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Would you even bother with college tours?


DawnM
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Middle son is a Junior this year.  He is going to the local PS.  

 

He seems to have no desire to visit colleges and finally said over Christmas break, "Mom, I really just want to live at home and go to school locally.  Is that ok?  Do I really have to go away?"

 

DH's response is that

 

A.) Unless he matures greatly in the next 18 months, he really isn't ready for a college away from home, and

B.) If he is willing to stay at home, it sure would save a lot of money, and let him stay at home, and

C.) We have a very good local 4 year state college within driving distance as well as several community college options and several private colleges.

 

I don't know why I really would like him to at least look at away colleges if he really isn't interested, but I do.  I need to get over it I guess.

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Yes, I'd do a few not far away schools. My oldest needed a nudge to start thinking about where he fit in ad what he'd like to try. So a couple tours could start some thinking.

 

I don't know what's available within a few hours of you. We are lucky in that we have a variety. So, we could tour big urban campus, big rural campus, small town liberal arts, schools bear mountains, schools near beach, etc. I'd pick a couple settings that have degree programs in his area of interest and visit. I'd probably just do two schools beyond the local live at home campus.

 

Once you've done two, you've let him know there are more possibilities out there. But the others thing I like to avoid is making the local school a default. I'd want my DC to make it a conscious choice, considering options and concluding it still the best fit. To me that gives just a little more ownership.

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Yes, I'd do a few visits. When DS18 was a junior he was pretty insistent that he wanted to stay home and commute. He'd been on seven or eight college visits with DS21, so he'd had a good while to consider what he wanted. But we still insisted that he go and visit a few that we hadn't toured with DS21. He ended up applying to (and being accepted by) two local schools he could commute to and one that isn't within commutable distance. Now that it's approaching time to make a decision it's the latter one that he's leaning toward. All that to say -- a lot can change in a year.

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Going on a few college tours solidified my daughter's desire to stay home and go to community college for at least a  year.    I *thought* that taking tours would make her more eager to go away to school!  But it turned out just the opposite.   So, it wasn't a waste, I don't think (even though I would have preferred that she go away to a 4-year school right away).  

 

Just as an aside; she was having a lot of headaches and feeling "stuck" in a few ways; once it was settled that she would stay home next year and we stopped talking about tours and applications, all that resolved.  Nothing to do with the OP but just thought I'd toss that in the mix.   She is looking at transfer schools and will tour some of those at some point. 

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I've told this story before, but my oldest got into two very selective schools and decided to stay home and go to the community college. One of the counsellors told me later that he had the second-highest SAT in the entire college.

 

And that was absolutely the right choice for him. I can't begin to list all the reasons why.

 

He's done extremely well and is on track for direct admission to a very competitive major at a 4-year that he will commute to.

 

Our out-of-pocket for this year with books will be around $3,000 because of an academic scholarship he got. That compared to one of the schools he got into that would have been around $30,000 a year even with merit aid. We were also able to help him buy a car last summer, so he has his own transportation. That would not have been possible if he had gone away.

 

During his 12th grade year, DH started talking about retiring early for medical reasons. So needless to say, we were concerned about college expenses. Now DH is indeed retired, and our income will be significantly less in 2017. If he had gone away, we'd be having some hard discussions right now. I suspect that he would have to take out some loans. That wouldn't be so bad for the last two years, but our goal as a family has always been to avoid education loans if possible. 

 

Have we taken heat for that choice? Certainly. But he's a happy college student and has excelled academically. That's more important IMHO.

Edited by G5052
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Also, nothing is written in stone. He could start at the local college and live at home and transfer to an away college at a later date. I think though, that it's easier to transfer when you have 30 hours and not less. Or at least it was that way when I was at a large state school years and years ago.

 

My dd knew she wanted to go to an away school and had even chosen the one she wanted to go to. She toured that one, and one more as a backup. And she was done. I'm thankful she got into her first choice but her second choice is also a good school. We knew for a fact she'd get in there. So dd didn't do a lot of touring. We all felt it was a waste of time and money.

 

When ds started  college, we knew there was no way he'd be able to attend an away college. His Aspergers would have made it very difficult and while some people want to push past boundaries, we didn't feel that was the healthy option. He attended a decent college while living at home. There was no reason to tour any other colleges. In fact, he didn't even tour his chosen college because it was given he'd attend.

