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Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

November 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Annals of a college parent: Yes, son, higher ed is not high school

From time to time throughout his high school career, my son would announce that he didn’t want to go to college.

He didn’t love high school. He didn’t particularly see the point of what he was learning. He didn’t want to spend the next four years in classrooms.

Of course, these episodes always seemed to happen just before a grueling AP U.S. History exam or an assignment in another least-loved subject, while he was also juggling the demands of practice for two different soccer teams. As higher education reporter for The Seattle Times, I could make a persuasive argument in favor of college perhaps more effectively than most. 

My husband and I both loved our college years, and we told him how much different college would be — more intellectually engaging, and in a way we couldn’t even explain, because he had never experienced it before. And anyway, it wasn’t up for negotiation. Going to college was an expectation that we had for him from birth.

William Brown / Op Art

William Brown / Op Art

I often read about, and write about, how difficult college is for first-generation students to go to college — there’s often not much support, and little money in the family, to get these students through the college door. I imagine that a high-school kid who suddenly becomes discouraged by a stretch of uninteresting classes or hard tests might easily throw in the towel. There might not be an adult around to make a convincing counter-argument, and a bad stretch of school becomes a path that dead-ends with a high school diploma, if that.

So after we dropped our son off at Western Washington University for the start of his freshman year, we waited anxiously for the reviews to come back.

The results? He loves it. The time flies in a college classroom, he reports. There’s no busy work, no wasting time — something that he especially appreciates, practical kid that he is. His professors get right down to the topic, and it’s all so interesting that he doesn’t even notice the clock.

Many hurdles remain, even for our reasonably well-prepared son. But we’re past the first one: College is not high school, and in ways that make it a much more satisfying place to learn.

Comments | More in News | Topics: Annals of a college parent, higher education

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