red line
   Back to Archives
   Back to IF Home

Father's Stories
Brooke Allen began writing stories for his school newspaper in high school, for his literary magazine in college, and most recently for his children. He has a BA in mathematics and is a great believer in writing things down -- proofs and prose. He has been a teacher, speaker, computer programmer, and entrepreneur. Mr. Allen lives in Glen Ridge, New Jersey with his wife, Eve, and two sons, Davis and Glen. He would love to hear from you at

black line

College Thinking

Colleges have become marketing experts. They work very hard at convincing you to send them your child and money. You have to do the work yourself to find out why you shouldn’t send them either.


“Hello, is this (name of a liberal arts college in the Midwest)?1.

“Yes it is.”

“Are you an admissions officer?”

“Yes I am.”

“I am calling regarding my son. He has been admitted to your institution and he’s trying to decide if he wants to go. He isn’t here now so do you mind if I record this conversation for him?”

“Not at all.”

“Great. My son is a very good student but he is not yet ready to narrow his interests. He feels that a liberal arts college might be just the thing for him, at least as an undergraduate.”

“We fit the bill.”

“Personally, there is only one thing that I’m hoping he gets out of college more than anything else.”

“What’s that?”

“I would love it if he learns how to think.”

“Excellent. We’re in agreement. More than anything else, that is what we’re all about.”

“I’d like him to learn how to tackle problems with insight and creativity.”

“We agree.”

“I’d like him to respect authority and yet feel comfortable questioning it.”


“I’d like him to develop his people skills and to become responsible.”

“Couldn’t agree more.”

“I’d like him to learn to make his own decisions without requiring the approval of his peers.”

“We teach independence and responsibility by example. The college puts a great deal of trust in its faculty, staff and students to make decisions on their own.”

“I’d hope that he’ll find a place that facilitates this process rather than gets in the way.”

“That describes us to a T.”

“Good. Now, I have a question. Do you require that freshmen live on campus?”

“Actually, we require all students to live on campus their first two years.”

“No exceptions.”

“Well, we do make rare exceptions for hardship.”

“Do you mean, as in a case where we live in town but we don’t have enough money to pay for tuition and room and board? However, we could swing it if he lives at home.”

“We feel very strongly about this. We’ve found it is important for freshmen to develop strong relationships with other freshmen and these relationships are solidified in their second year. So, in the case of financial need we’d give him enough aid so that he could live on campus.”

“Like a grant?”

“Or a loan.”

“Ok, so you feel it is so important you would have him to go into debt. Now, imagine that the fact is that he has inherited a house right in town. It has four bedrooms and it has a market value of $160,000. Your college costs $47,000 a year all in. Since he has clear title, I doubt he’d qualify for a grant based on financial need. Are you saying you’d force him to sell the house and still go into debt so he could give you the money and live on campus when he’d rather take roommates and live in his house?”

“No. That would certainly qualify for an exemption. He could have seven other roommates since the town zones houses that way for students. He could collect enough rent from his roommates to pay all his other expenses.”

“That’s what it seems like. Rather than liquidate the house and give you all his money he could graduate from college with an education and a house free and clear.”

“Correct. And managing a property like that will certainly teach him responsibility. I’m sure I could get an exemption for him.”

“And seven other students.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you want him to live with other freshmen. You said so yourself.”

“That could be a challenge, but I’m confident we could do it.”


“I’ll form a committee right away.”

“Great. We’ll call a realtor.”


“He doesn’t own the house yet, but there are some excellent properties just steps from your main gate.”

“Wait a minute. This is totally different. What are you trying to do?”

“I’m trying to teach him how to think.”

“What you’re teaching him boarders on the criminal.”

“No, I’m teaching him how to tackle problems with insight and creativity.”

“But we have rules for a reason.”

“Is the reason you have rules to avoid thinking? The only difference between my son and the boy you would exempt from the rules is that my mother has not yet bought my son the house.”

“You’re teaching him how to trick people. If he thinks like you do then he will not be welcome here.”

“That’s what it seems like.”

Some colleges don't want you thinking the way they don't.

1.This conversation is completely fictional and any resemblance to any real conversations I might have had with small liberal arts colleges in the Midwest is purely coincidental.

white divider