Finding the right college -- in 5th grade?

My 5th grader has been getting mail about colleges. Her reactions are so cute that I can't bear to tell them she's only 11 years old.

Back in November, she received a letter from Mount St. Mary's University that's still on her bulletin board. When she opened it, she squealed and jumped around a bit, thinking she'd already been accepted into a college. My explaining that the purpose of the letter was simply to get her interested in the university did little to squash her excitement.

She read the letter aloud, then grabbed a yellow highlighter and read it again. She highlighted the sentences with affirmations:

  •  "A student with your talents deserves the opportunities you'll find at the right college ..."
  • "Because I believe you are the kind of student who could thrive in our community ..."
  • "Outstanding students like you shine when they find the college that fits ..."

She underlined in red a sentence that made both her and the college look good:

  • "We're proud to be #19 in U.S. News & World Report's best universities in the Northern Region, so a talented student like you should feel right at home on our campus."

The letter gave us an opportunity to talk about the thousands of different colleges and universities in the United States and how they, too, compete to attract smart students. I also got to share a bit about my previous career in public relations, when I wrote similar material and worked to drum up publicity for colleges and universities.

Growing up, not going to college was never an option for my siblings and me. When we would talk about wanting to be a trash collector or shoe salesman, my parents' response was always the same: "You can whatever you want after you graduate from college."

I am proud to carry on that expectation with my girls. And I'm grateful that my daughter's landing on a list she doesn't belong provides opportunities to both confirm those expectations and build her confidence.


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