If I were to tell a child, for instance my child, how to select a college, what would I say? Sure, there are the usual parental statements. Go to a good school. Go where you can see yourself being a part of something larger than yourself. Stay in-state because of tuition costs. Go out-of-state so you’re not too close to home. Go to Harvard because any student in her/his right mind should go to Harvard if accepted because, well, it’s Harvard. Go to a big school where opportunities multiply. Go to a small school where the faculty know your name. Go to MY alma mater, DePauw University.
OR…perhaps the parent should let those out-of-the-blue, one sentence observations spoken at the various campuses while visiting speak about this college or that university.
Take the following…
While eating lunch at Johns Hopkins University: “People over there are telling jokes about dark matter. I love this place.”
A couple of powerful observations at Columbia University: “These buildings aren’t consistent and it’s bothering me.” And, “You don’t want to go to a school where the parents ask all the questions during an orientation tour.”
And on to Brown University: “I wish we hadn’t started with Johns Hopkins University.” And, “The windows of the chemistry building look heavy duty and bolted as if to contain an explosion.”
In Cambridge at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or M.I.T.: “Look. There is the Plasma Fusion Center. And a nuclear reactor! This place is amazing. I’m so happy.” And from the ONLY student tour guide to mention volleyball, “I play intramural on my sorority team. I’m not very good. But I have a great time.”
And at Harvard University: “Hey. It’s the Harvard Mariachi Band!”
The Spring Break East Coast College Trip 2019 that I have just returned from was fantastic! At each visit I looked through two sets of eyes. The first set of eyes were those I used after having removed 35 years. Oh, to be young and college bound again! (Uhm, not really, but an interesting thought experiment.) Here’s how I would rank the schools visited: M.I.T., M.I.T, M.I.T., then Johns Hopkins, then Brown, then Harvard and then Columbia. However, if I got into Harvard I would go to Harvard because any student in her/his right mind should go to Harvard if accepted because, well, it’s Harvard. And, come to think of it, Columbia should be removed from the list altogether; even if Alexander Hamilton was an alum.
And the second set of eyes I used was looking at each college through the eyes of my daughter. I am a lucky father. It was a joy to share her joy. A disappointment when she was disappointed. I did my best to not project my inner 18-year-old on to her. When I did she kindly reminded me to chill and to remember that I was NOT the prospective student. “BUT…!” Dad, chill.