I’ve been a huge “This is Us” fan since the series debuted and love how the show has included the higher education search and selection for the Pearson triplets in its storytelling.
Perhaps my favorite episode focuses on Randall’s college search. In this episode, a high-school-aged Randall, who is Black, asks his white dad to expand his college visits to include Howard University. His dad, Jack, hadn’t considered an HBCU for his son. In Jack’s mind, his son would attend an Ivy League school—the type of institution he never dreamed of attending and from which his other two children couldn’t even dream of receiving the thick envelope that in the 1990s signified college acceptance.
A key higher education moment is beautifully captured in the episode.
Randall steps onto the Howard campus and lights up, and Jack recognizes that his son has found his place. Randall’s had THAT moment—the one where you just know. You know that this is the campus for you, you know this is where you belong, you know this is where you can thrive personally and academically. Most importantly, you know you are home. It is the emotion and experience students and parents dream will happen. And in that moment, Jack allowed his son’s choice to supersede his dreams.
To be honest, I didn’t have that experience when I selected my alma mater. I’ve heard Erin talk about her “I just knew” moment and I’ve been jealous. My heart didn’t flutter and sometimes I wonder if I settled. For that reason, I’ve dreamt about what that moment would be like for my daughter.
We’ve started campus tours and my daughter is narrowing what she is looking for and I’m trying my best to let this be HER process and experience. I’ve been telling myself, “Channel Jack. Just channel Jack,” and so far, the mantra is working.
I’ve also noticed parents who would be well served to channel Jack, too. On a recent tour, one mom overtook the admissions Q&A and monopolized the time and attention of the tour guide. Her insistence that she be heard prevented the students on the tour from having their questions answered. On another tour, a dad continually interrupted the tour guide to tell of his own experience (which was decades ago and his memories and quips often weren’t relevant today). I’ve also noticed the parents who are trying to shoehorn their kid into a campus despite that child’s obvious lack of “that moment” or interest. And after each I just recite, “Channel Jack.”
I’m pleased to say that my daughter has had a couple of those moments. Maybe even that moment. Since she is a high school junior, she has time to narrow to a preferred school. My hope for her is that she goes into the application season with numerous institutions that could be the one and she can experience the excitement of the next stage of her college search process.
After all, even if my heart didn’t flutter, I want her to have that moment.