actually sort of optimistic about it, hoping they push cool gym-type activities like yoga and suspension workouts and so on. I hope she at least samples weight training.

    On student loans and debt, don’t get me started.

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  28. Deborah said on August 24, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    One more rant about my husband’s daughters and education. When the younger one got her master’s degree in Arts Admin from USC, she sent us her graduate thesis to read after she had submitted it and had been praised for it to high heaven by her professors. It was appalling. My husband was astounded that they let her get away with it much less praise her for it. It made us really wonder what kind of an education these kids are getting these days. I’m done.

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  29. LAMary said on August 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I may be completely delusional, but I’m so proud of my sons spending their summer working their asses off. They actually have a wait list for their services as dog walkers, house sitters, garage organizers and yard work. They’re booked into November for weekends. This has created a side business as well. They buy used bikes and fix them up using the money they make doing the other jobs, and then sell the bikes at a large profit. Mostly fixed wheel bikes, which are popular for some reason right now but useless on our hill. The resourcefullness and the work ethic the two of them are displaying makes me believe they’re going to be ok no matter what, and with some education maybe they’ll beat out all the tiger offspring and legacy kids.
    I read new grad resumes every day and the ones I save are the ones that show me someone who knows what they want to do and that they have worked hard to get there, not just as students. I get the tiger offspring and I get phone calls from their moms. I’m unimpressed. Give me a working class kid who has their act together and has a decent education and I’ll advocate for them all over the place.

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  30. april glaspie said on August 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Does the Michael Jordan Steakhouse have slot machines and craps tables?

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  31. Judybusy said on August 24, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    My partner recently had a bad bout with a local community college. After doing a ton or prereqs, she was told she probably wouldn’t get into the very competitive nursing program. Fast forward a couple years: she applied at a private school, St. Catherine’s nursing program and was accepted. Ultimately, even though there was much angst involved (I’ve given the very short version) it will be better. The quality of the instructors is far superior, as well as that of her fellow classmates. I love the irony of not being able to get into the lesser school’s program. The debt won’t be too bad, either, since St. Kate’s is helping out a lot, and she gets tuition reimbursement through work.

    Bob (not Greene): I bet your son will be fine. I had to drop out in the middle of my sophomore year due to finances. A few years later, I ended up in Madison. I also made the choice to live there a year to establish residency. With the help of my ex, I worked as an adult fostercare provider and graduated with no debt.(Not possible now, of course. This was from 1989-1993, earning undergrad and graduate degrees.) I have been on my own since age 19; my parents just didn’t have the means to help. It’s turned out great.

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  32. april glaspie said on August 24, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    College costs.

    The entirely superfluous tuition management and loan interlocutors that boost college costs are great and well-protected favorites and donors to the GOP.

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  33. Dan B said on August 24, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    The ridiculous admissions standards are pretty recent- they weren’t even really a factor when I was applying to college about 20 years ago. Then again, I was born in the bottom of the baby bust. I think that greater numbers of applicants in the last 10 years or so account for a lot of it.

    As for why costs are so high, a great discussion of the issue is at

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  34. Kim said on August 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    College – where we dropped off Child 1 yesterday – is an insane experience. My kid graduated from h.s. with a 3.8 GPA. Took six AP courses, got mostly A’s in them. Had four years of a foreign language, four of math, four of science, four of – you name it. Four-year, varsity athlete – all-state in track and XC, made the state meet in swimming, too. Volunteers with us (the family) doing breakfast for the homeless, works as a lifeguard, cuts the grass and does odd jobs for the elderly neighbors (for free unless they demand he take a fiver), garbage picks motors and frames from the dump to build go-karts and what we call ‘motorbikes’ (an old motorcycle with a power washer motor to make it go). Does all the stuff you would hope a good kid would do without (much) prodding from the parental “staff”. I say this not to brag, though I know it must come off with more than a hint of that. The truth is he is a great kid in spite of his parents, and I can show you my other kids as proof! Or you could just ask Bob NG.

    Three of the top in-state schools (and in Va., we are fortunate to have several) said the average GPA for the admitted students this year was 4.0 or higher. In other words, better than perfect. His top choice was one of those schools – he was waitlisted, and was completely bummed when nobody made it off the waitlist to admission. “What more did I have to do?” he asked me. The real answer is the one the guidance counselor at Nance’s kid’s school alluded to: Don’t challenge yourself too much that you get the B+ in the AP course when you could have sailed in the regular with an A.

