Interviewing a high school senior who was headed to a small college in Wyoming to play volleyball, I asked what I thought was an important question.
“What did you like about the college?”
The senior looked at me and replied, “They are giving me a scholarship,” she said.
Perhaps she didn’t understand. I asked the same question again, and she just sort of smiled, with her parents sitting alongside her and the letter-of-intent on the table in front of her ... signed.
“They are paying for her education,” her father said in somewhat of a forceful tone.
The decision had nothing to do with campus atmosphere or a particular major or faculty-to-student ration. It had nothing to do with the college being located in a city, a desert or at the bottom of a lake.
It had to do with money.
In today’s world of escalating advanced education costs, money is an extreme issue. And yet, what is a free college education worth if it doesn’t match a student’s goals and dreams?
If you went to car lot, and they offered you a free vehicle, wouldn’t you do a little research before you tried to drive it home?
I was thinking about that issue Tuesday when Jennings County senior pitcher extraordinaire Lisa McIntosh said she had decided not to continue her softball career in college.
McIntosh has been told by friends that she is “dumb.”
However, McIntosh has decided that her plans for college don’t parallel the course she would be forced to take if she accepted a softball scholarship. That, my friends, is a sign of intelligence.
McIntosh is not alone. Columbus East wrestler Jimmy Fisher, fresh off a fifth-place state finish, could have pursued college wrestling opportunities if he wanted to cut some of his costs. Instead, he has decided to pack away his wrestling shoes to pursue a career at Indiana University.
We forget at times that young athletes must train harder than ever to prepare for a high school sport. It’s a grind, and it often means concentrating on a single sport.
The reward isn’t so much pure enjoyment at the high school level, but the opportunity to play collegiate sports at some level.
In most cases, taking athletic scholarship money is a wonderful opportunity and a way to get through college without having a “house-sized payment” every month upon entering the working world. Athletic and career goals can both be accomplished together, the best of both worlds.
Even so, if both goals can’t be accomplished, perhaps it is time to look elsewhere. Paying off the loans isn’t so painful if a student finds a college or university that produces a lifetime career that is rewarding.
While that strategy ... making career goals the priority ... sounds like a no-brainer, it’s not really for a kid who is 17. And parental advice can be affected by the money side of the equation.
My advice would be rather simple. Visit or at least read about multiple colleges and universities and see what they might offer. If the one at the top of your list has no interest in offering athletic scholarship money, decide whether long-term goals would be better served.
There might be “walk-on” opportunities or intramural programs that fill the competitive void.
And when the sportswriter asks why you picked a certain college or university, please, oh please, have an answer.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.