March 13, 2012

Decision Time

Forgive the ongoing saga with my eldest daughter.  I know that there are families out there that would gladly trade our painful decisions for theirs, but it is what it is - and I am thankful that our biggest sticking points have to do with her education.

Boom got accepted to every college she applied to, just not necessarily to the extent or degree that she expected.  That is to say, her number one choice, Texas A&M, offered her an alternative admission process.  This year's freshman applicant pool was the largest ever, and there is a STUPID Texas law that requires the two state universities to admit the top 10% of each school's student body, if they apply.  A rant is forthcoming on that.  Boom is partly to blame, as her application was solid, but submitted piecemeal and later than it should have been.  With rolling admissions, being early is essential when you are lumped in with 15,000 other reviews.

So this 'TEAM' program pairs the university with a neighboring community college.  The program allows the students to live on the university campus, and they are afforded nearly every honor and privilege of being a full time student.  They take most of their classes at the community college for the first few semesters, with the ratio of classes taken at the community college and the university shifting so that students take an even number at each institution near the end of the program.   After two years and successful completion of a certain number of hours with a 3.0+ GPA, TEAM students matriculate to being a full time student at the university.

Most kids in this program transfer to the university well before completing the program.  If Boom were to take a full load this summer, she would be eligible to transfer by Christmas.  I like this program for several reasons.  The first is cost, as the bulk of her hours would be at community college prices for at least two semesters.  I like the idea of her living on the campus she plans on graduating from, right from the start.  She gets to buy a student sports pass, take part in the storied traditions, etc. 

I am concerned that both the program and the early transfer opportunities command a level of assertiveness that she does not possess.  But, the fallback is that she can just coast and do the two full years of the program.  Not sure how that looks when it comes time to apply to graduate school, but, quite frankly, that isn't going to be on my dime anyway.   If she bombs her freshman year, at least it isn't at the 'full price' of a university education.

Boom was fully accepted to TAMU Galveston.  Going to school there offers a move to the main campus after one year, with a normal course load and 3.0+ GPA.  The advantage to this is that she wouldn't have to go through the transfer application and acceptance process, it is simply a change of campuses.  The obvious drawbacks being that she would have to learn her way around a new campus her sophomore year.  She wouldn't have the ambiance of the main campus, its sporting events and its traditions.  She would be living on an island, though.  I have read several comments that there is little to do other than drink, so the mom in me has concerns.

I had told Boom, no matter where she went to college, that she needed to be part of some sort of learning community or activity that provided academic encouragement.  Most colleges now offer living/learning communities that group students together by their field of study, so that they are housed together and have resources like study groups, mentors, tutors, etc.

TAMU has a military Corp of Cadets.  Boom has shown some interest in the Corp.  She did a 'spend the night with the Corp' program and, while she didn't come out of it with an 'I drank the Corp Kool-Aid' mentality, she didn't hate it,either.  What she has said, is that she doesn't think she could do it. 

I have a LOT of interest in the Corp.  Not just because of my love of the military and that way of life, but because of the payback.  Just like some kids discover what they are capable of in the military, many college students join the Corp and are thusly rewarded with confidence, leadership and lifelong friends.

The person-writing-the-checks in me loves the idea of the Corp because of the structure.  For a kid like mine, knowing that someone is in her dorm telling her when to wake up, when to eat, when to exercise, when to study, when to sleep, is the best case scenario.  Corp members study three hours each night.  The Corp hires tutors for their most challenging subjects.  While they are, um, micromanaged their freshman (and a bit of sophomore) years, they are also growing into self-sufficient leaders.

The TEAM program allows students to be part of the Corp.  They even have a Corp unit that is made up of current and former TEAM members, that offer the additional knowledge and support of their experience.

I think this is the best option for Boom.  TEAM students can't join any of the learning communities, so that leaves the Corp as the only remaining option for a holistic academically-focused college experience.  And if I am paying for it, that is all I am interested in.

I am not saying that I don't want Boom to enjoy college.  I know plenty of Corp members and, believe me, they didn't miss out on any partying.  It might not be of the debauched fraternity row variety, but they still have a good time.  They just party smart. Usually.

So the late acceptance to TAMU also means that on campus housing is full.  Boom is wait-listed and will probably get temporary quarters.  It also means that we have to take whatever is available.  Most likely it will be the $2,700 a semester dorm room.  But the Corp is guaranteed housing and it is only $1,700 a semester.  I see that as a sign from God.  Boom thinks I hate her.

I am having a hard time being objective.  Of determining what it is that is BEST for Boom versus what I want for her.  I get that she dreamed of leaving her school uniform behind and rolling into class in pajama bottoms, not a military uniform.  But, what about the payoff?  If I pull parental rank and 'make' her do it - and she is successful, is it worth the heartache now?  Is trying it for a year (even though the freshman year is The Worst for Corp Cadets) asking too much?

1 comment:

CenTexTim said...

My older son went to TAMU-Galveston. He had a great time. He also dropped out of college after one year.

TAMU-Galveston is great if the kid is into marine biology or the merchant marine. A lot of ship's engineering officers come from there. Otherwise, not so great...

A friend's daughter is in the TEAM program. She loves it, and its working out well for her. She's a freshman.

re: the Corps - every kid is different, but try the "do it one year and if you don't like it you can quit" approach. That way she at least feels like she has a say in the decision after year 1. When you discuss it with her explain that it's a financial/housing decision, not a this-will-straighten-you-out decision.

Good luck...