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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Of What Import the University?

It's summer break in UK and USA. The Daughter's good friends have all flown home from Cornell, Cambridge, Oxford, Berkeley, Stanford... blah blah blah... and seeing the hive of reunions on Facebook, I realise for the first time that about two thirds of The Daughter's class are in top ranked universities. For the first time, information is bubbling through in a stream of happy chatter from The Daughter about this person and that person in this or that Ivy League university.

So I turned away from my steering wheel and peered at The Daughter: "You had EIGHT A level distinctions and a whole host of CCA and research awards. If those people got in, why didn't you? Why did Cambridge University reject you?"

I must shamefacedly admit that I was very sore about having been denied the prestige of having a child in a top university.

The Daughter:
Cambridge makes its selection BEFORE the A level results are out. I could have reapplied the following year but I decided not to because I didn't want a scholarship with a bond, and I didn't want you to pay.

Me (still very sore about being denied a child in a top university):
Whaaaaaaaaat?! Why not?! You're a twit! You're a silly slip of a girl!! I TOLD you that if and ONLY IF it's Cambridge, I would happily pay. I would sell a house to pay for ANY Ivy League university if I had to!!

The Daughter:
I wasn't sure if I would do well at A levels, Mom. When push came to shove and everyone was taking the SATs, I chose to prioritize the A levels. Mom, you said yourself that the global ranking of an university doesn't matter. You said you wanted me to ENJOY university... that you didn't want me to slog in university... that you wanted me to chill out and hang out... and still be in the right hand tail of the bell curve. You said yourself, that in university, I should learn about people and explore avenues that are non-academic. I am having so much FUN now!! You said yourself that as long as I graduate well from the best university in the country, I would be able to find a job... and after a few years, it'll be my job performance that would count. You said so yourself!

Dang! I once said a sight too many things for my own good! Are you sure you didn't CHOOSE to stay here because The Boyfriend chose to study Law locally?

The Daughter:
Mom, ALL my friends have long distance relationships. In my opinion, The Boyfriend would have gotten into Oxford Law easily. We didn't want bonded scholarships and we didn't want our parents to pay. The no bond scholarships we both have, work out great for us both.

Me (wailing loudly):
But I waaaaaaaaaaant to pay!!

The Daughter:
It doesn't matter what you want, Mom. It's what we both want, The Boyfriend and I. I am enjoying myself in university. I've started 2 businesses. I get to see my family every weekend. I've been to Russia, France and Switzerland on exchange programs. I get to work part--time. I'm happy. Like you said, I hang out and chill out... without having to kill myself trying to stay on the right of the bell curve. I like things the way they are. You're sore because of the lack of prestige. I'm a little sore too when I see all my friends come back cheeks glowing. At the end of the day Mom, it's only the lack of prestige that goes with studying locally, that bothers me... and I just tell myself that it doesn't matter.  My friends, no matter what their university... they still love me, Mom. I should be happy for them.

I have no crystal ball. I have no idea whether my advice about hanging out and chilling out in a local university will do The Daughter any disservice in the long term. I ask myself whether her decision had anything to do with fearing failure so much that she didn't even TRY to get into any of these universities except for Cambridge. Did she chicken out so much that she didn't even apply?

Ohhh... I am such a witch to even think that.

I do know that she has denied herself the prestige of being able to say "I'm in Cambridge/Stanford... blah blah blah...", and I must confess that I am proud of her for being able to tell herself "It doesn't matter to me. I am happy for my friends."

Meanwhile, I am blessed to be able to see her every weekend. And I pray... oh I pray... that it really doesn't matter what the university she attends.


My Sinfonia said...

She treads her own path and knows her mind, your daughter.... so I wish her well.

Petunia Lee said...

Sinfonia - I should do the same ... wish her well... except that I feel so afraid for her and guilty for past words.

Blur Ting said...

Your daughter is smart and any future employers will be able to recognise an outstanding individual like her in a heartbeat regardless of which uni she is from.

More importantly, she knows what she wants and cares deeply about you and the family. Isn't that what you had brought her up to do?

The last thing you want is a child who is self centered and cares for no one but herself. I say you have the best daughter any parent can ever hope for!

Petunia Lee said...

Ting - You are so comforting. Yes... I did bring her up to honour family ties... and to be considerate... and to value friendship over competition.

Anonymous said...

your daughter sounds very level headed and mature...I wish her, and you, the very best!!!

Petunia Lee said...

Theanne - Thank you! The Daughter is sometimes more mature than I.