Advent is certainly a time of waiting, but from the perspective of many a high school senior the anticipation of Christmas inevitably takes a temporary back seat. For them the revelation of the God-Man in the manger in Bethlehem can only be fully appreciated once all of the early admission decisions have been disclosed. It is a time of great tension, especially for those who believe themselves to be on the fence and those whose schools are among the last to send out the email announcing the new members of the Class of 2023.
As someone who has lived through two early application seasons as a parent I really feel for those young men who sit in front of me each day and whose minds are fixated on that fateful moment that will either open wide the door of their dream school or slam it shut.
One thing that these almost four decades of pre-Christmas jitters has taught me is a sense of perspective. Once the initial elation of acceptance or agony of denial – not to mention the utter ambivalence of deferral – wears off there is the reality of the decision ahead. A friend of mine is in the college admissions game and he likes to tell young people that once all of the schools make their decisions then all of the power shifts to the students. Given the schools to which a young woman or young man has been accepted, what choice will she or he make? Where will that check be sent? It is now the school’s turn to wait in limbo until that May 1 deadline passes.
For my money, the key question that each student must ask is: Why do I want to attend this particular school and not another?
From the perspective of a thoughtful young Catholic, the question “Which school is best?” should really be worded, “Which school will best assist me in my quest to love God above all things and my neighbor as myself?” In A Man for All Seasons Sir, soon to be Saint, Thomas More comments to the newly minted Attorney General for Wales, a man who got his position because of his perjury against More, “It profit a man nothing to sell his soul for the whole world – but for Wales?” To receive a degree from (name any school of world renown) and to come out the other side less suitable for eternal life with God and His angels and saints literally profits our students nothing.
Last week Mike McLaughlin ’85 informed me that his soccer coach at Quincy College (now University) had died. Mike’s first words, even before he showed me a clip from C-SPAN where his coach was being honored in Congress, were that he couldn’t remember one thing that Jack Mackenzie taught him about soccer. For Coach Mackenzie it was all about imparting wisdom and learning the important lessons of life with the beautiful game as a mere backdrop. From day one his protégé Mike McLaughlin has formed the Saint Ignatius soccer program into one that would bring a sense of pride to Coach Mackenzie.
For Mike, Quincy was the answer to the question that any thoughtful young Catholic asks when deciding where to attend school after Saint Ignatius. As Mike and his family begin looking at colleges and soccer programs for their oldest son Matthew ’20 it goes without saying that they are looking for a school that has had the wisdom to hire someone in the mold of Coach Mackenzie.
And that should be the template for each of our young men – athlete or not. Each should be on a quest to find the school where their shining lights are people like Coach Mackenzie – whether in the athletic department or in an academic discipline, a dormitory or campus ministry.
Because there is no “Guide to the Colleges with the Best People,” most students have to rely on the traditional rankings in order to choose the “best” college, but, fortunately, after four years at Saint Ignatius and eighteen years of living in great families our seniors have been given the tools to help them choose a school that is much more than its rankings and therefore would – to paraphrase St. Thomas More – profit a man everything.
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