2007.07.11 Make no mistake, mothers aren't always right

Written by David Green.


In a twisted twist of fate, I got just what I’ve always wanted: a child who will attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

I’m a Spartan myself, although not a diehard fan. I was merely an oblivious-to-football college student who had applied to MSU, you may recall, because my friend Sondra had an application she wasn’t using.

When my son Ben applied only to Michigan State I thought he was making a big mistake. I insisted he apply to at least one other school, just to have a choice. He wouldn’t bother applying to U of M and even though I was itching to have him go there, he’d been planning to attend State since he was a toddler.

He did say that if U of M wanted him he’d consider going there. But he wasn’t going to apply to find out—the application process included writing an essay and Ben had no use for that. Back then, MSU didn’t require one. Even though I thought Ben should investigate and apply to lots of college, his choice was perfect.

As a freshman, he found the career he loves, did very well academically, made contacts with key people, had an active social life including a spot in the Izzone and even met his future wife.

When my daughter Rozee chose to attend the incredibly tiny Berea College in Kentucky instead of the University of Michigan, I almost cried. My high school in New York had nearly three times more students than Berea’s enrollment of 1,500. I was sure she was making a huge mistake. Instead, she’s had amazing opportunities and varied experiences that she likely never would have encountered at a large university—and she met her future husband.

It’s not like I wished my kids would attend the University of Michigan because I was so impressed with the university. I know it has the caché, it’s the place everyone wants to go, it’s the school with the reputation, it’s, in ACT lingo, “highly selective” as opposed to just “selective.”

I’ve never cared about any of that.

It’s the town of Ann Arbor that I was keen on. Ann Arbor has such a wonderfully wide variety of restaurants representing so many cultural backgrounds. I wanted my kids to go to U of M just so I could visit them and take them out to eat—Indian, Ethiopian, Lebanese, Japanese, Greek—we’d sample everything over the course of their college career.

But wouldn’t you know it? The child of mine who decides to go to U of M is the picky eater. The kid who only wants to go to New York Pizza Depot for a meal whenever we visit Ann Arbor. The kid who only ever orders a toasted plain bagel with butter on the side at Zingerman’s, the incredible deli with millions of delectable food choices.

So, here I am a parent with a kid going to arguably the best school in the state and I’m not happy about it. It’s not just that I’ll be spending the next four years eating pizza when I visit Maddie.

I’m wondering if she’s made the right choice. I thought Maddie should choose that tiny school in Winter Park, the one that was offering her so much in grants and scholarships she would have been getting money back, the one that was giving her a free laptop, the one that accepted her into a five-year MBA program so she would have graduated with a bachelor’s and a master’s in five years, the one where the people are so nice they call and remind you that they haven’t received your enrollment deposit yet.

But, who’s ever heard of Rollins College? That’s what it boiled down to for Maddie. And, it turns out, she’s probably made the right choice. I was reading “Yes, You Can Get a Financial Life!” by Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth and right there on page 14 they list 20 colleges, that according to another author, may give students some special advantage in life.

And, wouldn’t you know it, the University of Michigan is right up there with Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Duke and Columbia.

So, what do I know? I was wrong about Ben’s choice and I was wrong about Rozee’s choice. With a record like that why would Maddie think she should listen to me?

What can I say? Make that a slice of Sicilian, please.

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