We have reached the point in our home where college is not some far-off thing in our kids’ lives that we are casually planning for. It is approaching rapidly, and we are beginning to think much more seriously about the concept.

M took the PSAT in the fall and ever since has received daily multiple brochures and letters from colleges. At first she was thrilled. The modern touch of the school creating a custom URL that included her name was an especially flattering. But she’s grown bored with them – “They all say the same thing” – and barely looks at them anymore.

Yesterday she met with her school counselor to plan out her last two years of high school and start putting some thoughts on paper about college. In addition to the PSAT, which she did really well on, she took a personality/preferences test recently that spit out some areas of employment she might want to explore. Her results suggested kindergarten teacher, therapist/counselor, and CEO. That’s quite a range! I like to think it demonstrates that she is both empathetic and can get shit done.

When we ask, she never really expresses an interest in a particular direction. I’ve said for years she should go to law school since she loves to talk and argue. She’s always rejected that, “I don’t want to be an attorney.” I pointed out our many friends with law degrees who don’t practice law, and how law school can be a tool to open up pretty much any career track.

But we have to figure out undergrad before we can think about post-graduate work or career path.

The sheet we got back from the counselor also had some early ideas for what colleges to research. M’s been saying for a couple years she wants to live in a true college town and go to a bigger school. Yet the first schools on the list were Marquette, St. Joseph’s, and DePaul. None of them are big schools and none of them are in small college towns. There must be some bias in the test toward Catholic schools.

After those was listed a group of Big 10 schools – IU, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State – and Ohio University.

To this point she’s only mentioned two schools that intrigue her: Alabama and Wisconsin. There is a surprisingly large swath of kids from Indy who end up in Tuscaloosa. I wouldn’t be thrilled about out-of-state tuition in the south, but it would be fun to go to a football game down there. One of her best friends has family in Wisconsin, and her older sister just decided to go to school in Madison, thus the attraction there.

When I was her age I pretty much knew I was going to KU, so I didn’t invest much time or effort into the process. That got upended when we moved to California during my sophomore year. UCLA was my dream school, but locals told me A) unless I had a perfect GPA (I did not) there was no way I would get in and B) living in LA was crazy expensive, so I should be prepared to have no money if I went there.

I adjusted and ordered some materials from a few other UC schools. When I saw the pictures of dorms a few yards from the beach at UC Santa Barbara I knew that’s where I wanted to go. Had we stayed in California, I’m guessing that’s where I would have ended up, although I wonder if I would have explored public schools in neighboring states to combat the cost of living price of Cali.

Fortunately we moved back to Kansas City after a year and going to KU became plan A, UMKC plan B.

M has rocked her first year-and-a-half of high school. She has a >4.0 GPA, she’s in student government, and has a couple extracurriculars that she enjoys. She has a weekend job and does most of her service hours at a food bank. It seems like she knows just about everything that’s going on around campus, too.

She already has a better resume than I ever had. While I would prefer she end up at IU or Purdue for financial reasons, I’m proud she has a lot more options than I did.