I’m a homeschooling dad of 8 working to do college on the cheap. So far we have three grads, and that has been working well. But one thing has been consistent – there are problems when you’re trying to do anything as complex as make a path to graduation.
This is a series of posts about what I call the 5 P’s of persuasion for overcoming college obstacles.
So far we have covered the importance of persuasion by eing pleasant, having a plan, and being patient.
Today’s post is about the importance of being persistent.
One of the biggest challenges that kids (and adults) face is an unwavering persistence in pursuit of a goal. The path to success often is just not giving up.
A few years back our family was working on an adoption from foster care. I told the social worker:
“I will always be polite to you, but please understand that this kid needs an advocate and I will be relentless in getting through this process. It’s not personal, but you need to know that I am unstoppable, and will do whatever it takes to get across this finish line.”
We had many ups and downs over the years required to finish that race, and we maintained a decent relationship. After the adoption was finalized, she told me “
You know, Mr. Cooper, one thing that I have learned from you is it’s ok to not accept no for an answer.”
When it comes to your kids education:
- They WILL face hardship.
- They will mess up.
- They will endure injustice.
- That’s not optional.
One of the critical things is that unwavering commitment to reaching the goal. Most people quit. You won’t. That matters.
It’s tempting to quit!
If you’ve been reading this series, you’ll know that our family has hit a number of roadblocks that have threatened to derail us, but we have found a path to success.
But when the school says no, when the teacher is unfair, when the department won’t make an exception, when the administration won’t even follow their own rules, it’s exhausting.
Years ago I came across some anti-motivation posters. One of them had the slogan
If at first you don’t succeed, maybe success is not for you.
When we get tired, it’s easy to give up. When we thought we were about to score and learn that the end zone is in a different location than we thought, it’s easy to be demoralized.
I already told the story of my son who messed up several things when it came to university admissions. With each setback it was tempting to give up. And we did have a contingency plan for him to take a gap year if needed.
The Literal Game
I’m a computer science guy at heart. And one thing about engineers – they answer the question you ASK. For example, if you ask “Do you know what time it is?”
They are likely to respond “Yes.”
Any time you’re in a highly structured environment, one with lots of rules, it is VERY common for the person you ask to carefully evaluate EXACTLY what you’re asking, with the intent of giving a precise answer.
My wife calls this “The literal game” and it bugs her.
You’ve got to realize that many times the people you’re asking are (probably unintentionally) playing the literal game.
They may be giving you answers you don’t like, because they are being precise n answering the question you asked.
Asking better questions
If you’re not getting answers you like, perhaps it would help to change the questions you’re asking.
In my years of dealing with engineers, asking open ended questions often led to options that I would not have even thought of.
Rather than ask “Can my kid get into section 2 of course XYZ?”
You might tell her advisor
“I’m trying to get course XYZ because she needs it as a prerequisite for ABC. Do you have any suggestions about how we can get that for her?”
The difference is that you’re asking them to come up with ways it CAN work, not just telling you no.
For example, even if a particular section is jam packed, there can be a wait list. If the wait list is full, there’s a day when students need to pay their tuition, and if they don’t, all of their class registration is deleted.
If the section is full, if the waitlist is full, being quick to check availability right after the payment deadline can help you discover briefly open seat in a class.
Asking open ended questions can allow the folks at the school to help you find a path to success.
Get outside the box
Remember that the answers you get are coming from a person with a particular perspective.
But you may know something they don’t know.
I remember that I was intent on getting my kid more math, and was hitting a limit with the available classes and sequencing. His school only offered Calc 1 in the fall and Calc 2 in the spring. But of course, he needed it outside that schedule. What could we do?
Over the summer he took Calc 1 from Khan Academy online for free and then got Calc 1 credit by exam. In the fall, in addition to the other classes, he took Calc 2 from an entirely different community college.
An unexpected option
My oldest was trying to complete his AS with certain prerequisites for the university.
According to MY plan, he was eligible to take them. The school said no because the classes he needed for the university were not in the “right” category to be allowed for his major.
I was frustrated. This was my first rodeo, and I was stuck. I am cheap and didn’t want to pay for that class at the university when it was cheaper at the community college.
I explained to his adviser “I counted his required hours differently. Is there any way to get this done?”
She offered – well, he could add an additional major to his plan. That would unlock the classes so he would be allowed. Do you want me to do that?
You’ll lose sometimes
I don’t want to paint an unfair picture. We don’t always win. I paid for almost 4 years of university tuition for my electrical engineer because there was not a cheaper short path.
Another kid was getting crushed because we messed up assessing what math he was ready for, and we had to withdraw from a class and replan.
It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes it could work out, but it’s not worth paying the price. You have to choose your battles.
It’s a speed bump, not a brick wall
“Dad, they sent me a letter telling me I’m not admitted for fall”
My son was demoralized, and out of ideas.
I told him
“It’s ok. Our goal is to get you a degree in a marketable field in the fewest months and semesters and no debt. We will achieve that goal. We may have to change our plan, but this is not a brick wall. Someday you’ll look back on this as a speed bump, not a brick wall. We will figure it out.”
You’ll figure it out, too, if you don’t give up.
When has persistence helped you?
Tell us your story in the comments below!