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Why I'm Thrilled My Daughter Won't Finish College

My husband is also relieved.

While parents in the “Varsity Blues” scandal were being accused of paying off a consultant to get their children into elite universities, and a new batch of moms and dads began relinquishing guardianship of their teenagers so the financially independent students could qualify for tuition aid and need-based scholarships, I was waiting for my 21-year-old daughter, Meg, to come to her senses, give higher education the heave-ho and get a job.

Make no mistake, I am not down on getting a degree. I have one, as does my husband, Neil, and our son, Luke. But as Neil and I have agreed over the years, not everyone is meant to or should go to college. Meg is one of those people. In fact, since pre-K the struggle has been real when it came to her education. So, imagine our surprise when she insisted on applying.

We suspected a lot had to do with the fact that her brother was already at a university, and Meg had cousins who were also attending or planning to go. Add to that the cachet of living four years as a Kappa whatever as portrayed on television shows, and I found myself writing a check.

Neil and I knew we might end up throwing good money after bad, but we didn’t want Meg to be 50 and still talking about what coulda/shoulda/woulda been if we hadn’t deprived her of her chance to experience life on campus. We took a “Hey, you never know” attitude and let her enroll.

We thought it would take a semester, or at most two, for Meg to be reminded of why school had always made her feel uneasy, alienated and quite often bad about herself. But it took four.

When it was over, Neil and I were relieved. Not only because we would no longer have to pony up the tuition, but because it was painful watching her be so stressed over every paper, exam or just attending a demanding class. As dropout Steve Jobs said, “School was at fault for trying to make me memorize stupid stuff rather than stimulating me.” Other game changers who made the choice to leave school — sparking progress that led to unparalleled success — are Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison.

Will Meg ever be part of that club? I don’t care. What I do care about is that she is looking for a job and seems quite happy in her endeavor, excited to network with professionals in her chosen field and apply for positions she scours for online.

I know, as I always have, once she finds her groove careerwise, success and satisfaction will follow. She will be one of those people who so often shows us that one can be smart in ways that cannot be measured by a grade. In fact, a student who is anxious and insecure in school can become confident and competent in a job setting.

Meg’s people skills (she can work a room like a politician), presentation and public-speaking abilities have always overshadowed other students who made straight As. When she was in high school and volunteered in the admin office, her phone skills were so professional that people would ask the director who the new teacher was who had called to see if they’d be attending an event. The only person I’ve ever met who outdoes her in the helpful department is my mother.

For people out there who are “college material,” I wish them well and hope their degree gets them to the job or next level of education that they wish to pursue. In turn, I hope Meg and those like her, whose energies are better spent going out to work, get the same respect for their choice.

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels Fat Chick and Back to Work She Goes.

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