2018-03-08 / Front Page

‘Independent’ generation considers college options

By Jen Murphy
of the Enterprise staff

GRACE MUMA and her mother Cathy Anthofer-Fialon each recognize their role in the college selection process. Muma knows it’s her decision, and that it’s an important one. Anthofer-Fialon realizes it’s her daughter’s decision, and that as a mother, her job is to ask powerful questions. GRACE MUMA and her mother Cathy Anthofer-Fialon each recognize their role in the college selection process. Muma knows it’s her decision, and that it’s an important one. Anthofer-Fialon realizes it’s her daughter’s decision, and that as a mother, her job is to ask powerful questions. Letting go can be hard to do.

That’s the lesson Cedar resident Cathy Anthofer-Fialon is learning. Her daughter, Glen Lake senior Grace Muma, is going through the process of selecting a college to attend next fall.

“The hardest part for me is stepping back and letting the decision be Grace’s. I definitely have my opinion, but bottom line is that it’s the beginning of her adult life,” said Anthofer-Fialon.

“It’s really difficult as a parent. This is the last step moving toward adulthood. It’s her experience.”

It hasn’t been an easy process for Muma, either.

“It’s exhausting, but it’s also really rewarding,” Muma said. “You’re trying to figure out your future.”

Fortunately, Muma said feels a lot of support as she embarks on the next steps of her educational journey.

“We have amazing teachers and amazing counselors to help. We’re lucky to have that,” she said.

Her mother also offers a skill set many other parents may not have.

“I have a unique perspective because I worked in higher ed for 18 years in student life,” Anthofer- Fialon said.

She’s learned over almost two decades working at three different institutions that students are independent. “The decision is theirs and the investment is theirs,” she said.

Despite this independence, however, she also saw “helicopter parents” first-hand.

“They would come into our office and speak for the student, and over the student, even though they (the students) are adults,” Anthofer-Fialon said.

Based on those experiences, Anthofer-Fialon said she has taken a back seat in her daughter’s college decision-making process by asking questions.

“I ask powerful questions about what she wants to see happen to her, and how to make that happen,” she said. “I ask her: Ultimately, where do you want to be at the end of four years?, What’s most important to you in living environment? And what kind of people do you want to interact with?”

“Grace has always been my very practical-minded kid. She has known she’s wanted to be a teacher since she was three years old. But this is a time of exploration, and I want her to explore.

“I know that whatever happens, it will be best for Grace,” Anthofer-Fialon added.

The college-bound senior has whittled her list down to four colleges. She has been accepted at three, and is waiting for her acceptance at the fourth any day now.

“It’s a roller coaster of emotions. I was so happy (about getting accepted), then I realized this was the rest of my life and I couldn’t go with my heart. I had to go with my mind as well. And you have to make your decision. Now I’m at the point I have to decide.”

So far, Muma said she has learned a few lessons along the way. Her biggest piece of advice to others? Go see things for yourself.

“Definitely visit — you can’t tell what it’s like from an internet search,” Muma said. “Look to see if they have your major. And you should feel like it’s a second home and you could go there.”

And, as Michigan’s four-year high school graduation rates are hitting 80.18 percent for the first time in over a decade, it could mean an increase in students looking to extend their education another four years.

To meet the potentially growing demand, our local schools work hard not only to keep graduation rates high, but also to help students select colleges that are a good fit.

Glen Lake Community School high school counselor Ginna Woessner said, “We have been fortunate to send students to fine institutions such as University of Chicago, Yale, and Kenyon to name just a few. We have excellent graduation rates, and for most of my 16 years we have had about 50 percent of our students attend a four-year institution.”

As a resource to parents, Woessner designed the “Glen Lake College Planning Guide” and holds a college planning parent night every March.

Suttons Bay school counselor Matt Peschel does what he can to assist parents as well, but recognizes how difficult the process can be.

“There’s a persistent disconnect for kids between identifying a career field of interest and picking a college major or training program to get them there. Beyond the fact that it is a bit ridiculous to ask a 17-year-old to choose a career, and the changing dynamics of work and the number of jobs the average worker has over a lifetime these days, my job is exposure and data to help kids and families make informed decisions,” he said.

“I highly recommend to families to take college campus visits and tours. I give out worksheets so that families can take notes and compare places visited. With about 2,000 degree-granting institutions in the U.S. students have to generate criteria that narrows the field. None are too petty or silly — if it was matters to you and you can find a way to pay for it--size of school, climate, geography, country, urban/rural, religious affiliation, single gender.

“Overall, I recommend applying to six schools — two reaches, two good fits, two safety,” Peschel said.

Self questions for college bound seniors

When you are trying to narrow down
your college choices, you may wish to
consider the following questions:
 Do I want to attend a four-year college or begin at a community college?
 Does this college have programs
that I want to study?
 Is it located where I want to be?
 What will the cost be over four or
more years?
 Does this school graduate most
students in four years?
 Does the school have study abroad?
 Can I play sports?
 Are internships available?
 Are my grades and test scores in
the range typically admitted to this
at this school?
 What percentage of freshmen
return as sophomores?

Source: Glen Lake College Planning
Guide by Ginna Woessner

Part 1 of series

Enterprise staff writer Jen Murphy this week begins a three-part series on college and career decisions coming before families in Leelanau County that include graduating seniors. We start with college selection, will move next week to the mechanics of getting accepted and lining up funding, and will finish in our March 22 edition with coverage of alternatives to college that include the skilled trades.

Return to top