Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Today's High School Kids

I went to a college fair tonight representing Rensselaer. Most high school kids have an experience with a college fair. Typically, representatives from dozens of colleges have a table in an auditorium or cafeteria of some high school, and students walk around, seeking colleges they're interested in, talking to reps, and picking up brochures. I enjoy the interaction and the older I get, the more fascinating it is to observe the interaction between kids and their parents, and kids and their peers.

Today's high school kids seem so different than when I went to school. I wonder if I was ever that "cool"? I wonder if I ever acted stand-offish when my parents were around my peers? I see so many of the kids that I knew in high school: the slouch, the A+ student, perky people, quiet people. Who was I back in high school? What impression do I give these kids today?

The questions from students range from "Do you have a nursing program?" (No.) to "What SATs do I need to get in?" (There is no specific score, but the average SAT for the class of 2005 was 1306. I was well below that.) to "What was the atmosphere like?" (It's a blast. I think.) These miniature counseling sessions are varied, and enlightening.

I stare at the parents. I see the parents who have a strong hand in the decision making, and I see the ones who are just there to chauffeur their kids. I enjoy stunning parents with the cost of tuition (it's $35,000 for freshman year, when you add room and board). I also enjoy representing the school as an alumnus, someone who's proud of their degree, and is making the most of it. I think I know what I want them to hear, since I will (I hope!) be walking around some high school cafeteria chasing after my own college-bound daughter.

I think I would enjoy being a guidance counselor. For most kids, the world truly opens up after high school. It would be fun to be their guide as they start to explore their next horizons. It is an exciting time for them, facing the question: "Where do I want to go to college?"

I know what I want to say to those kids: "You have so much time ahead of you!" I want to tell them to know themselves now. Really think about who they are, and what they enjoy. Try to imagine what you want to be doing "in the real world." Yes, getting into a good school is important, but people transfer between colleges all the time. People drop out all the time. People pick up college later in life. You have a lot of time ahead of you! Make sure to enjoy the excitement.

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