the old college try

Finding where you belong starts with looking where you’re going. istock.com/janniswerner

My daughter is now a high school sophomore, so that means we have another year before we start the college process, right?

That’s what I thought, anyway. Then I met another family with one kid in college and a high school senior. The senior already found out that she’s been accepted to Pitt—thanks to rolling admissions—and is waiting to hear from other colleges. The mom gave us the benefit of her experience, telling us that sophomore year is never too early to start. She said it’s harder than you think to squeeze in college visits, and they’re always better when school’s in session.

Well, then. This is our first go-round, and clearly we have some ground to make up.

I was actually asked recently where my daughter wants to go to college. While she’s always known she wants to continue her education after high school, she was pretty uninformed about the whole college experience. She doesn’t even know exactly what career she wants to pursue (which of course is fine; she’s not even 16 yet!), much less what school she likes.

Just this summer, we started explaining differences like high school vs. college, degrees, kinds of schools, and what to look for. We happened to have several road trips over the summer, so we incorporated some college campuses along the way. This included a trip to my alma mater, which I hadn’t visited since graduation.

My seventh grade son loved the campus and said he wanted to go there. My daughter called it Utopian and way too small. When I was a student, the dining hall only had one or two entrée choices. Now it’s been renovated and is a veritable food court with lovely gas fireplaces. As jealous as I was of this, not only was I reminded of why I initially chose the school, I remembered that it ended up being too small for me. I know it would be for her.

So that’s something; she knows she wants to go to a larger school. What this means to her, we’ll have to find out. We have yet to do any official campus tours, but you know what? We live in a city renowned for its academics. Why not start right here? It’ll give her an idea of what to expect, and will be much easier to schedule.

I know the high school has a software program called Naviance that will help with the college search; it’s my understanding that junior year, the guidance counselors work closely with students as they figure out their paths. Perhaps we can try using it a little earlier, along with other tools to figure out what schools might be of interest.

If anyone has any advice for us newbies, please share! I fell in love with my college, which was the right fit for me at the time. Unfortunately, I never found my niche and ended up having a negative experience. I was able to turn that around for grad school. However, I’d like my daughter to get it right from the start.

I hate thinking about how our time with her is limited. But isn’t this what parenting is about—helping her spread her wings?

 

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