Seeking a Seminary

Q: My daughter, who is in twelfth grade, is now applying to seminaries for next year. She very much wants to go to Eretz Yisrael, but I don’t know if it’s the best move for her. Most of her classmates will be there, but she is my first daughter reaching the age to go. I’m most concerned with the fact that she is applying to the hardest schools to get into, and I have my doubts that she will get accepted. She has one very close friend whom she spends a lot of time with, and she hopes to get into the same school. My daughter is a very good girl, but not great in academics.

I think that her friends who are more of the G.O. type, who have more connections, will get into these schools more easily than she.

I’m just worried about her being disappointed and feeling left out if this happens.

She doesn’t want to apply to the “second class” seminaries, but I’m afraid she won’t get accepted to the places that she is aiming for and have no place to go in Israel at all. I do think that she’ll manage well in Israel if she ends up there, as she is pretty independent, so I’m not so worried about that issue. The money is not a simple matter either.

We have two seminaries nearby that she found to go to, but neither seems “exciting” enough for her. What are your thoughts about this?

A: Sending a daughter to Israel for seminary may have great benefits, but the pros and cons of such a decision should be discussed with daas Torah. It’s important to speak with an adult who knows the actual schools (including the local seminaries), and not rely on the perceptions of twelfth-grade students.

There is what to be said about the experience of being in Eretz Yisrael itself for an extended period of time. The caliber of idealism and ehrlichkeit in Yiddishkeit is higher in Israel than in any other part of the world. A teenager is able to meet families whose aspirations in ruchniyus are reflected in their more simplified lifestyle, and this leaves an indelible impression on them. Such a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

However, everyone’s situation is different, and particular overriding issues can exist. The more global question can be explored with regard to your daughter’s need to have realistic expectations about life after high school.

Though hard for her to imagine, her present best friend might not be so in the future. Hoping to go to any post-high school learning program with hopes of maintaining a prolonged high school experience is basically a set-up for disappointment. New relationships are often formed, and the picture that you envisioned may never become a reality.

Perhaps you can attempt to re-frame the idea of applying to another seminary, wherever it may be, as an opportunity for your daughter to use her talents in a more revealed manner. Not all less academically competitive schools are filled with students of lesser “quality,” so to speak. Children need to see that many high academic achievers don’t appreciate intense competition, and avoid being in such a learning environment after high school. Though your daughter may object to applying to different seminaries, you can ask her to do it as a favor to you, telling her that it will make you feel less anxious about this whole process.

You can give examples of others who went to seminaries that weren’t their first choice, and then excelled in many areas in that school. This clearly would not have occurred had they been in a larger “factory type” school.

In general, parents (and students) need to daven for siyatta diShmaya to make the right decisions in this area (and in all areas).

In addition, both parents can give examples to your daughter of how life’s seeming disappointments brought about amazing results, which would never have occurred had circumstances gone as desired. Hashgachah pratis brings each person to the situation where their present avodas Hashem can best be accomplished.