    But what kind of answer is that for the long haul, I find myself wondering.

    His second choice is a fine one, though, and I am confident he will get what he wants out of the experience. In living through this over the past year, I do think we need to focus on the happy target, not the academic excellence target. The best things I learned in college were self-sufficiency, the ability to spot bullshit when I saw it (from peers and adults), budgeting my time and money, how to be resourceful with what I had. I could tell you this in Spanish, because I learned that, too. Or I could discuss American literature and write well enough about it. Both of those things would bore a room (except this one, where I might not be able to hold my own!)

    I acknowledge that some careers need more of a skill set that college could provide. But most do not. Think about the people in your sphere – where did they learn their special skills? Who were their teachers?

    It doesn’t seem right that it’s so hard for my generation’s kids to get what was relatively easy for me. There is no way I’d be going to the University of Illinois this year, given my less-than-perfect, totally normal h.s. grades. But it also doesn’t seem right that almost every kid goes to college.

    Bob NG, oh my god. I feel for you guys. My niece just finished up her year of education exile in Oregon. She made the choice, did the work to make it happen, and now is getting ready to get back on it. Earning the opportunity is probably all the education your son needs, although I bet he becomes a top chemist (or whatever – he will be happy).

    My other kids, like yours, are taking stock of their post-h.s. options.

    Good luck to all in the NN.C house who are experiencing or awakening to this madness.

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  35. ginsweater said on August 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I don’t know what admissions committees have been getting up to since 2004, but that was the year I got into Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), Madison, and Rochester University for good measure with a 3.0 GPA (including 2 Fs on my transcript) (and the Illinois application was postmarked a day late) (and I never paid the application fee on the Rochester application – they offered me admission anyway for some reason.) So I can confidently tell you that a B+ is not something to worry about!

    If I were to give you advice from my own experience, it would be: have a good reason to go to college and everything will fall into place. I found my calling (computer science) just before heading to Urbana and had the time of my life suddenly working like crazy after years of aimlessness. Meanwhile I watched great gobs of my peers drift through doing the minimum passable; they got nothing for their years of life and buckets of money, not even the promised “get a good job free” certificate.

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  36. Hattie said on August 24, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    I don’t understand. My whole philosophy of child rearing was, “Go play in the traffic.” It worked. My kids know so many things, are so competent, so well educated and have great careers.
    If she can’t get into Michigan, so what? It’s a big world with all kinds of stuff going on.
    Is it too late for her to do a junior year abroad? What put my kids over the top was out of the U.S. experience and knowing foreign languages.

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  37. Bitter Scribe said on August 24, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Not to derail the thread, but something else that coach said bothered me:

    Athletes these days are expected to wash their own uniforms? At the University of Michigan? Or is that just expected of women?

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  38. Jolene said on August 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    have a good reason to go to college
    the ones I save are the ones that show me someone who knows what they want to do

    Glad to see this theme developing. Both my experience as an individual and as a faculty member–as well as observations of people around me–tell me that there is no substitute for being really engaged in what you are doing. However corny it may sound, there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to do what you were meant to be doing. Not that there’s only one possibility per person, but finding a fit is what makes overcoming obstacles possible and creates the possibility for joy, meaning, and a decent income–the latter because when you’re doing what you’re really good at doing, it’s easier to find somebody to pay you to do it.

    One of the most successful people I know is my younger sister. She’s very bright and was an excellent high school athlete, but not really tall enough to play basketball for a big school. She chose a small college where she could play, but was drifting a bit professionally. I gave her a push that took her into chemical engineering. She earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the illustrious University of North Dakota and is now a senior executive at CH2M Hill, a global A&E firm. She has lots of responsibility and makes lots of money–well into six figures. She is really smart, has lots of energy, and the drive of a competitive athlete. It’s the combination of raw talent for her discipline, drive, and confidence (not to mention her effectiveness as a leader) that have carried her forward–not her academic pedigree.

