Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Can a Book Change Lives?

For several years I've heard about Loren Pope's Colleges that Change Lives, especially around this time of year when kids have found out they didn't get into the prestigious/well known college they'd hoped for. It's cold comfort for kids who sought the bright lights of the Ivies and got a cold shoulder.

But it's a good time for us as parents to remember why we want our kids to go to college -- and what we really hope they get out of it. Okay. To me that means that college should be a time of learning, discussing, challenging – all in pursuit of finding something that really matters to them and that also allows them to earn a living doing it.

Yesterday I read the used copy I'd ordered from Amazon -- complete with notes and underlines from, I'd guess, a high school student. Then I looked at the Colleges that Change Lives (CTCL) site. It's an up-to-date look at the 40 colleges that comprise the CTCL list. The mission of this non-profit organization? It's "dedicated to the advancement and support of a student-centered college search process. We support the goal of each student finding a college that develops a lifelong love of learning and provides the foundation for a successful and fulfilling life beyond college."

No one can argue with that premise. I confess, though, that as I read about the colleges, they seemed to blur. They are, for the most part, somewhat obscure, small colleges that seem to exist in their own universe. But they share admirable attributes: small classes taught by professors, not TAs; a strong and committed academic community; students who come in as average on paper and then are nurtured, worked hard and are transformed.

The innate goodness of these colleges sounds almost too good to be true. That said, I wouldn't mind if our teen wanted to visit some of them. Still,
In a way, the CTCL perspective is almost radical. Putting the student first! Gosh, I'd bet a lot of colleges might be forced to shut their doors if "students first" became a mandate.

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