For as long as I've known her Marina has said that her daughter Emma (inconvenient, eh?) will be applying to colleges soon. Usually Marina stresses that Emma would like to go to school in England, but is considering the U.S. as well, which I always hear as snobbery. I think I sent a Peterson's once—it had decent summary information on how the application process works, too.
Emma is actually graduating this year. I found out when uncle Ricky called in a panic a couple of days ago. Some school I'd never heard of ("Saint Hilda's—it's part of the University of North Minnakota," he said) was demanding that Marina wire $3000 to some small bank in some small town in Minnakota IMMEDIATELY, or Emma wouldn't be able to register, and he was worried it was a scam. Emma hadn't even gotten an acceptance letter!
A couple of hours later I talked with Marina directly. Ricky had been batting facts as well as he usually does—St. Hilda's a Catholic school, actually, and not only had they accepted Emma, they'd offered a substantial tuition scholarship—but they were requesting a bunch of money very soon. I said I'd call and see what I could find out. While I was still on the phone I found a web page explaining the deposits required of international students. They want the money before they'll start the visa process, but it's all credited to the fall term bill.
I also found out that Emma had applied to three schools in the U.S. A major historically black university, an academically undistinguished private university in New York, and St. Hilda's. Marina said Emma had chosen these schools as the best places to "do pre-med," and that she'd said she'd go to the first one that accepted her, and St. Hilda's was the first. I couldn't get Marina to say yes or no to the question of whether she'd gotten rejection letters from the other schools. I'm not sure she understood my question.
The next day I called Student Accounts at St. Hilda's. They're nice people (as the residents of Minnakota so often are). They confirmed that their policies are as described on the website, and wished me a nice day. When I called her, Marina said she's send the deposits right out.
Notice when Ricky and Marina got in touch with me, their relative in the business, about this whole college thing. When there were about to be problems with money. They worry a lot about money. It's what they think they need help with.
But what's the important, the potentially life-determining issue for young Emma? Where she goes to school. That's where my background, my experience in the industry of higher education, could really have been helpful. When she was choosing where to apply. Marina couldn't see that. She's got common sense, but she doesn't know crap about U.S. higher education. And Ricky, despite having been raised in Weatherwood by a professional family, doesn't know crap about anything.
It's really a cultural capital issue, eh? They don't know what they don't know.
Meanwhile there's an eighteen-year-old in Trinidad who's got the guts to be setting off to frozen St. Hilda's. I thought about raising a stink, especially since there may be some issue of her application to the HBU having been incomplete, and perhaps never completed. And, and—not applying to any public schools in New York City? When money is so much of an issue? (And she did apply to the one school in NY, so avoiding her mother doesn't appear to be a requirement.)
I don't know what her SATs or grades are actually like, and I don't know what peculiar algorithm she used to pick those three schools. But she chose them, by gum. St. Hilda's looks, from its web site, like it's not a bad place to get an education. Not so different from Granolan, aside from the God thing and the lack of reputation. They do make a point of giving grants to international students, and she's got one of the biggest.
What I will do: send a $300 (or perhaps $500) L.L.Bean gift certificate, with hints on what it might get used for. And try to open up direct communication, once she's in the U.S. If she is all that, maybe she can transfer. Or maybe she can be a big fish in a small pond and then go on to great things.