Our oldest son finished the tour—one among several this past summer—and just beamed, “I’m definitely going to apply here. I’m already thinking about what I want to say in my essay.” I had a pretty ambivalent attitude about the college tour/vacation we just took, especially since previous tours had been met with near apathy and eye rolling.
Then I saw how excited he was and the traveling, the hours at information sessions hosted dull admissions officers, and the sore feet from walking storied cobblestone pathways proved absolutely worthwhile. Our son is excited about this new phase he’ll soon take on. And my husband and I are thrilled for him. He can picture himself on a campus, making new friends, learning and living on his own.
My top five after visiting colleges with our boy:
- Your kid is likely to be a little scared, but not likely to admit that to you. Manifestations range from feigned boredom to irritation with all you do. It’s not personal.
- College information sessions sound the same at nearly every school. And a tedious talk would kill enthusiasm for what might have been a great fit. Student guides were frequently better. Walking around campus would sometimes prompt a strong reaction: yeah or no way.
- A lot of information could be found on line so we didn’t stress details. We were going for that gut feeling that a school might be a good fit. Student guides were there to paint a positive and upbeat picture of campus life, but a few did reveal likes and dislikes about their school…and inside information about where to snag the best brownies. The student newspapers and bulletin boards were another great way to get a feel for the space.
- We thought in terms of archetypes: Big Ten, city-based campus, small semi-rural, etc. as opposed to trying to visit all campuses of potential interest. We were able to knock out many schools knowing our son’s preference for size and city life. And we’ll count on being able to revisit once it is decision time.
- Some schools came as a big surprise. I’m glad we didn’t eliminate a visit based on reputation or third-hand information.
I loved Michael Gerson’s piece, “Saying goodbye to my child, the youngster,” about dropping off his son at college. We have less than a year. Our youngest entered high school this fall and now I know just how quickly these four years in high school will end. I am reminded of the first steps our boys took learning to walk. They would step away and then look at us for reassurance…then take another step. Wasn’t that a thrill!