Truth be told, we’ve been thinking about college for a while. I admit it, we are that kind of family. The one where we embed it into our children early that after high school the next step is college. It was kind of a given when I was growing up that we would all go to college. I think the only time we discussed not going was when my parents suggested I take a year off before starting. I didn’t do it… I knew myself too well. I wasn’t a great student and I didn’t love learning. Either I started college right after high school or I’d never go.
My kids are going… but not because we are making them. If one of them decided college wasn’t right for her, I’d be perfectly fine with it. Really. Okay, maybe I’d be a tad disappointed… but that would be my own issue, not hers. Where am I going with this? Oh right… we’ve been talking about college.
Junior year sprung up surprisingly fast. Next week we are going to the first of most likely a series of college fairs. We already have our list… and a spreadsheet. I started it for Temera months ago when she sat down and researched colleges that had the major she was interested in. We wrote down the names, locations, tuition rates, high school class requirements, and whether they required the SAT or ACT. It was great to see it all on paper, to be able to compare the schools. In reading the course descriptions she narrowed her focus down further. We have quite a few that are promising.
But here’s the thing… we aren’t stressing over any of this. For me, I’m actually enjoying the process of watching my daughter discover her interests. It’s like there is this big jigsaw puzzle and she is slowly putting each piece together. It’s quite remarkable seeing your child start to figure out her path in life.
And because we aren’t pushing those big-name schools… or any particular school, really… whatever her decision is will be the right one for her. We have given her the benefit of our experience, however. I went away to college while my husband lived at home. We definitely had two very different experiences and neither one is right or wrong… just different perspectives. So while we don’t impart our preferences, I do have some things I want her to consider. Those “other” things besides majors and money.
I’m not talking about whether the school is within driving distance or clear across the country, I want her to consider the school location itself and whether she is more comfortable at a city school or at a more traditional campus-based school. Some people like the experience of a school smack in the middle of a city (I went to Drexel in Philadelphia… can’t really get more mid-city than that). With some schools, you rarely need to leave the campus.
I’m pretty adamant about being able to sit in on a class or two (or three or four) during the school tour. I want my daughter to get a feel for the types of teachers and whether the students are engaged or nodding off in their chairs. I want her to be able to talk to the other kids and flat out ask if they think they made the right decision. Of course, I want her to understand ALL the courses that will be required of her once she enrolls. Does she have to take some of the basics or just delve right into her specific major?
Because really… who can live in a dorm that smells like a foot locker for a year? And I know dorms come in all shapes and sizes, but if you aren’t going to be comfortable studying in one, then that is something that needs to be considered. Do the dorms have common areas? Kitchens? What do the bathrooms look like? Are they clean? If you end up hating your roommate, will you have someplace to go that’s quiet? Also… what is the dorm situation after freshman year? Does everyone get an apartment or do they stay in the dorms until senior year?
4. BASIC NECESSITIES
Where do you go to grab an extra toothbrush… or a cup of coffee? Do the dorms have these things or are they within walking distance? Do you need a car to run to the store or is there public transportation. Will you be bringing your bike to school and is there somewhere safe to lock it up? Is there a mall you can get to or will you need to get your own Amazon Prime membership?
Take a look around and see the kind of people you will be spending the next 4 – 5 years with. Are they friendly? Do people say hello when you pass them or are they all looking down on their phones? Do people seem to be hanging out together or is everyone kind of alone? Are they smiling, laughing, playing frisbee on the lawn? Can you see yourself part of the school community?
If there are particular clubs or activities you might want to participate in, what do those look like? I’d love my daughter to be a part of a school Hillel (Jewish organization), but not all schools have active programs. She also loves playing tennis. Does the school even have tennis courts?
Obviously things like grades and finances are going to play a huge role in what college is chosen, but there are so many other factors that I think kids need to consider. You are sending your kids away for the next several years (and are probably going bankrupt to do it) so make sure the school they choose is really the right one for them.