Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Grandparents may be a guiding light on the college tours

Peter Jennings, a veteran college counselor at the Concord Academy in Massachusetts, sent me a thoughtful proposal for more involvement by grandparents in the college admissions process. I posted it on my blog, but there was something about it that bothered me. • I have been a proud grandparent for nearly three years. I didn't mind Jennings' praising the obvious erudition and sensitivity of people in my situation. "Grandparents have the unique ability to understand the complexity of growing pains while highlighting the special and unique aspects of their grandchildren," he said.

That's true, of course. My problem was that he didn't say enough about the ugly but still indisputable reason that we grandparents need to take over the college hunt: If we don't, it will be left in the hands of the college applicants' parents, our beloved children, who are terrible at it.

They are too nervous. They are too pushy. They can't see the big picture. They are compromising our families' future with all their nitpicking and listmaking. With them in charge, there is a risk that our grandkids will run away from home and never go to college.

I offer myself as Exhibit A in bad parenting on the college tour. (My wife was also involved in these episodes, but she was usually an innocent victim of my excesses, trying to hold me back.) When our daughter Katie was looking at colleges, the trips were tainted from the outset by the fact that I was using her experiences in a book I was writing about college admissions. How exploitative and self-centered can you get? I would never do that to our grandsons.

It got worse. I noticed that the California Institute of Technology was desperate for female applicants. Katie's science and math grades were good. If she got into Caltech, she could meet and marry a future Internet billionaire (or become one herself) and set Linda and me up in a nice beachside condo in Malibu.

So, without telling Katie what I was doing, during a visit to other colleges in Southern California, I pulled the car up in front of the Caltech admissions office and suggested that she take the tour. She refused. It was a shabby move by me. Now that I am a grandparent, I understand that.

Let's face it. Parents can be jerks. They see the college search as a test of their success in raising their child. They are too invested in the result. They worry too much about the rank of the school their child will choose.

We grandparents, on the other hand, have lived long enough to know, looking back, that where you go to college has almost no bearing on your satisfaction with your life and work. We know that success in life stems from the quality of our characters, not the age and pedigree of our colleges.

We don't see our grandchildren as often as their parents do, so there is less chance of our offending them. On birthdays, we give them what they really want — cash — while their parents try to show devotion with a specially chosen gift that never quite satisfies.

We grandparents occasionally say the wrong thing. But our grandchildren shrug that off as quaint, or as a further sign of our mental deterioration, which only makes them love us more.

Grandparents may want to tell their grandchildren to advise their parents that in this troubled economy Mom and Dad can't risk taking time off from work. We can take them on the college tours, pay for meals and never be embarrassing by asking stupid questions at the introductory meetings.

Grandparents may be a guiding light on the college tours 11/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.