Final Decision Time


Making the final decision about where to go to college should rest with the student. I learned how valuable this lesson could be firsthand this January; as I travelled to help my oldest daughter return from college.

We sent her off a year and a half ago with all the hopes and dreams of any family. She picked a school where she felt most at home, after visiting many other programs, and she had valid reasons for her choice. The school was located in a city in which we had lived, and we had some friends and family nearby. She loved the idea of living in a city environment, and most importantly, she wouldn’t need a car. Of course, there were many other factors taken into consideration, and we all felt confident with this decision.

The first year was exciting, living on her own and plunging her into independence. She connected with a student organization, Hillel, and formed lasting friendships and even was on the Board of the Metro-Hillel program; things seemed to be on track. For the summer, she got a job as a camp counselor, and we helped secure a small apartment, but otherwise, she was on her own. We felt very proud of her and she had a busy and productive summer.

Second semester proved to be challenging from the start; she really had not connected with any students from her school program and her new roommate was not a good match. Here is the tricky part- she didn’t want to admit to herself that things weren’t going well and we didn’t know how unhappy she was, until she came home to visit for Thanksgiving.

Our gut feeling was confirmed and we knew we would have to intervene, but how? And when? The short visit did not provide the opportunity for serious conversation, however, we were already making plans for her return after the fall semester concluded. Luckily, she secured a spot on Birthright, a free trip to Israel for Jewish teens, and she would be going over winter break. Prior to her departure, I called her one day just to chat, and let her know that if things weren’t working out, it was okay; that she did her best to have a positive learning experience, and perhaps the program was not a good match. I let her know that she had not failed, and let her off the hook. Tears ensued, and after a brief and somewhat difficult few minutes, we reached the joint decision that after her trip to Israel, she would return home.

Moral of the story: these students, our children, are still young, and while they yearn for complete independence, and want to make all of their own decisions, they still need the scaffolding and support that family can provide. After all, it is these experiences of success and failure that help us to become our true selves.

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