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By Christina Tynan-Wood
Hooked on college…at 12!
Somewhere between the secret society and kissing superstitions, Ava had gotten hooked, too. No longer desperate to get out of there, she was now salivating over this future. She was laughing along with the (too-mature) humor, imagining a future where a parent-paid-for meal card would buy her whatever she wanted in any yoghurt store or burger joint on campus. She was dreaming of rolling out of bed into a social life so packed it would leave no time for sleep.
At first, I was just happy she no longer looked fatally bored. But in the car on the way home, it dawned on me that this had been an epiphany for her. My little girl no longer saw herself as a kid in middle school. She saw herself as a young person on a path – middle school only the current step on that path — that led somewhere. “I am going to college there,” she announced with absolute certainty after I’d wasted 10 frustrating minutes trying to get any reaction to the school from her brother.
She didn’t give me time to speak before she shared what she’d been plotting. “First, I’m going to the early college.” (There is a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation early college at a campus near us.) “Then I’ll go there. And I want to study in Europe for a year. I want a degree in marine archeology.” I was stunned. I had dreamed that her brother would be inspired. He wasn’t. He sat mute and sullen, refusing to participate in any conversation that featured him as a motivated student.
But I never expected a plan this clear — even from him.
“Really?” I asked. “You liked it?”
“What do I need to do to make that happen?” she asked, ignoring my question as frivolous and off-point.
So I told her, “You will need better grades.” She nodded. “And you might want to get involved in sports or some sort of extracurricular activity.” She agreed.
Staying on course
It has been almost nine months since we took that tour. My daughter remains certain of her plan. Of course, like any 12-year-old, she often procrastinates studying or doing her homework. But I have only to remind her that she has things she wants to accomplish and she gets her books out and gets to work. She joined the swim team and takes it seriously. She takes photography seriously. And she even let me sign her up for some online classes to supplement her school’s not-so-great math and science curriculum.
Her brother remains unmoved by any visions of later-night pizza runs involving heated discussions of Kierkegaard. But the unrelenting competition between him and his sister has spurred Cole to pick up his grades.
I have no idea if the college tour gave Ava such a clear plan or if it’s simply her nature and the tour gave focus to her innate ambition. But as tourist destinations go, I can’t recommend the college campus enough for families with teens and tweens. I wish we had arranged for Cole to be that under-no-pressure tagalong on someone else’s college tour when he was in middle school. Maybe he wouldn’t be so apathetic now. We have long forgotten most of the touristy stuff we did on that trip, yet that (free!) college tour motivates my daughter every day. Just to keep her inspired, you can bet that all our vacations for the next three years will include a detour to a local college campus.
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