I sighed heavily and felt an "uh-oh" slip from my lips. I was standing in the admissions office at the University of Sioux Falls and just found out I should have prearranged a visit. I kept my eyes forward, not wanting to look at Mom. She'd driven me all the way here, assuming I'd made arrangements.
"Let's see what we can do." The admissions counselor disappeared for a few minutes, and returned smiling. "Travis, we've got an impromptu visit lined up for you."
Even though I'd pretty much botched my visit, everybody went out of their way to make me feel welcome. After the visit, I told Mom this was the right school for me.
"That's great, Travis," she said evenly. "If this is where you want to go, I'll help by working on the financial aid and scholarship applications. But I won't do the paperwork until you're pretty sure, because it's a lot of work."
"Go for it, Mom. This is the place for me."
With my college choice made early in my senior year, I stayed busy by doing lots of activities, including FFAan organization that's focused on building leaders through agricultural education. Because I was extremely active in FFA, my leaders encouraged me to apply to be a state officer for the organization. The catch: I would have to attend South Dakota State University (where the FFA offices were).
"Travis, are you really thinking about running to be a state officer for FFA?" Mom asked one evening after hearing me mention it on the phone. "If you are, I can start working on some financial aid paperwork for State."
"Don't worry about it. I'm going to Sioux Falls."
But Mom was worried. She warned me that those forms take a lot of time.
I assured her my mind was made up.
But friends and teachers kept telling me I'd make a great state officer. So, with two weeks left until the deadline, I made an impulsive decision to apply.
To say the least, my parents were upset. I'd missed the financial aid deadlines for State, and we'd have to pay for my room and tuition immediately. I kept expecting them to blow up at me, but they didn't.
"We'll support your decision to go to State," Mom told me. "But we're frustrated with the way you handled this."
I ended up becoming a state officer for FFA and spent my freshman year at South Dakota State. My weeks were packed with huge, impersonal lecture classes. I soon realized I wanted to be at a smaller campus where teachers knew my name.
Before the year ended, I knew I wanted to transfer to Sioux Falls. I also knew money would be a major issue. So, after exploring scholarship options at Sioux Falls, I went home one weekend to talk with my parents.
We were eating dinner when I brought it up. "Mom and Dad, after this year I think I want to transfer to Sioux Falls."
Dad raised his eyebrows. Mom put her fork down. I swallowed hard and kept going.
"I don't have the small, Christian community I think I need at college.
My parents looked at one another. Dad finally spoke.
"Travis, money is a big concern. You'll need to take out loans, and you'll be the one who'll have to pay off these loans."
"I know, Dad. I've already done some research, and I've looked into scholarships Sioux Falls offers."
Mom looked surprised. "Really?"
"Well, I'm willing to do the work to make it happen."
"OK," Dad said after a long pause. "We'll do our best to help you get there."
And they did.
Looking back, I realize my hasty decision to attend State created all kinds of problems for my familyincluding financial ones. But I'm thankful that while my parents were frustrated with me, they didn't push me away or give up on me. All in all, I've realized how important it is to seek my parents' guidance before I make important decisionsand take seriously what they have to say.