It's that time of year--March Madness. So, what college are you rooting for? Better yet, what college is your child cheering for? Because after all, March Madness for parents with a senior in high school takes on a whole new meaning other than basketball.
March is the time of year when students start narrowing their college choices. And my senior really needs to start pitting one college against another in an effort to decide which one will be named "The University."
TORN: College searches can be exhausting. But a smile from my girl Cassidy makes it worthwhile.
She buckled her seatbelt, put the car in drive and pulled onto the highway. My youngest daughter, Cassidy, just 17 years old, was going to drive the entire eight-hour trip back to her hometown. It was all a ploy. If she could make this lengthy trek, manage toll roads, stop for gas, stop for food, and overcome fatigue, then her parents would allow her to attend Oklahoma State University.
I have forgotten the joy in the journey to find a college home. Cassidy was that one student who applied to a number of universities. Our family even drove to the University of Florida. However, I cannot complain we saw the St. Louis Cardinals spring training and Disneyworld.
But all of this effort seemed a little daunting. As a Mizzou alumnus, I could not understand the need to go outside of the state with such a great institution right in our backyard. But it is not my college. It is not my career. It is not my future. It is not my choice. It is hers.
As parents, it can be difficult to let go. We want our children to pursue their dreams, rise to the top of their field and have a great family. In our hearts, we think it should all be attainable within a 30-minute drive from our house. In our heads, we know that is not reality. Often it takes the words of someone who has been there to help you understand, to help you let go.
CHEERING COLLEGE CHOICES: Mr. Dietzschold (right) still sports his famous Mizzou black and gold bibs, but encourages his daughter, Lauren, and son, Tyler, to find their own college path.
An ag mentor's advice
Only at an agriculture conference with more than 400 people attending can you visit with someone who understands exactly what you are going through. Mr. Keith Dietzschold is the Northwest Missouri District Supervisor and Missouri FFA Executive Secretary. I have known him for a number of years. For those of you who know him and those of you who don't, Mr. Dietzschold bleeds two color schemes, the FFA blue and gold and Mizzou's black and gold. So much, that his black and gold striped bib overalls complemented only by his fake golden hair with black tipped ends can be seen by many tailgaters at Mizzou football games. To say he is a diehard Mizzou fan, is an understatement.
However, Mr. Dietzschold had one child who wanted to chart his own path. He shared with me that his son, Tyler, like my daughter, was concerned over what would happen if he didn't choose Mizzou. "I had to reassure him that I didn't care where he went to college," Mr. Dietzschold said. "I just wanted him to be happy. Mindy, you just want her to find her own way and be happy."
He was right. Mr. Dietzschold assured me Cassidy would chart her own course much like his son who left Missouri to attend Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Tyler, a senior, was part of a team that created bottle openers handed out to some of the hottest song artists at this year's Grammy's. Had Mr. Dietzschold not encouraged his son to find his own university that once-in-a-lifetime experience may not have happened.
A parent's response
Ultimately, it does not matter which university my youngest choose. It does not matter which path she finds. But thanks to some good advice, I do know my role in her journey.
As her parent, I am to travel those long interstate roads, visit those college dorms, and eat in those university dining halls. I am to listen as my daughter shares thoughts from her head rationalizing the merits of one university over another. I am to hear the words from her heart as they cry out to attend "The University." Then I am to make her happy-- and let her go.