Choosing a College and a Religious Divide

By Catherine Pearlman

May 13, 2017 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: The time has come for my son to choose a college. He has it in his head that he wants to attend a small rural liberal arts college with limited offerings. My husband and I think this school would be a terrible fit for him. Should we allow him to make his own decision even if we think it's a bad one? — Grad's Mom and Dad

Dear Mom and Dad: While it may not seem like it, choosing a college isn't as important as, say, solving global warming or world hunger. Somehow, American society has evolved to where the most important goal of a child's first 18 years is to get into the very best college. And the concept of the very best college implies that there is one particular school that will guarantee your child happiness, prosperity and success. I don't believe that fallacy.

There is no one college for your son. I guarantee there are a variety of good programs for him and that he can thrive regardless of his eventual decision. Maybe this rural college has few options in terms of majors. But maybe that same college has an amazing set of alumni who mentor future graduates in a wide variety of fields. Maybe that small college in the middle of nowhere fosters self-reliance and self-development more than some big city school. And maybe he will have more opportunity to shine at that school (the whole big fish in a small pond thing) than at a big school, where he might get lost in the abyss of talented young people.

This is your son's decision. He may have faulty logic, but it would be a mistake to force his hand on this one. By all means, give your humble opinion. Tell him the reasons for your thoughts. But then listen to his thoughts and allow him the space to make the decision.

And if it all goes wrong, take heart. He can always transfer in the future.

Dear Family Coach: My wife and I are of different faiths. We both want our kids to attend a religious school. The problem is which one to choose. Neither of us wants to give up the opportunity to teach our kids about our faith. Please help. — All Faiths

Dear All Faiths: I don't know your faiths, but often, there are many commonalities between two seemingly different religions. I would start by talking to representatives of religious organizations in your area. Explain your situation, and ask whether they have any suggestions. Many faith leaders are very familiar with other religions and might be able to help you navigate. These leaders frequently perform religious rituals in conjunction with other leaders. I've been to wonderful weddings that were officiated by both a rabbi and a minister. There were very clear elements unique to each religion and some that were all-encompassing. It was delightful.

I'd also visit a wide variety of religious schools. Some schools are very inclusive and accept people of many faiths. Other schools are nondenominational. These schools tend to focus on values and spirituality. Since no religion corners the market on values, you might find this to be a way of meeting both of your needs.

Lastly, think about what you want your children to get out of religious school. Maybe there are unconventional ways to accomplish this. One possibility would be to find other families of mixed religion in your area and start a small prayer circle. Allow all faiths in, and learn from one another. And add in a potluck — I can't think of anything nicer.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Like it? Share it!

  • 0

The Family Coach
About Catherine Pearlman
Read More | RSS | Subscribe



A Teen's Mustache and a Potty Obsession

A Teen's Mustache and a Potty Obsession

By Catherine Pearlman
Dear Family Coach: My 13-year-old son has a mustache, and I cannot stand it. It's more fuzzy than bushy, and it makes him look much older than he is. Keep reading