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I spent an hour today designing my oldest daughter’s high school graduation announcements. In a few short weeks her high school career will be over, and we still don’t have a freakin’ clue as to what her future holds.

Her friends all seem to know. Some are off to this college or that university, and others are staying home and attending community college. But  my little girl just can’t seem to figure out what she wants to do, or where she wants to go.

We attended a open house day at VCU in Richmond this past Saturday. It’s supposed to be a super school, and is highly acclaimed – a degree from VCU would look very good. And she’s been accepted there. But after the tour, we were less than enthusiastic.

The dorms were scary. The rooms were small, dark and dirty and the compound had too many bars and fences. It felt more like a youth detention center than a dorm. There were two sets of dorms that were high-rise style, and they weren’t too bad, but you can’t rely that you are going to get into them.

There was no dining hall that I could see. That may be a plus to most students, especially on meatloaf night, but I don’t like the idea of my child eating out of a food court for the next four years. Yes, I said food court. There are several locations on campus that have iHop, Chik-fil-a and Pizza Hut restaurants, along with other “fast food” type joints. I can see my girl packing on the freshman 50 instead of just 15.

It’s in the city. The city of Richmond. I think my girl, who basically grew up in the sticks, would be too scared to leave her dorm past 5 pm to do anything. Paper due? Gee, the library is 4 blocks away and it’s dark. And there’s nobody to go with me. Hell, I’d pass at that point.

However, VCU has a major for her…several, in fact that she could try. I just don’t like her/us spending $20,000 if she’s still figuring out what she wants to do while living in scary dorms and eating crappy food.

Then there is UMW – The University of Mary Washington. It’s campus is cute as a button – the type that is perfect for my girl. It’s a tad more affordable too – they granted her about $1,000 more than VCU did.

So you ask, why aren’t we sending in our deposit check? It really doesn’t offer a major that suits her well. When we toured and applied it did. Kinda. She was interested in the drama program, or maybe English. She likes the idea of being a writer.

But that was way back in the fall. Maybe she doesn’t want to do that anymore. Once we got the acceptance letter we took another look at their curriculum and realized that it may be a waste to go there, especially since she’s undecided.

That leaves us with Community College. It’s right down the road, not 15 minutes away from home. She could take a bunch of courses in a variety of topics – find something that speaks to her. If she completes the 2 years and gets an Associates Degree she is guaranteed admission to UVA or JMU to finish her studies.

But there’s a stigma to community college…she thinks she will look like she just gave up. I love the money saving aspect and the idea of her being able to sample a whole bunch of fields of interest until she finds something she’s passionate about. Most Freshman at college spend the year taking required courses in math and english, and to honest, we can’t really afford the price tag that is attached to them.

And I won’t deny that I’d love fact that she’ll still be home. My honey bunch is not a very organized gal. She also procrastinates. As I write this, she is working on an art project that is due tomorrow. She hadn’t even started it. Can you imagine what she would do if she were on her own in a dorm full of girls? Popcorn? Check! Dr. Pepper? Check! Netflix? Check! Homework? What? Huh? The next thing you know the semester is over and she’s only brought home B’s and C’s.

When I was in college I saw tons of kids, mostly boys, who did nothing but play Risk, drink Piels Beer and watch TV. They rarely went to class, and were pretty much thrown out of school by the end of the year. I thought of the money their parents paid for that privilege and it would get me mad that they had so little consideration and respect for them.

We have a serious decision to make in the next few weeks. My bright little girl has to figure out what she is going to do, and then we have to set a course of action. It sucks that this all comes down to money – to trying to find an affordable alternative to a higher education.

Unless the Mega Millions ticket in my wallet comes up a winner – then my girl can do whatever she wants. And I’m heading to Europe.

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