Wednesday, June 10, 2009



This morning’s Chicago Sun-Times reports that Laura Mueller-Soppart, a 2009 graduate of Walter Payton College Prep, one of our fair city’s finest magnet high schools, will forgo attending her “dream school,” Georgetown University, for financial reasons. While Georgetown turned out to be quite miserly in its offer of financial assistance, Boston’s Northeastern University offered Ms. Mueller-Soppart a “nearly full ride,” according to the paper. While she decries the whole situation as “so incredibly unfair,” she will, quite wisely, attend Northeastern. As one who has always been interested in the murky process of college admissions (See my 6/8/09 post “WE ARE LOYAL TO YOU, ILLINOIS…”), and who is growing especially interested as my children approach college, the story of Ms. Mueller-Soppart immediately attracted my attention.

Just how unfair is it to have to accept a “nearly full ride” to one of the premier universities in a town characterized by its fulsome assortment of outstanding institutions of higher learning? At least she didn’t have to bear the ignominy that so many of her classmates will have to endure: attending a (horrors!) state university. If a full ride to a place like Northeastern is unfair, I, and most of my readers, can only ask the Almighty visit such unfairness upon my offspring. But to the extent that one can argue that such a cruel fate is indeed unfair, Ms. Mueller-Soppart has learned a valuable lesson: Life is often unfair and we just have to adapt.

More important, though, one is heartened by the good sense that Ms. Mueller-Soppart has displayed. Unlike most kids her age, and, indeed, most latter day Americans, she did not, figuratively or literally, roll on the floor, kick and scream, stamp her feet and then go off and blow the $200,000 on her first choice because it was “so worth it.” It is encouraging to learn that there are at least some young people, or even some people, capable of making rational decisions. Given Ms. Mueller-Soppart apparently strong academic background and abundant good sense, she will do well at Northeastern and emerge delighted with her social/academic/extracurricular experience there, like most people who had to “settle” for their second or third choices of matriculation venues. She will also emerge, as she so astutely discerned when she asked herself

“Do I go $200,000 in the hole because so many told me Georgetown was indispensable, or do I take the full ride?”

either entirely or nearly debt free. And, given the wonderful experience she will undoubtedly have at Northeastern, she will also learn that very few things in life, including Georgetown (or Harvard, Yale, or any of the other U of Is of the east) are indispensable.

But all the news is not good news for Ms. Mueller-Soppart. One of the reasons that Georgetown was so attractive to her was that it would, according to the Sun-Times, “put her at the center of the political universe.” Apparently, then, one of her aspirations is a big policy-making job in government. Unfortunately, few people with the manifest common sense and solid judgment of young Laura Mueller-Soppart have much of a future in the upper echelons of government; she would be horribly out of place on that island of ingénues. Thus, she may have to seek honest, and potentially far more lucrative, employment in the private sector, perhaps even in the real world of entrepreneurial endeavors. She shouldn’t fear, however; she will, in all likelihood, end up delighted with that similarly cruel fate.


Sebastian said...

hi - i really enjoyed reading your pov on the article. looks like we both support Laura in her decision to attend northeastern over georgetown. she, by the way, was extremely happy and relieved when receiving the offer out of boston, which the article fails to mention. she also told the reporter that she is aware that a free ride would have been completely out of reach, had she decided to put in half the effort over the past four years.

- Laura's DAD

The Pontificator said...



It was great to hear from you!

It’s amazing how the press slants things; it made it sound as if Laura was saying “Well, gee, I could have just sloughed off and ended up in the same place.” That didn’t sound right to me; given what she had achieved at Payton, her acceptance at Georgetown, and offer from Northeastern, she doesn’t sound like a slacker! I’m glad that you cleared up for me and my readers her real take on the issue; i.e., that she realized that had she not made the effort, a ride at one of our country’s great universities (i.e., Northeastern), would have been out of reach and that she was delighted to have received the offer.

At any rate, from one proud dad to another, you have a remarkable young lady for a daughter, and you have to be absolutely ecstatic with her matriculation plans, and not purely from a financial standpoint. As I indicated in the blog, she displays an unusual degree of common sense and a firm grasp on the concept of cost/benefit analysis, increasingly rare qualities in our “I want what I want when I want it” society. Those qualities will serve her well at Northeastern and as she makes her way in life.

Thanks, Sebastian; please keep reading the blog and send our best to Laura.

Mark Quinn, aka “The Pontificator”