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  39. april glaspie said on August 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Comment on Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle from a Texan @NYT:

    Texas is a great place to be if you’re running a large corporation that wants free rein to destroy the environment at will, or if you’re (like me) a middle-class IT professional who doesn’t mind working for oil companies. It’s also a pretty good place if you’re an undocumented immigrant who doesn’t mind doing high-rise construction work sans insurance for wages that pay fast food workers in more enlightened states, or someone who is willing to trade a good price on an exurban McMansion and reasonably cheap gas prices in exchange for any semblance of public services–including a real education for your children.

    Moms washed uniforms when I was in HS. No way is any varsity athlete at UM washing their own. Our HS uniform jerseys were red. Invariably somebody would show up in the locker room with a pink jockstrap. Chagrin is putting it mildly.

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  40. MarkH said on August 24, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Deborah, your post #28 may be the most revealing of the entire (excellent) thread today.

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  41. mark said on August 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    LA Mary- I think you have good reason to be proud of your kids and our wise in your approach to evaluating applicants. A very succesful friend of mine speaks with justifiable pride of the struggles she (and her ex-husband) faced balancing work and schol on the road to very satisfying, lucrative careers. None of their teen-age children work and the consensus among their peer groups seems to be that for children “school is their job.”

    I do not understand why accomplished people like my friend and her ex view it as an achievement to shield their children from the type of character shaping, confidence-building experiences that they found essential to their own success and hapiness. Do we really think that a work ethic is just instilled by osmosis at 25?

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  42. Jolene said on August 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    If there’s a competitive process, you can bet that there’s a coach you can pay to help you win. The latest: coaches who help you find application-enhancing summer internships.

    This article made me ill when I first read it. If I were Nancy, it would make me furious.

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  43. alex said on August 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t go to a Big Ten cattle trough like IU or U of M. I’d go someplace like Earlham or Oberlin. I don’t think I got such a great education, frankly.

    As regards the new Michael Jordan Steak House, I didn’t read the entire Steinberg piece but recall quite a few years ago Jordan lent his name to a restaurant (I think a steak house) at LaSalle and Illinois. I seem to remember that he had no real control over it and and didn’t like the way it was being run but couldn’t get out of the contract for the use of his name on it, so he very publicly went and opened this place and let people know that he thought the place that bought the rights to his name sucked out loud. Went there once with a large group of cocktail guzzlers and it was actually quite good.

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  44. LAMary said on August 24, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Deborah, when I was in college in the seventies, BU was considered the drug/party school. USC on the other hand, is known as the University of Spoiled Children among the locals.

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  45. april glaspie said on August 24, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    I applied to McGill (accepted) to have someplace to go if I had to leave the US. I wonder occasionally how my life would have been different had I gone to college in Montreal.

    Higher education is an expensive rat race in England, too.

    My Old School. (That’s Bard College, in Annandale NY, Donald Fagen’s alma mater. Bard long had a reputation as an outre hippie school.)

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  46. Deborah said on August 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    My husband teaches a studio in architecture at IIT. He is puzzled by the lower level of smarts the American (and Asian etc) students have compared to Spanish students he has had in the last couple of years. There is some kind of arrangement IIT has with a school in Spain and the students who have studied there and then go to IIT are amazing. He says their all around knowledge is consistently light years beyond the others in the class. He’s trying to figure out from these students how and what they’ve been exposed to that makes them so superior. These students act as a catalyst encouraging the other students to try harder.

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  47. Suzanne said on August 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    I was shocked at how much the college admissions process had changed when my kids went through it compared to when I did in the mid-70s. I didn’t know anyone who took the SAT more than once but one of my daughter’s teachers encouraged her to start taking it in the 7th grade (she didn’t). When I graduated hs, pretty much, if you had a diploma and had breath in your body, you got into college. I had time for a part time job, too, in high school, and also time to explore some hobbies. Now? No way. If you’re kid is in music, they better be prepared to spend 20 hours a week or more doing that. Sports? Better only play one, and do it all year, and do a travel team of some kind as well. If you are the parent, you’d better plan on spending hours organizing pep-rallies, and after game snacks, and the like. Nobody does anything casually any longer when it comes to school.

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  48. LAMary said on August 24, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    I think you can still get into college with a diploma and breath but it won’t be the college you thought you wanted to go to. I believe anyone can get into ASU. There may be some fine graduates of that university, but I have not met them. Nor have I ever heard of anyone who applied NOT getting into ASU. This is the school where the students voted to not give Obama an honorary degree because “he has not accomplished much yet.” The rumor was Bristol Palin was going to attend ASU this fall. I have seen ASU students on TV being asked about Obama and Palin and I’ve found their answers really depressing.

