Love is in the air and the tuition bill is in the mail…….

What a wonderful time of the year. Winter’s snow is gone; Spring visited for a day or two and Summer’s heat has already greeted us. But to me, the most wonderful undertaking is the season of high school graduations. My son, my last child, will be graduating soon. I have a mental checklist of “Lasts” and this almost completes it. College searches are long over and May deposits have already been cashed. Soon, we will be watching our sweet child marching up for his diploma. This makes my heart heavy and happy. There are no others behind him that will need my devoted attention and that’s okay with me. I’ve enjoyed raising all my children. I wouldn’t say we sacrificed anything, because that implies we went without, or missed out. They’ve enriched ours lives, and still do.

Having visited endless college campuses with various children, the college search often reminds me of finding your true love. Nowadays, the college search can last longer than some marriages. You innocently start looking for a college. There are many ways of initiating your knowledge about a school. You can hear about colleges through ads, friends, or guidance counselors. It’s such an emotional time that it is much like developing a love interest. What starts as a practical, fact-based process, soon becomes an emotional attachment like no other.

Much like dating, you meet online. This is window shopping at its finest. The college website entices you with dreams of grassy knolls, beautiful dorms, delicious food, gorgeous students and a secure future. Dating websites make similar promises of hope, happiness and a future. But neither can really guarantee the construction of a foundation for a lasting connection. In both instances, you are curious. You ponder deep questions, “Are you as wonderful as you appear?” You look for the good qualities, “Oh the buildings are beautiful and there are concerts on campus!!” The attraction builds.

Instead of meeting at a café for a speed date, you schedule “the” campus visit. It’s love at first sight. “He’s so tall and handsome.” to the college visit’s “Oh there are so many cute boys.” You’ve forgotten the practical and rely on your heart. In both cases, the attraction is superficial. You engage in a conversation, sharing thoughts. You tour the college, attracted to the new gym and dining hall. All things “new and shiny” are wonderful.

Next comes enlightenment. “You live with your mother?” and “You look nothing like your picture!” to the college love fest “It costs how much?” You suddenly start looking at your attractions in a different light. You ponder whether the initial information exchange is accurate and if you have a future for a growing number of reasons.

Finally, the commitment stage. Is there really a commitment, the understanding and sharing of values? “You don’t have a job?” to the college buzz kill “I have to take a math class?” You start looking more closely at both loves. He suddenly looks more like a paunchy, balding middle-aged man than a hunky romantic interest. Your dream college is situated outside of high crime housing projects and won’t guarantee you a dorm next year.

Harsh reality sets in. There is no real attraction. You don’t exchange phone numbers and give a full-body shudder as you part ways. Your “first college choice” has dropped to the “Only If They Give Me Money” list. You now know the difference between attraction and love. You are wiser. You are beyond falling for admissions cheerleading. You look beyond the student tours and notice what isn’t mentioned. You know love can be fleeting. Your “pro” and “con” lists grow. You start looking at state schools and re-evaluate your choice of majors. You know that you can make changes and take chances. Life is an adventure that needs to be taken. You’ve learned to look past the “something shiny” attractions and know what is worth exploring. Go learn and go love!

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