Friday, March 25, 2011

The pursuit of the perfect college: About a mother and daughter

It was rainy and miserable, unseasonably cold. And then there was that desiccated squirrel corpse lying on the sidewalk.

Not pleasant conditions, of course, but were they sufficient reason to strike a campus from my daughter’s list of prospective colleges? Apparently so.

At first, I thought my daughter was hasty in nixing that institution so early in her college search. But I soon realized that sometimes intangible feelings are reason enough to whittle down the list in pursuit of the perfect college fit.

We visited a lot of campuses during her quest. The trips proved to be fun family outings. Sometimes we happened to be in the area of a school and figured, “why not?” In fact, we were on a planned visit to one campus when we learned about another just an hour away, and it was the second one that ended up high on her list.

That school, however, didn’t pass the Facebook test. Again, I wondered if she were rejecting it too easily. But she explained that she had joined a Facebook group of high school seniors who had been accepted by the school, and after a lot of conversations she realized that their interests did not jibe with hers.

Still another school sounded perfect for her when she researched it online. But when we visited, she found little to like. The classes were too big, the campus too impersonal.

She ultimately chose another college that we had visited on that same cold, rainy day. In her mind, the campus shone despite the overcast weather. Now, almost three-quarters of the way through her undergraduate education, she remains thrilled with her choice, enthusiastically ensconced on a campus where she sensed then – and feels today – that she belongs.

In fact, she’s a tour guide there, happily helping prospective students and their families decide if her beloved college is right for them.

Are you planning to make college visits soon? (Contact Angela Short at 205-2595 to learn more about The Indiana Partnerships Center’s trips for teens and their parents to Vincennes University Monday; Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis Tuesday; Anderson College and Ball State University Wednesday; and Ivy Tech Community College Thursday.)

When you go, encourage your teen to research prospective schools online, where he can learn about academics, the campus’s characteristics, requirements and expected test scores. And when you and your teen head out on college visits, keep an open mind about his feelings about the campuses. Even if his reasons seem arbitrary for keeping one on the list while rejecting another, your teen is more likely to succeed in college if he chooses a campus where he feels that he fits in and he wants to live for four important learning years.

Maybe you’ve already made some college visits. If so, share your experiences here.

The Indiana Partnerships Center encourages and enables parents to engage with their child’s school, to the mutual benefit of the child and the school.  The center, which serves all of Indiana, is one of 62 Parental Information Resource Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement.

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