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  49. Jolene said on August 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    It’s worse than that, Mary. It wasn’t the students but a committee of faculty and academic administrators who didn’t think Obama was worthy of an honorary degree.

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  50. Snarkworth said on August 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    I’m with Alex on the advantages of smaller schools. Despite the high sticker prices, many offer excellent financial aid.

    And Oberlin (where my older son went) is a great venue for a spunky smart kid who loves music. You don’t have to be in the Conservatory to enjoy the fun.

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  51. Dexter said on August 24, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    It’s really tough to get into U of M for in-state , non-legacy kids. 38,000 applied for the 2011 freshman class, and only 5,700 made it in, some just notified.
    The real crush of freshman applicants always comes from the east coast, although M has students from all fifty states, and is no longer simply a bastion for rich New York Jewish kids, although detractors hurl that epitaph around from time to time.
    Under pressure and trying to right some major wrongs, M regents preside over attempts to attain a diverseness on campus, among about a 79% white student body. As you know, it’s easy to find different numbers from different sources, and all I am stating is this are the facts as I recall them from the msm.
    A few years ago I read a story in The Freep about a kid from the UP who was 4.0, class valedictorian, sports star in every game he played, outstanding test scores…never had a chance in his northerly paradise of ever getting into U of Michigan.
    It was played up big in the press but as I recall he ended up elsewhere.
    I also recall when legendary M football radio broadcaster Bob Ufer’s daughter came of age to go to UM, Ufer sent her packing to U Wisconsin Madison. Ufer, a Michigan die-hard supporter and fan and crazy-Wolverine through and through, didn’t want his own kid anywhere near Ann Arbor. So … I suppose there is life away from the seven square miles for aspiring Michiganian acedemians.
    My kids all graduated; eldest, U of Toledo, middle kid, Lourdes College (just named Lourdes University 🙂 baby, from OSU in Columbus. My generation , excluding me, matriculated from places like Ball State, Huntington College, and Manchester.
    So many choices and dreams, and if Kate has the door slammed in her face in Ann Arbor, it would be easy to just admit defeat and move over to East Lansing, but I hope she makes it , I really do. If there’s a way, a chance, keep at it, just like your words indicated you have every intention of doing.

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  52. Sherri said on August 24, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    My daughter is a junior this year. She’s a bright kid, gets good grades and got her first AP credit last year, but I simply refuse to participate in the college admission madness. She will get into college somewhere, and she will be fine. I’m a firm believer that the college experience is more about the student than the college; it’s about what you put into it. My daughter will take challenging classes because she wants to, and if she gets a B+ instead of an A, or even a C instead of an A, then as long as she’s put herself into it and learned, I’m good with that.

    It is hard to constantly fight against the tide though. I have to keep reminding myself not to get caught up in the craziness.

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  53. coozledad said on August 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    It’s just as well Obama didn’t pick up that honorary degree from ASU, seeing as the chancellor hands it to you, custom printed on a dog of Nikolai Vodka, after he takes the ceremonial first hit.
    Corpse-eyed wine slut Paul Ryan is trying to slip some tax loopholes in for the sprog of the “producer” class, so we can all look forward to wading through even more stomach contents the next time we hit a university town looking for chronic

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  54. Arlene said on August 24, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    I read your website everyday and finally had to comment. Someone at the beginning of the comments said college admissions today was a crapshoot – exactly. My daughter was at the top of her class of our urban high school. She applied to 10 colleges. Her first choice was Brown where my husband got his graduate degree and where we contributed to for 30 years. What happened they wait listed her. However, she got into Princeton which is closer to home and has better financial aid. Needless to say, Brown has been dropped from our financial contributions list. Her second choice was Oberlin which offered an excellent scholarship. My daughter loves Princeton which has to have one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. She worked hard to get there. There are a lot of great colleges out there that offer better financial aid than state schools. I actually enjoyed all the college visits. I’m sure your daughter, Kate, will find a great school but in the meantime she should enjoy high school.

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  55. Connie said on August 24, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    I agree with Alex, if I had it to do over again….. At Michigan State I was a small town kid lost in a big crowd.

