Stupid Girl – What Was She Thinking?

As a homeschooling parent, I feel privileged to have both quantity time and quality time, as such, I’ve racked up a lot of hours talking to my kids about college & occupation & debt in the context of their future lives. I fear that as a society, we’ve created such a sense of urgency around college admissions, that it’s getting harder and harder to blame the “stupid” college students who take on crushing debt.

The following is a script based on a patchwork quilt of my direct experiences, hearsay, quotes from books and magazines, college admissions experts, college websites, and assorted and sundry propaganda. I’ve arranged them in a way that I think tells a story of our society- it tells the story of why kids are willing to do whatever it takes.

8th grade

“High school won’t be easy like this. It will be hard work, and you’ll have to work twice as hard to keep up your grades, but I know you can do it!”   -teacher

“I have no doubt you’ll make the team next year. It’s been such a pleasure coaching you for the past 5 years”  -Jr. coach

“Extracurriculars are nearly as important as grades and test scores in college admissions.” -High School Open House Session

“You’re only four years away from graduating high school and starting college.” High School pamphlet


9th grade

“You keep playing like this, and you make the varsity team for sure! ”  -H.S. coach

“(PSAT) is the most important test you’ll take next year and you’ll need a very high score to get a National Merit Scholarship” -guidance counselor

“How many AP courses are you taking next year?” -classmate


10th grade

“Colleges want to see that you take initiative and are able to handle a full, well-rounded schedule—especially one that has you spending time with others and working in or leading a team.” -youth director

“(name) tried to work in high school and his grades really suffered. He ended up in the community college.” -neighbor

“What is your dream school?” -classmate

“If you can make varsity this year, you’ll have a much better chance of getting a college scholarship” -HS coach

“Even though you got a B- in AP Biology, you can probably still get into college.” -teacher

“You can retake your PSAT and try for a higher score” -parent

“Have you signed up for their summer enrichment program? It looks really good for your application if you apply there.” -teacher


11th grade

“The SAT or ACT is a serious commitment. The more focused you are during your preparation the first time around, the less likely you are to have to take it a second or third time.” -college prep blog

“This year it’s even more important than last. Once you’re in 11th grade every class counts. I think three AP classes would be the minimum for a student like you.” -guidance counselor

“Start your (scholarship) search early in your junior year.” -guidance counselor

“My daughter has her eye on (name) University and we are so proud.” -parent

“If your parents or grandparents attended this college, the legacy advantage can be the equivalent of getting an additional 50 points on the SAT.” -college admissions blog

“Grades are extremely important.” -teacher

“Decrease your stress by starting your search for colleges early—no later than the start of your junior year.” -admissions checklist

“Where have you applied?” -classmate

“You really need to bring up your SAT score so you can get scholarships.” -parent

“I’m looking at a $1,200 SAT prep class, his score really wasn’t high enough and we’re running out of time.” -HS4CC parent


12th grade

“Don’t give up if you are waitlisted. There’s still a chance you can be admitted” -college admissions guide

“Our annual tuition is $39,400, but 91% of our students qualify for financial aid.” -college website

“2% of high school soccer players qualify for an athletic scholarship.” -NFSHSA publication

“I knew you’d get a soccer scholarship! It’s only because of all your hard work. That’s amazing and you are an example for this team.” -HS coach

“Do you really get to play for your dream school?  Wow!” -classmate

“I don’t think the cost is that different from our state school when you factor in your scholarships. It’s really worth it to us that she go to the better school.” -parent

“they aren’t going to accept her CLEP exams, but that’s fine with us” -HS4CC parent

“It’s really about what’s best for you, as a person.”  -teacher

“Because your financial aid package is created for you and is based on the cost of attending a particular school, your aid amounts will vary from school to school.” -FAFSA Understanding Financial Aid

“A college degree allows you to make more money in your lifetime than if you went into the workforce directly after high school.” -college workshop


College Freshman

“Your federal student loans can’t be canceled or forgiven because you didn’t get the education or job you expected or you didn’t complete your education.” -FAFSA Understanding Financial Aid

“College is what you make of it.” -admissions tour

“Not all debt is bad, and many financial experts call student loans ‘good debt'” -financial advisor

“Parents- don’t forget about the equity you have accumulated in your home over the years. This can be used for important events like college.” -Lendingtree

