Summer Road Trip: College Visits

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My husband and daughter took a road-trip last August. She was a rising junior, and we wanted to get a jump on college touring. She is our oldest child, and naturally, we are very excited to engage in this process with her. College is such an important step in a young person’s maturation that we are genuinely ecstatic for the opportunities that lie ahead. So, off to New England they went.  

We thought we were being a little precocious, a little ahead of the crowd, taking a trip BEFORE junior year. Alas, we were wrong. Many girls had been looking for months—checking out college campuses to “get a feel” for a place, or “see what a college campus looks like.” These are half-truths, spoken by parents and the children they love. The whole truth is that it is a dead heat to the finish line in the college admissions race. Some parents will tell you that they have taken a look around, and others will not, fearing that they will forfeit an advantage for their child. This is a marathon, and many parents set their pace miles ago, when we didn’t even know the race was on!

So, the thought for the day is, “Wise up, parents.” No one is going to spell it out for you.  The college counselors can answer questions, but they are not going to tell you what to do. And they are not going to counsel you in the things you don’t dare admit you want to know. These things are revealed in the trenches. So ask your friends with older children what they did, keep your eyes open, and don’t wait for the memo. 

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  1. More significantly, does Emily have a clue what she wants to pursue as a career? So many high school age children do not. If she is among the lucky few who do, she might be looking about to identify schools where she can acquire the relevant skills & knowledge to get started in that career field. It is of little use to apply to, and attend, a prestigious college without some hope that the degree will be of benefit. Engineering is given short shrift at Brown, but a literary type might prefer that school; a law-school bound history major would feel out of place at Georgia Tech, but a budding geologist could thrive.
    And, if this charming lass is uncertain, maybe an enlightening year in the workplace would help sort things out. Then that head-start from the marathoners is kind of pointless. Just sayin’.

  2. More fuel for the liberal arts fire! I have always been a proponent of the theory that if you can think and you can write, you can succeed in most business arenas. I am sure that our kids will be pushed to specialize, but as you say, many are not ready. IMHO, the degree will be of benefit whether she can picture her future career or not. Education is a gift, and while I get the motivation to be as directed as possible when you are planning to spend $250,000, we can still celebrate the utter luxury of learning for learning’s sake, and feeding the desire to grow, perhaps without specific direction.

  3. High school students might have some idea of their interests but I would encourage a broad base, keeping their eyes – and their options – open. As students mature through the college years and gather more information about what’s ‘out there,’ their ambitions change. I went to a school with a strong science curriculum, declared myself a pre-med biology major, only to un-declare it in the middle of sophomore year. I remember my mother saying, “Well, if you aren’t going to be a doctor, what are you going to be?” I had no answer, but after taking a broader range of courses, earning a master’s degree, and working for two years, I became a lawyer. It was either that or Indian Chief.

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