    My daughter’s experience at Butler was just the opposite. Able to be involved and be known by deans, etc. Even an occasional dinner with the President. Not once but twice was asked to be the student who introduced a speaker to a very large crowd. Got to meet Madline Albright. I could go on. I will note that she was a swimmer her first two years at Butler and chose to leave the swim team to “have a real life.” And have it she did. I envy her experience.

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  56. kayak woman said on August 24, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Hahah! Actually had time to check back in and realized that I said that the college admissions process was like a “crap”. Of course, I meant “crap shoot”. I guess I needed my QA colleagues to check that one.

    Just saw the comment about Yoopers not getting into UMich. Not sure what was going on with that kid but plenty of Yoopers do go there (not me though). My [late] uncle did undergrad at Albion (pre-WWII) and med school at UMich. My dad entered UMich but didn’t finish — long story but not due to lack of intelligence.

    Love all of the comments. I think the college admissions process is harder for parents than it is for kids. Especially when there are so many “tiger parents” out there. Asian or not. Don’t let ’em get to you. A fair number of those kids will party themselves out of college one way or the other the first semester.

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  57. LAMary said on August 24, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    I have two colleagues with kids in college. One at ASU one at APU (don’t get me started about that school).These parents text their kids all fucking day. They get worried if the kids don’t immediately text back.
    I have never texted my children. I call them if neccesary. I email them. I don’t expect instant communication with a 17 year old and a 21 year old. I remember being those ages and I would have gone nuts if anyone was tracking me that closely, and I really wasn’t that wild. Wild yes, but not THAT wild.

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  58. alex said on August 24, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    What floors me are the people who are worried about their kids getting into all the right schools starting with pre-school. Yes, I’ve known some people like this. It’s as if they’re vicariously reliving Greek rush through their children. Of course these are the same people who spend all of their money on all of the wrong things, depressives who get a momentary boost from shopping, then have a garage sale every six months because their overpriced housewares are all so like six months ago already.

    It’s amazing. Some kids know what they want and spend their entire childhoods preparing for it. Others live half a century before knowing what they want to do when they grow up. Like me. I don’t think there’s any way to predict either outcome, but parents who foster inquisitiveness rather than acquisitiveness seem to produce the best offspring in my humble opinion.

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  59. MichaelG said on August 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Basset, my daughter graduated with a degree in math from Austin Peay in Clarksville. Let’s go Peay! Her choices were limited with hubby being stationed at Fort Campbell but AP turned out to be a decent little librul arts school. The kids covered the costs with some help from us. God. She and her husband just officially separated two weeks ago.

    I went to U of Illinois at Champaign – Urbana with the assistance of a National Merit ride and my parents’ money. I worked at various jobs during school and in the summers. I had a wonderful time partying too hard. For a number of reasons I left in Dec of my senior year and joined the Army.

    When I went back to school at San Francisco State four years later things were a tad different. I was married and had a step kid. No partying this time. I still worked and had the G. I. Bill for help. It only took a year to graduate. In those years SF St was mostly a commuter college. They called it “Streetcar State” The “M” car stopped right there. I started college in fall of ’62 and graduated in June ’71.

    At UI and at SF I had no trouble getting in (though I had to be a little aggressive at SF) and the costs were very reasonable. I shudder at what the poor kids are paying today and the crippling debt they assume. I don’t know what’s going to happen to my grand kids.

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  60. MichaelG said on August 24, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Mary, are you referring to Azusa Pacific? I really don’t know anything about the place.

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  61. april glaspie said on August 24, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    My ex and I spent a ridiculous amount of money on private schools for our daughter, because her mom insisted on living within Boston city limits. Boston Public Schhols were pretty bad in those days and were frequently dangerous. When her mother moved to suburban beach town, Marshfield, E was in 4th grade, and was academically behind the public school kids. This was infuriating since we had spent more than $30grand getting her through 3rd grade at the Chestnut Hill School, which is one of those “right” schools at the onset of the Harvard track. Serious waste of money.

    Aside from personal experience, much of what I think about education comes from having read The Education of Henry Adams. I still have my copy from college, in which my notes and underlining fill all the margins. Adams said:

    The chief wonder of education is that it does not ruin everyone involved in it, teacher and taught.

    He also said apropos of nothing:

    The study of history is useful to the historian by teaching him his ignorance of women.

    And, of himself:

    The more he was educated, the less he learned.

