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DD really wants to... go to Harvard?! How to deal with this without crushing her ambition?

(76 Posts)
SophiaN Wed 21-Mar-12 02:39:11

My 15yo daughter has always been academically ambitious. She has a reasonable level of academic aptitude - straight As across the board, taking exams early, near the top of her school - and is generally considered a little swotty but bright. (She's easily bored, which can also affect her performance, and quite sickly - I think she would otherwise do very well at school, but that's besides the point.) For most of her childhood, she wanted to go to Oxford, but three years ago, when we went to Cambridge, Massachusetts, she fell in love with Harvard. She was drawn to the comparative diversity and the liberal arts/breadth of subjects aspect (they read several courses, not just one). I've been doing my utmost to draw her back, as I think it would be inconvenient, not to mention dangerous, to have my daughter go to university abroad.

I thought I'd won. However, a few days ago she came downstairs with a printout of a Scholastic Aptitude Test mock exam result sheet, in high spirits, pestering me to let her take the real SAT in May because she did well on the online mock, therefore it wouldn't be a waste of time or money. A few days before, she wouldn't shut up about the Fulbright Commission and how the "current special relationship shtick" might lead to more UK-US scjolarship opportunities by 2015 over the dinner table. Last week, she was waxing lyrical about a former US politician she'd met at a political conference the week before who'd discussed the Ivies with her and given her the address of somebody at the Harvard Club of the UK, whom she's been badgering for advice ever since. She emails and occasionally telephones a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a former fellow of one of its postgraduate schools on a daily basis, both of whom have the impression that her family support her idea. I have no idea where she met them or how she got them to speak to her. With her friends and family in America on Skype or over the phone, she acts as if she's just waiting for the admissions decision. She has some sort of pact with her cousin in Connecticut to get into the same societies "when" they're at Harvard together. I tried to bring her around with a patriotic argument, but she told me that she was coming back to Britain after her first degree and doing a postgraduate degree at Oxford, because she'll miss England, and "Oxford is better for depth but Harvard is better for breadth, and [I] want breadth first, then depth". She claims I'm being paranoid, that she'll be 18 and will be able to look after herself, and that the ages of drinking and consent are higher Stateside anyway. That isn't what concerns me; I'm concerned by the idea of being quite that far away from my daughter should there be an emergency. She has a handful of physical and a dusting of mental health issues. She makes some quite compelling academic arguments for it, but I simply wouldn't have peace of mind with it.

I know this sounds like something to nurture or perhaps gently redirect - there are many worse obsessions for a teenage girl than a highly regarded university. Laid down in writing, it sounds as if there's nothing wrong with her , and I would feel such an ogre decreeing that "you must not dedicate time to your academic future!". I feel as if there's so much in her Harvard endeavours that I should be encouraging - academic zeal, decisiveness, enterprising thinking, independence, courage, determination... I simply don't know how to politely but firmly let her know that she is not going to university, at least as an undergraduate, abroad. I want to say no, but I certainly don't want to squash all acade,ic ambition out of her. I think her academic ambition is admirable, and something I would love to have had at her age... simply misguided. What should I tell her? Should I leave it and hope she sees sense herself?

flow4 Sat 05-Jan-13 23:27:43

Another zombie thread! And an OP who didn't come back... So probably not worth time commenting, people smile

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