It’s that time of year. College acceptance letters are beginning to arrive and your child will soon be heading on a new journey. All you can think about is how much you will miss them and if they are truly ready to be on their own. But first, they must choose a school, and choosing the right one will be a challenge for the entire family. It doesn’t help that the complete college preparation and selection process nowadays is beyond overwhelming for both parents and students. There are so many schools to choose from, so many scholarships and programs to consider, SAT/ACT scores, extra-curricular activities, on and on and on, and I will say, not every school is for every student, as with most situations in life.
Our daughter started college last fall and we are blessed that everything is going well so far. She just headed back to school from winter break and was excited to return (a very good sign).
We visited several schools throughout the selection process and learned many lessons along the way, here are a few of them:
So many schools, so little time. Make sure your child has done research and has an idea of what they are looking for and then as a family, decide which ones are on the short list. Sometimes there are so many schools to visit, we as parents may try to cram in as many in one visit as possible. Please do not make this mistake. There is usually a lot of driving involved between schools. Additionally, visits can sometimes seem overwhelming with information overload. At times, our daughter preferred to skip the information session and just tour the grounds (after a while, most of these sessions all start to sound similar). Also, if you visit too many schools on one trip, you may risk your child being exhausted by the end and not really showing interest in the final few (this happened to us as well). And if you live in the south, make sure your child visits schools up north during the winter months, as the extreme temperature changes will be eye openers for some!
Just because you will be visiting college campuses does not mean you cannot have fun (a day trip to Disneyland was a must on our UCLA and USC trip). Visits are comprised of more than just information sessions and campus tours. Our daughter and a friend from high school were on the same trip and they met up with some students from the university that had previously attended their high school. This provided a great opportunity for them to visit dorm rooms and get a perspective from current students. Get to know the town, this may be your child’s home for the next 4 years. Where are the nearest restaurants, shopping centers, movie theatres, etc. Do a bit of sightseeing if time permits. There will be something captivating about each school, even those that will eventually get eliminated as choices.
Talk. A lot.
In the evenings, usually while we were having dinner or settling in for the night, we would ask our daughter how the day went and if the school met her expectations. Many times, schools that she was excited about were quickly dropped off the list and vice-versa. But let your child express their thoughts and feelings and only provide advice as needed. After all, this is (mainly) their decision.
I hope you enjoy your college road trips when the time comes. I would love to hear how they went…