The Loh Life

The College Life, Part One: College Adjacent

Sandra Tsing Loh talks about teenagers who find the transition from high school to college pretty tough. 

As graduation season comes upon us, I'd like to take a moment to honor a special breed of high school senior.  If not the college-impaired, let's call them the college-relaxed, college-free, or college-adjacents-which is to say they at least live NEAR a college. 

Which is to say, these are the kids I know - and whom you may know , too -  whose course directly from high school into four years of college has not been entirely smooth.

 I honor the brilliant Asian math whiz who went to Stanford and then moved home, after a year.  After all those crazy years of achievement to get INTO Stanford, it suddenly occurred to him, quite sensibly, that he needed to have a nap.

 I honor the daughter of friends of mine who got into a fancy East Coast girls' school and decided, after two weeks, that it was too fancy and there were too many girls.  She is taking a gap year at home, happily waitressing, babysitting and dog-walking and making money hand over fist.  College?  Maybe next year.

Not everyone quit.  Another young woman was having anxiety attacks about leaving home for her touchy-feely Oregon art school.  The family car pulled up, she was greeted by her new roommate, who came bounding up dressed as an elf?  And off SHE bounded towards the dorms, never looking back.  "Totally the right school for her," her mom reported, wryly.

Closer to home, I have a young family relation who, well, let's put it this way: several of us had to pitch in via Skype and Google Docs - which he was surprisingly adept at setting up - to help brainstorm ideas for his 500-word essay on "Why I Want To Go To College."  That should have been our first clue.

When you'd ask him what his "passions" were, there would be this pause.  When you rephrased it as, "What do you enjoy doing in a day?" The answer?  "Oh!  I really like biking and hanging out with my friends."  This is completely normal for a 17-year-old boy, and is certainly more truthful than pretending expertise in world peace, global climate change, and clean water for African villages.

But that affable loosey-goosey quality, coupled with the fact that in high school he got some A's, some B's, and also a couple of C's?  Mostly A's.  Many A's.  Well, for the three UC's he applied to, right at the deadline, well, they now require like 5.6 GPA's and 8012 SAT scores!

The point is, there were no fallback schools and he didn't get in, to Berkeley or UCLA or anywhere else.  Is there a future? 

Next week: course one, the University of Life.


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