Childhood Family

Choose wisely

Remember that scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” when the bad guy, Donovan, has to choose which one is the Holy Grail?

You don’t? Well let me refresh your memory. The knight guarding the Holy Grail (among scores of other goblets) tells Donovan, to “choose wisely.” He picks the wrong one, drinks from it, and, instead of eternal life, he ages instantly and is quickly turned into a pile of dust and bones. (Yes, I know Elsa actually chose the goblet, but isn’t it really his responsibility at the end of the day? Oh, and also, spoiler alert.)

The knight responds by saying, “He chose … poorly.”

Well, now you know how my daughter feels right now, as she tries to make her choice of colleges.

We have assured her there are no wrong choices. She has five schools she is looking at: University of Alabama, University of South Carolina, Winthrop, Elon and James Madison.

Depending on the day, a different one is a leader in the clubhouse.

I get that this is a big decision. I mean, I get it in theory. I never had this inner turmoil, as I had been sold on going to Alabama pretty much forever. I applied to a few other schools, but my plan had been to go Bama all along, which is what I did. My wife did not have a lifetime favorite, but when she got accepted to Bama, she said, “Meh, why not.” We met there, so I’d like to think it worked out for both of us.

So you might think there is pressure on her to go to Alabama, since in addition to her parents, countless relatives (including aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents) and family friends went there as well. (There is a reason my wife and I walked into our wedding reception to “Sweet Home Alabama.”)

Rest assured, there is not. We have told her that she needs to go to the place that is the best fit for her. If that’s Alabama, super. If it’s one of the other four, good for her. (One caveat: Regardless of choice, we do have rules on who she can root for under this roof on football Saturdays. Some things are non-negotiable.)

We have told her not to fret too much about the decision, as she still has several months to decide. And we still have to visit some campuses to find out if it just feels right.

Here’s the main thing I want her to factor into her decision: What school wants her the most? And I am sure they will all tell her they want her. But I have a slightly different way of determining just how much they want you.

My wife and I were both fortunate enough to get out of college without debt. And that’s my main goal for her. I want her to find out what scholarships are available, and what the school is willing to do to entice her to attend.

It seems really bonkers to me that (a) we ask 17 and 18 year old kids to know what they want to be when the grow up and (b) give them ability to get into a debt that will follow them around for decades.

Yes, I get personal responsibility and all the jazz. But let’s be honest – if you are looking for someone to hoodwink with a really bad deal that will cost them for decades, a senior in high school looking for the perfect college is a great mark.

So over the next few months, we will team together to find what the best fit is, in terms of academics, social life and financial responsibility. I feel confident that, at the end of the day, she will choose wisely.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike or at


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