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Advice to Parents on “College Shopping”

I affectionately refer to the process of visiting colleges as “college shopping”. The best time to begin is during the student’s junior year. For your sons and daughters, who are 16, 17, or 18 years of age, much else beyond a focus on college shopping and the college process matters to them at this time in their lives. (Other priorities may include getting a drivers license, doing school work, cherishing time with friends, studying for and taking college admissions tests, and earning money.) It is important that you recognize and respect their need for balance.

Keep in mind that your son or daughter will likely be living away from home in a year or two. Whether that concept is a comfort or not is partially up to you! For those just starting the process of college shopping, I offer advice and highlight some things for which you should be prepared.

Points of Anxiety for the Student

  • Not wanting or being emotionally ready to go college shopping.
  • Simply having to go on a trip, any trip, with his or her parents.
  • Worrying that he or she will look like a visiting prospective applicant while dining with his/her parent(s) at the campus grill.
  • Worrying that he or she will neither like nor fall in love with any school.
  • Worrying that he or she will fall in love with a school and then not gain admission.

Signs of Disinterest

  • Upon first arriving at the admissions office, your son or daughter refusing to get out of the car.
  • Your son or daughter talking on his or her cell phone with a friend from home during the visit.

Signs of Interest

  • Your son or daughter wanting to visit the bookstore to buy the key chain and sweatshirt.
  • Your son or daughter not taking a cell phone call during the visit.
  • Your son or daughter enthusiastically describing the college while talking on his or her cell phone with a friend from home soon after arriving on campus.

The Humor in College Shopping

  • Learning that your son or daughter judges a college by the style, talent, presentation and likeability of the backward walking student tour guide.
  • Learning that the information session, which schools use as part of a marketing strategy to position themselves and display their distinctive qualities can, if focused on the wrong theme for your son or daughter, turn him or her off completely and preclude that particular school from further consideration.
  • Learning that some, students and adults alike, conclusively judge a school based on their dealings with the staff in its front office, admissions.

Points of Advice

  • Recognize that it is a process of exploration.
  • Don’t schedule more than two school visits per day.
  • Let your son or daughter share their impressions with you before you offer yours.
  • If you enjoy staying at a bed and breakfast, consider that the inn keeper can provide a unique perspective on town/gown relationships and local impressions of the school community.
  • Bring your patience and sense of humor.

February 1, 2008.
Reprinted as “Shopping for College” in the October 2014 issue of Larchmont Living.

Posted by UberMusings / Posted on 01 Feb