Sunday, November 29, 2009

She's Got Mail!

When my teenager walks into her room tonight, she's going to see a stack of unopened envelopes on her bed that have been piling up for the last week while she's been down in Southern California visiting her dad for Thanksgiving break. She is being courted by a number of our country's finest colleges and universities with the fervency of a horny suitor. First they send the letters, then they follow those up with a flood of e-mails. Gosh, she sure is popular. Imagine if they really knew her -- I'd have a damn riot on my hands!

I'm excited for my daughter and this college shopping spree she gets to go on. I've been telling her all along that the world is her oyster, she can be all that she can be and to shoot for the stars. (You'd be surprised at how many cliches actually apply toward raising teenagers.) While her grades aren't impressive enough to get her into Harvard, Stanford or Yale (which she has no interest in, anyway), they are good enough to get her into a decent liberal arts college or university.

I will continue to encourage her to get good grades and to set her sights high, but secretly, I'm panicking. I'm not sure I can afford to send her off to the college of her dreams! The ex and I started her life with good intentions and had some sort of college fund set up that was tied in with our life insurance or something and such, but I was a new mom and wasn't really paying attention. How could I be thinking of college for my baby daughter when I was just happy to get through to the next feeding? Add a new sister into the mix, a divorce, a complete restructuring of the family nest, my nip-and-tuck years as a single mom and suddenly we've come screeching up to this junction in our lives: my baby daughter is now a junior in high school, poised to go off to college in two years, and I have no idea how I'm going to afford it.

Of course the ex-husband and I will split the cost, so that helps. But still, it makes me wonder how many parents really save for their children's college educations. It's something you hear you're supposed to do the minute they cut the umbilical cord, so say all the best financial advisors. But I think many of us parents think there's plenty of time, don't we? "Why not start saving for college tomorrow? Or maybe a few years from now? There's no rush. Besides, we need that money NOW!"

Well, folks, I'm running out of time. How about you? I don't have the heart to tell my teenager that she may not be able to go to the college of her choice. Too risky this close to finals, with SATS right around the corner. Besides, I'm still optimistic. I believe it will all work out for her, somehow. Life always seems to go that way.

I have to remember that I went to the college of my dreams on sheer determination and resourcefulness alone. My parents didn't help with my out-of-state tuition, but I somehow pulled it together through grants, loans, various scholarships, work-study programs and two years as a resident assistant, which covered my room and board.

I have faith in my daughter that in the 11th hour, she, too, will be able to piece it all together and not let ANYTHING deter her from pursuing her chosen education. That attitude seemed to work well for her mom.

But just in case, I'll be buying a lottery ticket tomorrow.

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