The internet is piling on a recent post titled Six Reasons to NOT Send Your Daughter to College. It is ridiculous. College isn’t right for everyone, but to say that it is uniformly unsuited for Good Catholic Girls (excuse me, for Good Catholic Daughters) is madness. I’m not interested in rebutting this point by point, but I will offer four reasons why all you Good Catholic Daughters out there might want to go to college.
You will get away from your parents.
If you are fortunate, moving out of your parents house will be difficult, because you enjoy having them around. Someday though, you will be glad you had to grow up in this challenging way. No one to shower you with praise, no one to check up on you at night, no one to fold your socks, no one to grab you something from the fridge. You will have to do all of these things for yourself, and that is a good thing. Maybe you will go back and live with them after, and that might be delightful, but taking a stab at life on your own will grow you up in ways you can’t image.
You might fall in love.
You might fall in love with math, with literature, with theology, with nursing, with physics… I know Irenaeus will forgive my making his adage gender-neutral: the glory of God is the human being fully alive. In college, people will constantly put new things in front of you, and you will have to read them. I never dreamed that I’d find a passion for Russian literature, but then a professor put Brothers Karamazov in front of me, and I was done.
When you are on fire for something you will know, and you will know that it is the Holy Spirit setting your soul aflame.
And perhaps some night, when the rest of the study group has gone home, you will lock eyes with a fellow future teacher or scientist or detective, and realize that your love of learning does not exclude the love of people. And you will be for him not an occasion of sin but an occasion of grace.
You will learn if your house of faith is built on stone or sand.
Someone else’s faith will never sustain you. It might get you off the ground, but it won’t keep you in flight. In a new environment, asking the right questions, you can open up your belief system, take a long look at it, and put it back together again.
At a Catholic college you can hear speakers and preachers and theologians ask tough questions over and over again. You can take entire classes just based on growing spiritually. At any college you may be surrounded by people who don’t think that your spiritual path is the right one. You will watch your values collide with your new freedom and the big wide world. Do you want to avoid this challenge, or do you want to do the hard work exploring your convictions?
I can tell you that the work is worth it, that knowing the foundation of your personal faith might be all that stands between you and the void when the bottom falls out. Because if you run now, you have to spend your whole life running.
You will meet all sorts of people.
For any given person, there are scads of others who disagree with them on just about anything. You will meet people who vote differently than you or your parents. You will meet people who are considering a religious vocation. You will meet people who have gay parents. You will meet women who have had abortions. You will meet people who pray the Rosary outside Planned Parenthood. You will meet people who are vegetarians, socialists, capitalists, feminists, bigots, and activists.
One might live on your floor or be your roommate. One might sit behind you in Business Ethics. You will meet these people.
But you will do more than meet them. You will sit with them in the dining hall, ride the bus with them, be their discussion partner. And, God- and you-willing, you will eventually come to love them in some way. You will see past torrid histories and aggravating presents to the person near you and open your heart to them and be amazed at your own capacity to love beyond that which scares or even offends you.
Remember the greatest commandment? To love one another? This is when you know you’ve nailed it. And it will be the greatest lesson you could have learned.
So think about college, OK? It might not be for you. There are lots of ways to learn what you need to know at this time in your life. But if you feel the call to higher education, Be Not Afraid. Haven’t you heard that somewhere before?