Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Dad will pay for it!

             As Katie goes through the college hunt, taking the SAT, applying, being accepted, awaiting the scholarship and financial aid letters to arrive, I am reminded of my days in recruiting when we would guide young people to apply for the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) scholarships.  Here's one of the stories which came out of that experience.           

             Each year we would have a large push for NROTC scholarship applications.  So, I was making calls to young people one late afternoon trying to increase the number of applicants.  I had made dozens of calls talking to parent and prospective applicants explaining the program and answering their questions.  At the end of the conversation, I would always leave them with the web site address and ask them to consider applying. 

My efforts had met with mixed results; responses from enthusiam to the opposite end of the spectrum.  No one shouted obscenities or anything like that.  Let's just say, NROTC is not for everyone. 
After a few hours of calls, I dialed the next number to yet another possible applicant and the father of the young man answered.  I told the father who I was, why I was calling and if it was ok for me to talk to his son.  The father agreed quickly, excited almost that I had called.  He quickly got his son.  I could hear the father tell the son who I was and the son needed to listen to what I had to say.  Well, I braced for a combative conversation with this young man. 
We ended up speaking for the better part of an hour.  We discussed his plans for the future. The young man told me he was applying to the United States Naval Academy.  Well, seeing the advantage swing more in my favor, I told this young man that Navy ROTC was a great plan B to the Naval Academy.  The end result was the same, a commission into the US Navy.  NROTC midshipman do many of the same events during the summer as USNA midshipman.  All these points we met with positive responses.  Great!  I was going to be able to put one in the win column.
At the end of our conversation, I thought the young man was sold.  I asked if he would apply for the Navy ROTC program. His response, "No."
I was floored.  I thought we had made a connection.  I thought he was very positive about what I was presenting.  I reviewed my notes I had been taking during the conversation.  What had I missed? 
When I asked why he didn't want to apply to the NROTC, he replied, “Well, if I don’t get into the Naval Academy, I am going to go to Europe next summer before starting school in the Fall.” 
"Ok.  You can still go to Europe next summer before starting college and NROTC in the fall.  There is no problem there."
"Well, I am just not all that interested in the NROTC."
WHAT!?  Ok, slow down and get him back on track.  "Well, ok.  Let me ask you this.  If you don't get an NROTC scholarship, how are you going to pay for college?"
“My dad will pay for it all.  He'll pay for college and all my vacations during the summers in between my school years.  Then when I graduate, I will join the Navy.  I still want to be in the Navy, but if I don't get into the Naval Academy, I want a normal college experience.  I don't want to do NROTC.” 
I was tired.  I didn't know how to respond to counter his thought process.  AND I don’t know why, but something made me ask for the dad again.  Eagerly, the son called for his dad (who had gone into the next room during our discussion).  The son turned over the phone.
“Sir, you seemed really excited when I told you why I called your son tonight.  I have spoken to him for about an hour.  I thought he was sold on applying for the NROTC scholarship.  But he just told mehe didn’t want to apply for Navy ROTC.  When I pressed him for his plan B on paying for college, his reply was, ‘Dad will pay for it all.’  Sir, if you are independently wealthy and good with that plan, please accept my apology.  I am sorry for wasting your time this evening.  If not, I wanted you to know what your son was thinking.”
“He said what?  What is his plan B?"
I told the father what the young man had said. 
"What was the web site again?  He will be applying as soon as I get off the phone.”
The son did apply that evening.  His name appeared on the roster of applicants with whom my NROTC coordinator was working.  I am not sure if he was selected.  I am not sure if he is in the Navy.  I do know there was a father who was thankful someone took the time to let him know what his son's plan B was.