Last week a San Diego family stayed with us while on their college tour. These savvy people waited to look at schools until after their child had been accepted. Not only do I admire their attitude about the process, but their daughter is so impressive that I plan to hire her the second she graduates from UCSB.
Maybe the thing to do is spend the spring break of junior year studying rather than looking at colleges. Most eleventh graders are not interested yet anyway, and those who are rarely use rational criteria to evaluate the schools – One of CJ’s friends said that he didn’t like Amherst because the dorms, with their hardwood floors, were "too nice". Another reported that "all the kids" at Wash U St. Louis had "bad music" in their I-Pods.
And if your kid does fall in love with a university on a college trip, it’s probably not because of the academics or even the sports facilities, but because he or she happened to have a cute tour guide or a great cheeseburger.
So when contemplating a college tour, maybe it is wise to think more about the food and less about the colleges. If you decide you must go, the next few posts will highlight some of the hidden gems where we ate during our odyssey.
The timing of the tour is a crucial element. With the SD family, you raise the good question of whether anyone should ever go on a tour at all. I happen to disagree, but there’s obviously enough information and good counseling (and neuroses) out there that kids and families can apply and then go see the places where they get in.
But for me, Spring Break in 11th grade is 1)yes, a good time to study, since it’s the crunch year, and 2)a bit too late to serve the proper motivational purposes that a good college tour can provide.
I have to say I’m a huge proponent of the PGSFPG program (Perfect Girls School For Perfect Girls). The PGSFPG students, naturellement, go on their school tour in Spring Break of 10th grade, which gives them an idea of what they’re going to be working for in 11th grade. It also jumpstarts the process and the anxiety. For zhiv, an off-the-charts ND (neurotic dad), this allowed me to take the GD on a follow-up tour in the Spring of 11th grade, as we have discussed at length. (Which reminds me that you might want to do a post breaking down our schedule for visiting schools every weekend for an entire year, if we lived in NYC.)
Would CJ have done anything differently if he had visited Duke a year ago? Probably not. Does he have an early decision strategy shaping up? zhiv can obviously attest to the remarkable 3-stage stress reduction program of successful early decision, knowing, however, that it is posed against the abject horror of unsuccessful ED.
And while I’m thinking, perhaps you can track and comment on this whole thing where colleges with ridiculously large endowments are giving some financial relief to poor, suffering, affluent Prius-driving “middle class” families like ourselves. What’s up with that? Which schools have those big endowments, besides the obvious behemoths?
I’m about to read how you’re headed into the world of college dining, which is something only hardened tour veterans would know about, but it occurs to me that “The Importance of the Tour Guide” is absolutely necessary as a post. With all of the anxiety and information and test prep and money and everything that goes into this decision, isn’t it a bit strange that college choice is 70% about the random tour guide? Eager to hear your thoughts.
This will be covered in a future post, “My Favorite Tour Guide”.