“Start building your credit score as a college student. Work on establishing a positive credit history with student loans, rent payments or an application for your very first credit card.” -Credit Karma

“Have you thought about grad school yet?” -academic advisor


College Sophomore

“Congratulations, your scholarship has renewed pending continued athletic performance.” -coach

“My daughter is in her second year at (name) University. She’s there on a soccer scholarship! “ -parent

“You’ll have to declare your major before registration.” -academic advisor


College Junior

“I think my loans are pretty low compared to some people.”  -student

“What are your plans after graduation?” -neighbor

“You really can’t take a lighter load at this point or you’ll be here a fifth year.” -academic advisor

“Of course we’ve tapped our equity.” -parent

“I’m sure she’ll get an amazing job with a degree from ___” -parent


College Senior

“I’m in my final year. I’ll do whatever it takes to graduate.”   -student

“I just need to get through this last semester.” -classmate

“She’s graduating this year! We’re so proud!!” -parent

“I don’t know how much I owe.” -50% of all graduating seniors

“I don’t have any student loan debt” -15% of graduates who were wrong

“I don’t have a jobs lined up yet, but I have a few interviews.” -student

Commencement Speech

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”– Winston Churchill

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”– Nelson Mandela

“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

“May your great college memories last longer than your student loans.” -unknown

After Graduation

FAFSA reporting data counts “student loan debt average” as $30,000, but that doesn’t account for family borrowing, 401k loans, home equity loans, personal loans, credit cards, and grandparent loans.  If a family calculates the debt accumulated by everyone for the degree, the numbers become staggering.  

What do students say?  It depends on who you ask. But here are the averages:

  • About half of students who graduated from a university in the past five years said they regret their decision to go to a university.
  • 44% said they do not need a degree to do their current job.
  • 70% felt their parents would have been disappointed if they hadn’t gone to university.
  • MIT study found that 40% of respondents reported they never talk to their family about their student loans. In fact, over half said their families know “nothing” or “very little” about their debt.
  • Fed found that 20% of the homeownership decline among millennials (ages 24 to 32) can be attributed to student loan debt.
  • Other surveys have found that student loan debt is forcing millennials to put off other major life milestones, such as getting married and starting families.

Real World Reactions to Kids with Debt

“Where is the personal accountability in deciding to attend a school with tuition of 50K per year?”

“So? What gun was held to her head forcing her to sign her name? I guess to be anyone of any self-esteem anymore, one needs to be a victim.”

“It’s not the degree it’s the person that holds it. Even a history mayor with the right skills and desire to want more can make a lot. A degree doesn’t get you a good job, you get yourself a good job with hard work.”

“If your students really want a certain private college’s experience, remember that scholarships and generous financial aid can happen—please don’t exclude those schools just on cost.”

“Absolutely no one but her made this choice and her inability to reason should not cost me money. 100% her responsibility and not ours! Grow up, get a 2nd job but don’t expect us to fix YOUR problem.”

“She ends up in debt for a $200,000 degree she could get in a cheaper state school which would have the same weight to it. Anyone else seeing the issue here?”

“When I first got out of school with that 4-year degree I thought I was so smart and knew everything. I didn’t know squat about anything useful. All valuable learning was on the job. That degree just got me in the door. Nothing else. And this was a business degree.”

“I feel like it’s mostly the least responsible people who suffer with any kind of debt. Too bad school doesn’t teach basic logic.”

“We all know a Karen like her. She absolutely needed a reality check.”

“I don’t feel sorry this woman.  Getting a degree she won’t be able to use.”

“Okay fine. But why do kids keep doing this?”

“Why does no one go to tech school???”

“Like a lot of students, she didn’t give much thought to how she would actually pay back such a huge loan.”

“She should probably marry a doctor or a lawyer.”

“Too bad she doesn’t have $200,000 in credit card debt… she could just file for bankruptcy. She`ll never even catch up with the interest on the loans.”

“Stupid girl! What was she thinking?”


9 out of 10 families decided that their children were “college material” prior to the first day of preschool. In 2014, the news reported that a kindergarten play was removed from the yearly schedule so the 5-year old’s could dedicate more time to prep for college.  We’ve created a sense of urgency around college admissions and attendance at all costs.

Author:

Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

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