Road trip gone wrong……or right? My husband and my eldest daughter were scheduled to visit 5 colleges in 3 days. With traffic on I-95, and a torrential rainstorm, they missed 2 admission sessions and one interview. Flexibility became a component of college road trips with our children.
Along that point, you have to be flexible when your teen decides to stay in the car and not to visit the school. We had numerous stops vetoed by teens who said that they didn’t like the campus, the area, or the “feel of the place.” They do have to live there for four years.
Before you start a trip, you might want to download each college’s “self guided walking tour.” You can leisurely stroll around the campus, noting important areas, and take an objective view of what is going on. A self-guided tour can be done in early morning or in the evening when admissions departments do not have an event. We began taking these and sometimes substituting them for the group tours while still going to admission information sessions. The thing we liked most about them is that we were free to chat as we walked as opposed to being part of a group tour.
My husband and I absolutely loved some of the schools we visited. We soon learned not to express these opinions as our teens were not “feeling the love.” The colleges that appealed to us most frequently fell to the bottom of our kids’ lists. I learned to respect their opinions and use our travel time to open up some honest discussions.
When my children started applying to colleges that were very far away, we did not visit. A few friends suggested “go when they get in.” Local information sessions are held at schools, public libraries, or at hotels and can be scheduled on college web sites. If your senior is really interested in the school, consider also scheduling a local admissions interview in advance. They fill up pretty fast. Attending your local college fairs is another opportunity to learn about schools that cannot be visited. At these, you can get information and meet representatives that enjoy talking about their college or university.
Not all of our college visits went as planned. There were times that we wound up at a local pizza place or ice cream shop instead of the campus we intended. There were also colleges that we were sure were good fits, yet they fell short of my kids’ expectations. In a short time, we are sending our youngest of four off to start her college career. We have had a lot of campus information sessions and cafeteria dining behind us (I counted a total of 46 visits). I can honestly say that visiting colleges gave us a unique opportunity to consider good options and bright futures. And, we were also able to spend some quality time with our teens at a time when their lives were very busy.
In Marina's next "College Logic" column, she will discuss researching a college or unversity. There may be a few facts your family missed too.
Marina Kennedy is a reporter for The Alternative Press and teaches for Westfield Co-op and MORE of Westfield. She has two children presently attending college and two who have graduated from college and are in the workplace. She and her husband Chuck gained some practical knowledge after watching their four children apply to college. She will be sharing some tips in her column, "College Logic" to address some of the situations that face parents and their college bound teens. Her column will appear monthly in The Alternative Press.