A House Divided and the College Decision

My husband and I attended rival colleges in Southern California in the 1980’s. His was the “football school” and mine was the “basketball school.” Back in the day, many called his school the snobby one, and on my campus, we prided ourselves on our academic superiority.

Throughout our marriage, we have been a House Divided which took on even greater meaning when our daughter began applying to colleges in her senior year of high school. My husband and I both not-so-secretly hoped she’d end up at the right school – “our” university.

College decisions in a house divided

We had done an embarrassing amount of brainwashing over the years. She had worn sweatshirts and jerseys from each school at various times in her life. The walls of her room had colorful stickers and ripped ticket stubs from each school’s games.

She knew that one of us would be beyond thrilled if she attended our alma mater. Yet, she was also acutely aware that the other one of us would probably be a tad disappointed for only the rest of our life to see her in the dreaded colors of our rivals, and to hear her reciting the chants of the enemy. In our house divided, it was a blessing and a curse when she was accepted to each school.

We felt pride, fear, and some queasiness. Whose school would she choose? Who would she disappoint?

Then came a phone call during her spring break trip with a friend’s family – she had been accepted to one last school that had us all a little shocked. It was a fantastic university, but way on the other side of the country, in a completely different athletic conference, and oh yes, in the midst of March Madness, was on its way to winning another basketball national championship.

Her decision, we sadly realized, was a bit of a no-brainer, especially after my husband quickly flew her out to the Accepted Students’ Day, where one of the basketball players threw up a little wave to her group touring the campus. Done deal, t-shirts purchased, and a bright new shade of collegiate clothing entered our home, dividing it that much further, yet also relieving us of a 2 against 1 situation – at least until the potential arises again next year when our son will be in the hot seat.

[More about the many reasons why it’s a great idea to attend Accepted Students Day here.]

And so this past winter began the era of a whole new rivalry experience. My husband and I thought our schools had a history of intense athletic and academic competitiveness. How cute that all seems now. Our 1980’s humorous buttons and football game card stunts pale in comparison to the full body paint and “I’ll be sleeping in a tent for a few weeks outside the stadium” reality that we have been introduced to. Line monitors, middle of the night tent checks and player hatred on an absurd level are now a given in our daughter’s college rivalry environment.

Granted, almost everything about college is now considered to be madness from my generation’s perspective. Standardized testing and college admissions are Big Business and prompt way too much stress for an awful lot of students and parents. Tuitions have skyrocketed to places that induce insomnia for most parents. Dorm room decorating has reached new levels of creative and pricey insanity thanks to Pinterest and savvy retailers who have elevated dorm room shopping to wedding registry status. Campus dining facilities offer a smorgasbord of choices that cater to every student’s dietary need and want.

[More about the questions you need to ask before you go dorm shopping here.]

But while a lot of the college experience today may seem bloated and excessive, it makes me joyful to see that the rivalry experience my daughter is having is even better than what we had when we were undergrads. The amount of love she has expressed for her school and their teams thus far truly warms my heart, and makes the fact that she is so far away considerably easier – not to mention that we caught glimpses of her live on TV on a weekly basis during basketball season, thanks to ESPN. We have joked that she would probably major in “Sports Fan” if such a thing existed, but her actions have demonstrated that her intense school spirit will definitely be a factor in helping her slog through four years of midterms, finals, insufficient sleep and various other ups and downs that come with being a college student. She is already a die hard, lifelong fan, who will personally feel the triumphs and agonies of her school’s teams long after she leaves campus, and no matter where she will reside.

And, my husband and I do now agree on this – it is rather nice to have the option to root for a better team, when your own isn’t quite living up to its storied past… but just wait ‘til next season!


Dear Parent of Newly Admitted College Freshman 

8 Best of the Empty Nest


About Marybeth Bock

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing - as long as iced coffee is involved. You can find her work on numerous websites and in two books. Find her on Facebook and Instagram

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