Applying to College

My daughter shook her head in disbelief when I told her that I only applied to two colleges my senior year of high school. “Nobody does that,” she explained. “A lot of people apply to at least 10.” 

She was right. I read that one ambitious student applied to 86. The thought never crossed my mind that either school to which I applied might not accept me. In my high-school-senior mind, they would be lucky if I accepted them. Much has changed in the last quarter century. Mobile phones aren’t a symbol of vast wealth, and many high school seniors are filled with anxiety about getting into a good college. 

It has been challenging helping our daughter decide to which colleges she should apply. There several statistics to consider. You need to consider how competitive the school is. What score did the average student they accepted have on the ACT?

The average debt of students graduating is also an important statistic. Who wants to put off purchasing their first moped for six years while they pay down their student loans? Both of those statistics were readily available when I applied to college. 

There are several new measures available to consider. The percentage of students graduating in four years, which has an inverse relationship to the average debt of graduating students, is important. The longer it takes to graduate, the longer it will be before you can be cruising down Main Street on that new moped. 

Another statistic we did not have available was the student life satisfaction ranking. I was surprised to discover that my undergraduate college was very close to the bottom in that ranking. It’s probably best that none of us knew this rank. If we had known how miserable we all were, we probably would have transferred or dropped out. The truth is I enjoyed college. So did most of my friends. Perhaps I did not know all of the truly miserable people. 

As I was pondering this, a terrifying thought crossed my mind. What is the correlation between the student life satisfaction ranking and the four-year graduation rate? If the school has a very high satisfaction rate, who will want to graduate? If everyone is so happy, they may never leave. I don’t want a bumper sticker that reads, “My child and my Social Security check go to Satisfied State University.”

As images of hoards of very satisfied 50-year-old students sporting their school colors outside the football stadium filled my head, I checked the relationship between the two rankings. Fortunately, it appears that satisfied students are just as likely to graduate in four years.    

Apparently satisfaction with our present circumstances does not keep us from moving forward. Although I was not miserable in college, I knew there would be something better after graduation. The vision of a better future motivates us to make progress. We do not have to create dissatisfaction to get people to embrace change. They simply have to believe something better lies ahead.

RJ Johnson

I have been a priest for 16 years.  I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010.  If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.

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Volume 7, Issue 7, Posted 9:55 AM, 04.07.2015