The Importance of Family in College Success

Are all students going to go to college? Absolutely not. But let’s not allow this mindset drive our expectations. We can raise our standards.

As I wrote, children need a model, a vision, and a push to help them earn a college degree. I gave some initial thoughts on this subject, but I also want to share some conversations I’ve had in Allendale on this subject, especially as it relates to a family’s influence on the education of their children.

The Fairy Tale of Scholarships

Last fall, I was chatting with a second grader. I mentioned something about going to college. He replied, “I’m not going to college. My mom says it’s too expensive.”

I was floored. Why is a 7-year old even thinking about the cost of higher education? Why would a parent put this negative thought in their child’s head, a mindset that will stick with him for the next 20 years?

And then a few months later, I had another conversation with a girl who performed in the Salkehatchie Stew play with my wife and kids. Again, I said something about college, and she also expressed how expensive it is. I had a better response this time:

“You’re right. It IS expensive. But do you know they have these things called scholarships, where you can get money to help pay for college? I had scholarships, and I went to school for almost FREE. And you can get them, too, if you work hard, make good grades, and make good choices.”

She said, “You know. I’ve heard of those things. But I didn’t really know that they were real.”

To her, a college scholarship was a mere fairy tale. That’s when it hit me. These couple of kids and their parents (and many others) don’t even know the opportunities available to them. They don’t have a real life model. (Another reason students like these need mentors.)

A Lack of Vision

He earned a football scholarship to a university that is known for top-notch athletics and academics. I don’t know him, but he must have been proud. He had the chance to play for a championship-caliber team, while also receiving a nearly free education.

But he never even showed up on campus.

He decided that the school (about 6 hours away) was too far from home, too far from family and friends, too different. And, like the two kids who knew that college was expensive, he was right. It was far from home, far away from familiarity. But that didn’t need to stop him.

One of the strengths of Allendale is the sense of community, a support system. But they don’t just need support that binds people together. What is needed is the support that pushes people out. Students need to know that it will be difficult to be away from family and friends most of the time for 4 years. But it will be worth it.

A Push to Endure, Finish, and Succeed

For the 8 months that I knew Head Coach Eddie Ford before I started coaching under him, I witnessed how he pushed his players to succeed in school. I heard him talk to them about making better grades. I saw him do everything he could to help them get athletic scholarships.

Why was he driven to help these young men? When you hear his story, it will make more sense.

Coach Ford was the first person in his family to go the college. Did that feel like a burden, a big weight that he had to carry, a barrier to break through? “Oh, man. You better believe it.”

Then how do some like him go off to college and succeed, while most from similar backgrounds do not? How did this guy make it, not just for his own success, but to be in a place where he can give back to others?

His parents PUSHED HIM.

On the day he left for college, Coach Ford’s dad said, “Don’t dishonor our family name.”

I mean, his dad went all Japanese on him. Like, “Succeed, or fall on your sword.” And when a difficulty arose during his college days that made Coach think to quit school, his parents wouldn’t let him quit. They provided encouragement and support and a push.

And now he gets to do the same for another group of young men who may not have the same support system.

Because that’s what is needed — a support system — so that students can:

  1. Make the grades needed to be accepted to college (and get the necessary scholarships),
  2. Actually go to college, ready to learn,
  3. And stay in college until the degree is earned, no matter what hardships arise.

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**image courtesy of marganz via

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2 responses to “The Importance of Family in College Success”

  1. W. Jason Griffith says :

    I was listening to a Clemson football game a few weeks ago and they talked about a player who was just involved in a play and mentioned that he was out of Allendale-Fairfax High School. You know, hearing that, I just smiled knowing that you all are there trying to make a difference.

    • joeyespinosa says :

      Ha. Thanks, but don’t give me too much credit. He graduated before I got here. I attribute most of that to the coaches (like Coach Ford) who have been here, working to try to give these boys a chance.

      Good to hear from you Jason, even if you are a Citadel guy. 🙂

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