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  62. Larkspur said on August 24, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Dear God in heaven. I bombed in Ann Arbor. Bombed, I tell ya. The year was 1969, I had applied to U of M because that’s what everyone else was doing. My grades were good but that’s all I had (no sports – this was before Title IX). I was absolutely, totally unprepared for a big university. I guess my parents were, too, because they’d assumed I’d get financial aid, only I didn’t, and none of us had set aside one dime for college. It’s a whole long story; the financial part is the least of it.

    If I could go back in time and somehow bring my admission letter back for Kate, I’d do it in a second. I’d have been better off at a small college, or actually in a trade of some kind, although in saying that, I am superimposing today’s possibilities over 1969+ realities.

    I hate that it’s so hard for kids today.

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  63. alex said on August 24, 2011 at 8:40 pm


    I knew someone who spent a year at Azusa Pacific. It’s evangelical Christian. My friend was put there by his mother, who otherwise didn’t want him getting an education at all. She couldn’t let go of him, however, and so brought him back and had him go to a Christian school closer to home. He was a countertenor and had been accepted at the Boston Conservatory but his mother saw no value in such an education, even though her child was gifted and could have gotten a fair part of the tuition paid for. Fortunately for him, she died in a living room chair of an anxiety attack one day and he became free to pursue his dreams and ended up doing quite well for himself.

    What I remember him telling me about Azusa (that probably influenced his coming back to the midwest) was that he had a madwoman stalking him who refused to accept that he was gay and was making his life hell.

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  64. coozledad said on August 24, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    When I see stuff like this I wonder how it is that Republicans can sit day after day, waiting attentively for the next tidy spherical jawbeaker of hate to drop out of a Limbaugh’s prolapsed starfish, so they can chaw it for a while before sharing it with the rest of us.
    Get a load of the little mouthbreather in flyboy drag: The class of preliterates whiffing Perry’s hams just never quit Bush. He’s that abusive older brother for whom they have a morbid, self-loathing sexual fascination.

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  65. 4dbirds said on August 24, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Son #3 just started his junior year majoring in biology at Virginia Tech. He spent his first 2 years at Northern Virginia Communnity College. He applied to five schools and they all accepted him as a transfer student.

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  66. Deborah said on August 24, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    May I say that this has been an interesting day, the original post and the following comments. You hit a nerve, Nancy.

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  67. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 24, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    May I salute Kim’s marvelous summary of a college career well-spent: “self-sufficiency, the ability to spot bullshit when I saw it (from peers and adults), budgeting my time and money, how to be resourceful with what I had. I could tell you this in Spanish, because I learned that, too. Or I could discuss American literature and write well enough about it.”

    Do that, and you’ll have something worth putting on the wall. Oddly enough, I’ve never put my bachelors or masters on a wall, but you know what I mean.

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  68. Jolene said on August 24, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Steve Jobs, who never finished college, resigned. Very sad, as it likely means that he won’t be with us much longer. The news is all over the intertubes, including many links to a commencement address that he gave at Stanford in 2005. It’s very a propos of today’s discussion in that it talks about how, sometimes, things only make sense in hindsight. No amount of saving for college nor any level of GPA could have predicted his achievements. Of course, he is an outlier, but, still, there’s a lot of wisdom in what he says re following your heart.

    There’s a YouTube version and a text version.

    According to Nate Silver, the Apple’s share price dropped enough after the announcement to reduce the value of the company by $18 billion.

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  69. Bill said on August 25, 2011 at 12:35 am

    I think there are as many “right” college choices as there are people. In our college days, my wife and I attended the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and tuition was a munificent $75 per semester. I began my college education, though, at Elmhurst (IL) College, a small church-related school who offered me a $50 per year scholarship. Big money then. Two years later I transferred to U of I, met my wife and the rest is history. I held part-time jobs at both schools. My wife also worked part-time at the U of I. We both received Masters degrees there (we continued our education after marriage). Our children both went to Illinois Wesleyan University. Our daughter was also accepted at the U of I but wanted a small school experience. They are both doing well in their chosen professions today. Our eldest granddaughter is a sophomore at Illinois Wesleyan this year and is doing well. She had a choice of several schools but chose to go where her dad and aunt did.

