Help! Should My Daughter Attend an Ivy League Summer Program We Can’t Really Afford?

Advice on manners and morals.
March 3 2014 2:56 PM

The Price of Prestige

In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on how important it is for a teen to attend an expensive Ivy League summer program.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at prudence@slate.com.)

Emily Yoffe: I'm sorry for the people who have to be out on this snowy Monday (props to the Washington Post delivery guy and our mailman!) but I am enjoying this last blast of winter.

Q. Opportunity Knocks: My 16-year-old daughter got accepted to a very prestigious Ivy League summer program. She can probably get a scholarship to cover the tuition, but not housing. My brother has offered to put her up, but she would have to walk a mile and a half to the subway and then change trains before getting to campus. I haven't been there, don't know how safe the route is, and I'm not sure my brother would recognize if it were dangerous. He's got a good heart, but he's oblivious. He smokes pot daily and his judgment gets even less reliable when he's high. He's also not in a happy relationship. His girlfriend, whom I like, often threatens to throw him out. We can't afford to send my daughter unless she stays with them. I should add that we live in a town of 700 on the opposite coast. My daughter has had very little exposure to urban living. I think that navigating the city without any responsible adult guidance is what worries me most. I want the best for her, but I'm not sure if it's worse to send her or to have her miss out on such a great opportunity.

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A: You need to contact the university and explain your situation. Say that you don't have the money to pay for her housing and wonder what resources are available. Yes, the program sounds great. But her potential living situation sounds like a disaster. However responsible your 16-year-old is, you know you don't want her coming home to your stoned brother who's in a volatile relationship. Seeing this would give your daughter an education, but not the kind you want. If there simply isn't the money to make this work, you need to start looking around for other things for your daughter to do this summer. Getting a job or volunteering at a local community organization will not be as exciting as being on an Ivy League campus in another part of the country, but those experiences closer to home can be just as valuable.

Dear Prudence: Hijacked Confection

Q. Creep: Some 35 years ago, a friend of the family molested me. My parents always refused to accept that anything untoward had happened and continued the friendship to this day. A few years after the event, our family went to the funeral of this man's oldest daughter, who committed suicide by an overdose. His son was in treatment for addiction and confided to me that his father had beaten and raped him and his two sisters throughout their childhood. The surviving sister could not attend because she was incarcerated, which I cannot help but believe was the result of a history of abuse. Scroll forward to this weekend, when this serial abuser shuffled off this mortal coil due to advanced old age (and without any of the suffering I wished for him). My parents are eager for me to "put the past behind me" and attend the funeral of their old friend so I can listen to my father deliver a touching eulogy to a "loving father" and "pillar of the community." As you can imagine, I am less than impressed. I obviously have no intention of attending, but this and other issues make me wonder if I really need to be involved with my own family. They were never the greatest parents and I don't think that I can ever forgive the fact that they stood by when they knew something was wrong and to this day continue to ignore something that cost a young woman her life and hurt at least three other young people (I believe far more). Am I overreacting? Breaking ties with them would honestly cost me nothing emotionally but they are increasingly dependent on my support. I am afraid I get great satisfaction from the idea that they would suffer from my decision not to support them when they need it, just like I and others suffered from their decision not to support me when I needed it.

A: Your parents and their "friend" sound like something out of True Detective—the gripping HBO show about a malevolent conspiracy to protect a ring of rapists and murderers. Your parents want you to attend the funeral of a man who molested you so that afterward you can praise your father for his stirring eulogy. This is chilling, and given the tragic and painful trajectory of this man's children (his victims), indicates something more sinister than mere denial on your parents' part. I completely understand and support your desire to break off relations with your parents, even if you didn't need the grotesquerie of this funeral to push you to this point. I also want to urge you to talk to a therapist who has experience with abuse. You want to move forward in a way that is healthiest for you; there is a lot of ugly history for you to work through.

Q. Sexiled: I traveled out of town for a wedding and arranged to share a room with a friend. She met someone at the wedding and wanted to bring him back to our room for the evening, and I agreed that I could find somewhere else to crash. She didn't leave me time to get my stuff out of the room before they went in, so I was the one doing a walk of shame heading back to my room in the morning in my wedding attire! I'm not going to bring it up, but I'm wondering since we had prepaid for the room whether she should have offered to repay me for the night that I didn't actually spend in it?

A: You are a thoughtful friend to go scurrying out of your room sans toothbrush or pajamas so someone else can have an emergency hook-up. It's true that weddings can be hotter events for the guests than even the bride and groom, but at minimum those who have gotten lucky should not leave their solo friends to wander the halls looking for an empty bed. If you were willing to vacate, you should have insisted at the least on gathering your things. Your friend should have repaid you for leaving you roomless, and you should expect that she'll never bring it up.

Q. Re: Ivy League summer program: Does the family go to a house of worship? Some of the teens I know from church get "sponsored" by a family in the city the child is going to. Those host families belong to the same church as the other family, and the cost is minimal, if at all. And, the teen usually gets a family with children around the same age.

A: Thanks for the suggestion. Someone else has suggested asking the school if there's a way to find out through the alumni association if any local graduates would be willing to have a student live with them while attending the program.

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