Often I start a parent workshop with a simple question: “Why do you want your child to go to college?” The most popular responses are “para que tengan una mejor vida” and “para que tengan más oportunidades.” It is that last response that always catches my attention. When discussing what opportunities look like, we usually end up discussing jobs, money and a strong network. Still, never has a parent mentioned an opportunity that is much too often overlooked: exposure by going out of state for college.
While I am supportive of any form of higher education (as long as it is not at a “for-profit” institution), I do want to highlight why the option of going out of state should be explored and encouraged a little more. There is too much to see in the world to limit our children to just California.
I met Karen, a Senior, in May of 2015. She didn’t have a 4.0 GPA or perfect scores, but she did have something that made her stand out: a drive to succeed and an admirable work ethic. She also had the support of her family, who encouraged her to apply to all the colleges on her list. Truthfully, she made my job easy as branding her came natural given her personality and her commitment to staying on top of everything.
It was in the spring, however, that we faced a dilemma. She had received multiple college offers but was having a difficult time deciding between her two top schools: UC Santa Barbara and George Washington University (D.C.). Thanks to generous financial aid packages, both schools provided her enough financial aid to cover her expenses. I assumed this would be enough to make the choice and take GW’s offer, as I knew first hand the kind of exposure she would receive by attending a private institution, but I was wrong. While her parents had been very supportive of the application process, they had never discussed the possibility of her leaving to college out of state. They supported her, but they never sat down to encourage her to fly and break away from her comfort zone.
For weeks, we discussed the opportunities available at both schools. Once the summer arrived, I had to face the fact that Karen would probably end up rejecting her offer to GW. She had never visited the school and seeing that her parents were not on board with her leaving California, she felt lost. I couldn’t let go of the fact that I knew she would end up regretting letting go of such an amazing opportunity, so I did what I could and convinced her parents to let me take her to visit the campus before making a final decision.
Visiting the campus made all the difference for Karen. While going across the country was a reality check that she would be far from home, walking the streets of what could possibly be her next home, gave her an opportunity to experience the GW environment for herself. She immediately fit in. As an aspiring attorney and an advocate for underrepresented communities, being two blocks away from the White House felt surreal, and suddenly all her dreams felt more attainable.
Karen officially registered for classes a week ago. She is heading to GW next week and is starting a new chapter in her life. Her parents accepted the fact that the network that GW could provide her and the opportunities available were too much to pass up and are now beyond excited to see their daughter spread her wings.
While Karen’s story had a happy ending, she is only one of the few students who took that leap of faith. This year alone, I had over ten students pass on amazing offers from out of state schools. While I would have preferred for their decisions to have been based on factors out of their control (financial aid), most of them decided to stay because of their parents. While I know they will be finding their own paths soon enough, I can’t help but wish their parents had been more open to letting them go. Your children deserve the opportunity to see the world. Encourage your children to take advantage of opportunities that this country has to offer beyond the state that you live in, and help them harvest the fruit of your sacrifices.
It is time we make going out of state a normal part of our college discussions.
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