    The major difference between my generation and the two following is a lack of work experience. I started delivering newspapers at age 9 and worked in the circulation and advertising department at the local paper during high school and during summers at college. I worked at the Elmhurst newspaper while at Elmhurst College. Our kids and their kids have less work experience. I think it’s great, though, that they have a better high school resume than me. I’m less sure how meaningful that is when it comes to securing a good job and knowing what it takes to be relatively successful in the workplace. I hear that some employers have begun frequent celebratory parties which acknowledge what most of the older generation would consider the minimum success, i. e., making two sales a week, getting a prospective customer to tour the premises, etc.

    I love the fact that our second granddaughter is hosting kid birthday parties at the local bowling alley. She has a knack with younger kids and makes their parties a really fun time. And, she gets the tips that attest to the fact that the kids’ parents appreciate her good work.

    I know that times change and I celebrate that, but I wonder sometimes if they have changed for the better. I certainly hope so.

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  70. cosmo panzini said on August 25, 2011 at 2:57 am

    Cooz @64: Completely true. Also explains K Rove’s mancrush on G W Bush.

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  71. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 25, 2011 at 6:56 am

    I did finally get to the other side of DanB’s excellent link from Swarthmore at #33, and they have some good points –

    My personal interests are best served by leaning towards Swarthmore’s take, but having taught at Fairmont State just up the road from Glenville, and followed teaching and campus community over my wife’s shoulder at places like Denison, I could say “yes, you can get much the same experience at either.” The challenge is that it takes extra effort and initiative to find the right classes, learn who the good professors are, and make connections, whether at a smaller state school, or especially if you do what Hacker suggests, which around here would be going to OSU-N for two years, then transferring over to OSU in Columbus for the last two. A considerable number do just that, but you arrive as a junior knowing less about the classes, the faculty, or where the social life occurs (and that is unmistakably part of the deal).

    The thing is, you know you have to do that if you choose “the cheaper” path, and the reality is that you need to do all of that mindful, intentional work on your education even if you get into Swarthmore right off. The danger of Denison or Kenyon or Princeton is that you can too easily assume you got Charlie’s Golden Ticket with the fat letter, get nudged along your four years like a tube you sit in on the water park lazy river, and find yourself at the end with a good, but indistinct degree. That neither serves you as a real education of heart and mind to prepare you for lifelong learning, nor will it do much to get you into a solid career which seems to be the main discussion around the “value of higher education” and is my least favorite part of the conversation.

    But I’m turning 50 juggling three part-time jobs and freelance writing plus supply preaching, so I’m not exactly a model for a successful life. Three to four days a week, though, I’m a happy man. Maybe even five some months. So there’s that.

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  72. Dexter said on August 25, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Jolene: Apple stock dropped 5% within hours, but had recovered 3% of that already and will re-group the remainder by week’s end, it appears.
    Pancreatic cancer and bile duct disease are scourges, but it is apparent that with modern advancements, the fight is fierce against it.
    My dad had two pancreas surgeries at age 59 that almost killed him, but he recovered and died from old age instead.
    Our USPS mail lady fell ill with pancreatic cancer and we were told was in her last stages, then was treated with some new process and actually returned to work with a bounce to her step and a smile on her face. Then she totally collapsed internally and died within days. Jobs? He is obviously facing a steep hill to climb. With all the resources, the best care, at his disposal, I hope he stays with us for another couple decades, and with this disease, how can one ever know a thing?

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  73. A.Riley said on August 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    My godson’s parents met as undergrads at UM and later got their respective grad degrees at Northwestern (an MBA) and UofI Chicago (urban planning). Now at age 44, she’s a hospital administrator and he’s an adjunct professor, consultant to nonprofits, etc.

    They’re determined that their sons (age 4 and 1) will go to UM, but they’re starting him off behind the 8ball because (1.) they’re committed to living in the city (Chicago) and that means either (a.) sending the little dears to the neighborhood public school, which is no choice, or (b.) ponying up for private or parochial school, or (c.) starting the selective-admission rat race way early to get them into magnet schools.

    Their best friends have more or less the same setup, except their kids are older. They’re paying a good buck to send their kids to parochial school and the older one is doing the sports life. Traveling baseball. Basketball in season. Soccer. Leagues galore. They’re clearly hoping for a sports scholarship. Good luck with that, I say. They also have a rich grandpa who might be wheedle-able.

    I don’t know how parents retain their sanity.

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