We recently took a trip to visit colleges for our daughter. There are a few schools she’s excited about, and this was a chance to do a little exploring. It was interesting to watch these colleges put on their show for us, trying to sell us on why they are the best option for our child. They made a point of all the activities my daughter could be involved in. They showed us the dorms she would stay in, telling her how fun it is to stay in dorms, while reassuring Mom and Dad that she would be safe. They fed us in the cafeteria to make sure we liked the food; we actually heard one student say the food was better than usual on visitation day. They then had us attend a presentation about the specific major she is interested in. They got all the prospective engineers in a room and told us about the program. Meanwhile, we parents wanted to know one thing: the employment rate of kids coming out of the program.
The college, of course, is going to give you glowing numbers, and I am sure that they do everything they can to help kids get jobs. it looks great for them if they have a high placement rate. The problem with this school was that they claimed a 100% placement rate last year.
I am skeptical by nature, so I immediately scoffed at that number. How can they place everyone? I thought through the possibilities; engineers are in high demand, and the school probably uses a very generous classification to arrive at that statistic.
Another thought came into my mind, however, as I tried to rationalize the perfect placement rate. Why am I so doubtful that everyone could find a job in the field they went to school for?
Maybe when I was the age my daughter is now I was more ready to believe that kind of thing, but as life has gone on I have found things rarely go according to plan. If I look back to when I was twenty, I didn’t have a clue.
When we found out we were having our first child, our doctor told us that babies had been born for thousands of years; in the grand scheme of things, it was almost like going through a pregnancy was no big deal, and we shouldn’t worry. Well, at thirty-two weeks our son was born. After a month in the ICU we took him home and they told us he would “catch up” with other children. At six months, when they told us something was wrong, they said he wouldn’t be able to do many of the things he has, in fact, been able to accomplish.
Many of my family’s past expectations have been wrong, sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad. All of these events have made me remember to hold on to statements and guarantees loosely. No expert has been able to tell us the future, or promise us that everything was going to be ok. All I can do is be aware that what they are telling me is their best guess. There are no guarantees, and that can be both a source of hope and a hard thing to deal with as we look to the future.