A lot of people seem to be talking about how important the family dinner table is—not what’s on the table, but rather what the family does when its members gather around the table. I couldn’t agree more.
When my parents were in their 80s, they moved into our home. My husband and I had three children—3, 7, and 9. Now, we didn’t always mange to sit down to dinner as a family (my work kept me on the road consulting in school districts across the U.S. many nights). But when we did, one likely topic of conversation was how great the University of Pennsylvania was. My father, Penn’s most loyal alumnus ever, would frequently say to my children, “You know what the best university in the world is….” And they would dutifully answer, “The University of Pennsylvania.” My younger brother followed in my father’s footsteps and went to Penn, but my father sent me off to Cornell—the Ivy League
school that he thought was best for girls. I was supremely happy there. But I knew it wasn’t the best university in the world.
What my parents talked about at our dinner table—when I was young and when I was grown—was college. How do you get kids interested in going to college? How do you nurture a college-going culture at home? Just talk about where you went—while you are serving the potatoes. Talk about where your friends went to college when they come to dinner. Tell your favorite stories. Recall how beautiful/freezing the campus was. Talk about the year that Ed Marinaro didn’t win the Heisman Trophy or the year that Jon Ross was named “Mr. Zero” for his skills as a soccer goalie. Remember with fondness/fear great professors like Michael Kammen and Lawrence Cremin. Children who grow up around such stories will want stories of their own.
Passing down family traditions certainly includes education traditions. Once you get up from the family dinner table, don’t hesitate to take your kids to events at your alma mater. I grew up attending Penn football games (my father worked as Penn’s Sports Information Director for some years). I took my children to Cornell one lovely fall weekend (the only time we have good weather at Cornell). We have walked around Columbia’s campus in Morningside Heights to see where my husband and I attended graduate school. All of these experiences add up.
So, as it turns out, none of my three children attended Penn. They went to great colleges in the U.S. and abroad. They were supremely happy there. But they knew they didn’t go to the best university in the world—at least not according to their grandfather.
Regina H. Paul created a book – HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT COLLEGE: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students. The idea of college for parents can be overwhelming! There are so many choices and so many things to think about for each child! This book helps you to find the answers to your most asked questions!
About Regina H. Paul: During more than 35 years at Policy Studies in Education, a nonprofit organization, Regina has worked to improve K–12 education and has conducted market studies for more than 150 colleges. She has trained thousands of teachers, administrators, and school board members nationwide. She is the co-host of NYCollegeChat, a weekly podcast for parents and high school students about the world of college, and she blogs at ParentChat with Regina. Her latest book is How To Find the Right College.
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