College Visits

One of many (many, many) things I haven’t written about is that M and I went on some college visits over the summer.  M pretty much has no idea where she wants to go to college or what she wants to do as a grown-up, and her utter lack of clarity on any of it was weighing her down. She is a pretty excellent student and a strong athlete, and she has enough going on to more than fill those ten lines for extracurricular activities on the Common Application, so we think (vaguely) that she can likely go somewhere maybe-not-top-tier-but-probably-pretty-good for college, but that’s about as far as we’d gotten last spring.

Cute W and I had won an hour of College Consulting at our Nursery School Silent Auction (it turns out that it’s very easy to win College Consulting at an auction where the vast majority of participants are parents or grandparents of nursery school children), and that happened to be with M’s Spanish teacher, so she was already familiar with “Madita.” I had kind of hoped that our consultant would assign M the task of doing a bit of standardized test studying over the summer. That way she’d be getting nagged without me doing the nagging, and it would give her something to fill her not-too-busy July. Instead, the consultant seemed to think that standardized test review  was next summer’s task, after M had taken the official PSAT. Instead, she suggested that a few college visits to nearby places would help M get a more general idea of what she wanted: big or small, urban or rural. So, while I thought I’d get out of nagging and basically doing anything, instead I received a workload for myself, since I would need to chauffeur her to these visits.

Before I go on about these college visits, let me just point out that when I was a girl, I didn’t go on a single official college visit before applying to schools.  Okay, yes, I did do a summer program at one of the colleges I ended up applying to, but that was practically by mistake. My parents said I should apply and the deadline for the program had passed, so I applied to the program entirely so that my parents would think I was doing proactive while, in my mind, I was doing the least proactive thing possible, since I’d clearly be rejected. It had not occurred to me that this academic program was not, in fact, a highly competitive opportunity that had already passed me by, but a convenient way for the school to make money off of suburban parents who were desperate to get their lackadaisical high school students to look like they were more intellectually curious than they actually were. So my strategy backfired, big time, because just after I had finally “gotten together” with the boy I’d had a crush on for a year, I was shipped off for six weeks of college-life-for-nerdy-high-school-kids. Except also it didn’t backfire, because I had a ton of fun and learned a lot and finally understood that college might actually turn out to be awesome, even thought that college ended up rejecting me. My only truly official on-campus admissions event was at Grinnell College, my first choice based largely on the fact that their brochures featured firsthand testimonials from students. After I’d already applied and gotten in, I went to an admitted students weekend and fell in love.

Meanwhile Cute W applied to only one college and sent in his application the last possible day he could, basing his decision pretty much entirely on the testimonial of a couple of friends who said he would like Grinnell. Which used to make me especially crazy because between his amazing grades, ridiculously wide-ranging activities, and geographic location, he likely would have been admitted almost anywhere. But I guess if he’d gone Ivy League we wouldn’t have met, so it’s all good.

The point is, I know I sound like I am being a crazy college parent by going on multiple college visits before junior year, and it really goes against our instincts. But not having any clue was worrying M, especially when she’s surrounded by friends whose parents have been carting them off to colleges for years now as well as friends who are potential D-1 athletes who are organizing official visits. And so we decided at the beginning of the summer that we’d check a few places out.

But where? We started off with me pointing out a long list of colleges that are fairly close by. Which is a little ironic, because the one opinion M already had about college was that she’d probably like to go somewhere far away. This is absolutely fine with us, but the truth is, as long as you’ve left town, if you never go home to visit, you can feel far away even if it’s just an hour or two. Anyway, the whole point was that these were just, like, demonstration colleges, and our goal was to knock off at least a few of them so that we could compare and contrast, and maybe establish a few baseline items for the wish list. So M looked at the colleges and a map, and we ended up planning two trips. First, we went on a day trip just west of us to visit Hamilton and Colgate, and then a few weeks later we did an overnight trip to Boston that included visits to Williams, Northeastern, Boston College, & Wellesley.

And this has gotten long already, so more about the visits tomorrow!


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