Our daughter graduated from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and was awarded a partial scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago. We had also visited an art school in San Francisco that she liked very much and was less expensive, but did not offer her a scholarship. California has many state universities that she could have applied to, but she confined her search to art schools only.
Chicago is on the other side of the country and has brutal winters. Because our daughter was leaving home for the first time, we wanted her to be in the protected environment that a dorm provides but the Art Institute didn’t have one. We didn’t take any of that into consideration, but focused only on the money that was available. Even with the scholarship, she couldn’t afford to complete four years based on our family budget. She dropped out of the school after one year and never returned to a post secondary education.
Many years later my daughter told me she really wanted to go to the art school in San Francisco. It was then that I realized that my husband and I made several mistakes in guiding our daughter to college. First, we concentrated only on art schools and didn’t consider a more traditional four-year liberal arts education. Since she went to a specialty high school, we looked down only one path when many more were available.
Second, we didn’t take a long, hard look at the finances. Student debt is a big issue these days and parents and their offspring need to aim for schools that they can finance for the full four years. But the biggest mistake we made was not communicating with our daughter in such a way that she felt comfortable telling us what she really wanted. We should have flat out asked her what she wanted to do, and listened with an open mind to her answer.
Ultimately, our daughter chose a path that did not include a traditional post-secondary education. She cofounded a nonprofit organization dedicated to community building by facilitating cooperative trade. Best known as Time Banking, the concept is built on the idea that each of us has unique gifts, talents and resources to share and that everyone’s time is equal. She has found her calling in her own way.
Kathleen Vallee Stein