College Touring the Second Time Around
My husband I and recently took my son for the first ritual trek to check out colleges. Being our second child he has escaped my OCD insanity...
I am known to make binders for everything under the sun. An information and organization junkie, there are color-coded tabs and inserts with directions, reservations, key events and topics of interest highlighted ad nauseam.
This practice I refuse to give up.
But I have shed the frenzy surrounding college search that I tried so hard to avoid unsuccessfully the last time. When everyone around you is obsessing, how do you keep grounded and stay calm through the process? More importantly, how do you find a way to actually enjoy it? Let's face it folks, this is the good stuff. The culmination of all those years of parenting lead up to letting them take their own ride.
I have a few tricks to lighten up this stressful task. Being that I am truly a child myself most of the time, or surely an adolescent, I think of ways to keep myself and my family entertained. I have looked around the room and drawn pictures of people asking my kids to figure out who I have drawn, had a contest to see who would guess how many times a tour guide would say 'mmm. k', and written top ten lists of the dumbest parent questions.
Sometimes the schools themselves provide the entertainment. Every college has its canned presentation and tour. You step into a room of varying size and listen to the 'Why you want to be a _____ student' presentation. Some schools keep it real, others are sell, sell, sell, still others intimidate you with statistics and a little bit of snobbery. The constant in every one of these presentations are the factoids about their institution; what famous people went to the school, what was discovered there and why this should make any difference to you. Funny, but these seem to be the things that stick with us when we leave, and none of them really have anything to do with why the school is a good fit for my kid.
Please keep in mind I have not fact checked any of these things but for the sake of enjoying ourselves let me share a few of our favorites:
University of Delaware's mascot, the Blue Hen, is the 3rd most famous mascot in the country. We had no idea who number 1 and 2 are, nor did we really care. All we cared about was how cute my daughter and her friends looked when they put the stuffed blue hen mask on in the bookstore for pictures. This was the first school we visited first time around and we acted like fools. That did not matter, we had fun.
The Slinky was invented by a Penn State University Alumni. THIS is very impressive. Why? I don't know but honestly, didn't everyone own a Slinky at one time. The Slinky is more popular than the ipod, for goodness sake! Another PSU factoid is that Bill Clinton is the only person to every ask for, and receive, more than one flavor of ice cream at the soup-nazi-style Berkey Creamery. (no surprise).
University of Maryland? Two words: Larry David! In my house that is way more impressive than Sergey Brin of Google or Kevin Plank of Under Armour being alumni. Ok, maybe not, but we really love Larry David. Some strive for wealth and fame, we strive for funny. Oh, and the green glass windows in some of their buildings is made from recycled Heineken bottles. This seems to be a very forward way of dealing with the residue of all the drinking that is not supposed to be going on.
School after school we were bombarded with information and questions. There is always that one over-sharing kid that is on everyone's nerves by the end of the tour. The parent that asks about the Russian and Slovac studies program immediately after the speaker asks for ONLY general questions about the university. The fact that the school has a Mining Studies program, something your typical 16-17-year-old is so very likely to be interested in. I am not joking, every one of these things has happened while we have toured schools.
The net of it all? First time around we were so nervous that we were not exposing our daughter to enough. We visited 8 schools, there were only 2 we did not visit with her, one of which she visited on her own and she chose to attend... typical. Second time around we are realizing that there is a fine balance between wanting to expose them to more and torturing them to see other things when what they have seen already looks good to them.
Today there are 19 pieces of mail on the coffee table from different colleges soliciting my son. Is this because he is a genius? Nope, it is because he just registered for the ACTs and SATs and we are living in direct mail database hell.
But hey, you never know. One day the school we had never thought of might drop out of the pile and be 'the one.'
Either way, life is really a crap shoot. Sometimes you just have to roll the dice and hope for the best. Now don't get me started on the impending empty nest...