With everything going on, I had to bump my last Atlantic writing project until late August. It’s too hard to get interviews over the summer with higher ed people anyway. With one less obligation, I’m feeling more like myself. The crazy levels have been ratcheted down a notch. In the unlikely scenario that I get bored in the next few weeks, I can go back to it.
So, now I’m honing on the kids. Ian needs a special ed program for next year. I have to drive him to two final schools for visits in the next few days. And I’m making a plan for the summer school tours for Jonah.
It’s probably not ideal to look at colleges over the summer. There won’t be many kids on campus. Schools use the summer to do construction projects, so there will be more workers than students on campus. But summer is the only time that we’ll have, because every weekend in the fall will be filled with cross country races. Missing school during the week isn’t an option. So, summer it is.
My parents never took us on college tours. In fact, my parents did almost nothing to help us with picking colleges or applied to colleges. I don’t think anyone even proofread my essay. They were first generation types. People who stumbled into college with brains and good luck. They lived at home, applied to one school, and worked their way through college.
My dad was the youngest of four kids raised on the South Side of Chicago. His father passed away two months before he was born. His mom raised four kids and supported her parents with a job in the girdle department at Marshall Fields. During the depression, my grandfather was paid by the steel mills in stocks rather than a salary. My grandmother lived off of that stock money for years after he died. My dads’ brothers didn’t even finish high school.
My dad was a mediocre student in high school. Lots of C’s. He started off semi-abused by nuns in Catholic schools who bluntly told him that he would “never amount to much” and finished off at the South Side High School. He went to University of Illinois at Navy Pier for two years, where some excellent professors suddenly turned him onto education. He transferred to University of Chicago; he still remembers fondly the Cobb Hall Coffee Shop. Then Amherst for a masters and Fordham for the PhD. I think there was a brief stop at University of Nebraska, too, but I can’t remember where that fits in.
My mom was raised in worse circumstances. Her dad was alive, but he was a mean drunk filled with bitterness over having to bow and scrape before rich people at the Waldorf Astoria. With her sixth grade education and my grandfather’s insanity, my grandmother was not equipped to take care of her kids. When they moved to the Bronx in the 1950s, my mom at fifteen found the best Catholic schools, took the admissions tests, got her sister through that process, and got scholarships. Later, when it was time to go to college, my grandfather fought her. He said that girls who went to college were prostitutes. He made her pay for the whole thing, her sister’s education, and rent to my grandfather with three jobs. She was pregnant with me when she finished at Hunter College.
So, handholding me through the college process didn’t occur to them. As a second generation college student, I knew that I had to go to college and I knew that they would pay for it, as much as they could. My mom signed me up for an SAT class. But I was the one who scoured Baron’s Guide to College and devoured the Lisa Bernbach book on colleges. I had something that they didn’t have. I had choices. I mean not a lot of choices. Kenyon, my first choice, didn’t give us enough financial aid, so I had to go to SUNY Binghamton. Still, my parents gave me the jet fuel to get to college and the feeling that I had options.
Jonah is third generation. He has the jet fuel, and he has a parent who knows how the system works. I’m doing all the picking and the reserving spots on the college tours. He is simply too busy with classes and running.
Maybe I’m doing too much. I think about that a lot. But then again, I know so much more about the system. College is simply too expensive to allow him to make a mistake.
Private colleges aren’t really an option. Without perfect SAT scores, he won’t qualify for a full merit scholarship. We don’t qualify for financial aid. All our savings have gone into retirement accounts to make up for the years of zero contributions during graduate school. So, state colleges it is.