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I would tour the potential local colleges, then see if there is anywhere else that has what he likes about those and might be a good fit.  (So if he likes the local big state school, tour an "away" one; if he likes the local small liberal arts school, tour an away one of those.  And if he has a particular academic/career passion, tour one or two schools that really specialize in the passion.)  I do think going on quite a few tours is really important.  It's only when you've seen three or four schools that you can start to see the differences and really whittle down your choices.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with living at home and going local, but you still want to make sure you choose the best-fit school.  
(And like a PP mentioned, I do think that, for most kids, it may be wise to apply to more than one school, to be sure you have choices you like and can afford come May 1 of senior year.)

 

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His plan sounds fine.

I think college tours are overrated. They are nice if the student is interested, and nice if he has to choose between different schools, but the most important information can be gleaned without.

 

My DS chose his top choice based on location and program offered. He applied and got admitted, and will accept without having set foot on campus. 

I grew up without college choices - you just went to the default,and you made it work or not.

 

So, if he is not interested, I don't see a reason to make him.

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There isn't anything at all wrong with his plan.  My oldest never even applied to any colleges other than the CC that she was already attending for DE.  She could have gotten into other schools, no problem, but she had no desire to do so.  She graduates this semester from the CC, and we don't regret her decision one bit.  She has zero college debt, and has been content to live at home.  In fact, she plans on continuing to live at home for the foreseeable future while she works and saves up a down payment for a house.  She has no current plants to go on to a 4-year, as she already has her dream job (librarian), and just needs a 2nd job doing whatever to make a decent income.  (The library is small and has no funding for full-timers).  This is what makes her happy.

 

Anyway, if a kid isn't interested in going away to school, there is no reason to push them towards it.  I wouldn't waste the time, money, or stress on college tours if that isn't what he's interested in.  If he changes his mind later, you aren't going to be any worse off for not touring schools he's probably not going to be interested in anyway.  

With my younger two, we did some tours, and I found that really all it did for us was rule some schools out that they were only kind of interested in, and confirmed the ones that they were really interested in.  It didn't make them want to go to a school that they weren't previously interested in going to.

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You don't need to look far from home, but I would visit his options under choice C. You are lucky to live in a town with multiple educational options. It doesn't sound like it would be holding him back to let him stay close to home. Presumably the colleges in town have dorms and/or apartments nearby where he can get his own space when he feels ready later in his college career.

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He IS going to mature greatly in the next 18 months, and what he wants to do may change, too.  If he has ADHD or other learning/health issue that will require extra support, living at home his first year or two could be a very good idea, but having an adult son living at home brings its own set of difficulties.  I would definitely take him to see both local and away colleges so he can better understand the choice that he's making.  At the very least, he should have a tentative plan for where he might want to transfer after a couple of years at CC.  Knowing where he wants to end up will help him make better course choices, as he can look at the transfer school's requirements and talk with them to find out what courses will transfer and what won't. 

 

 

 

 

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I think an advantage of a campus tour is that a high school student begins seeing college as a reality and can begin to picture themselves attending college.  Some kids have many opportunities to be on a college campus through various extracurricular or sporting activities.  For those who have not had that opportunity, I think a visit is great.  But, that can simply be to your local campus.

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His plan sounds fine.

I think college tours are overrated. They are nice if the student is interested, and nice if he has to choose between different schools, but the most important information can be gleaned without.

 

My DS chose his top choice based on location and program offered. He applied and got admitted, and will accept without having set foot on campus. 

I grew up without college choices - you just went to the default,and you made it work or not.

 

So, if he is not interested, I don't see a reason to make him.

 

 

I wouldn't have a problem with your son's present plan to stay at home at all.

 

I think so much about college these days, including all the necessary tours, is peculiar.  

 

I don't think it is at all peculiar to tour a variety of colleges.  A college education can cost 4-5 years of a student's life and more money than I spent on my house.  And just as I wouldn't buy a house sight-unseen, or a car without a test drive, I wouldn't choose a college without visiting if at all possible.  I've helped 3 kids & assorted nieces & nephews with the process, submitted over 15 applications, gone on tours of over 15 schools (with my kids and others), sent my kids to summer programs at four different schools, and gone to various accepted student days and other special admissions events.  The basics can be covered by reading a web site.  But there are intangibles that can only be seen and understood in person.  

 

I've been to a fancy-schmancy school that downplays the fact that most of their students go on to get masters' degrees elsewhere - because their undergrad degree didn't really prepare them for a job.  That's may not be an issue if you're aware of it, but could come as an expensive shock if you weren't.  I've been to a school where the main administrator of a fairly new program had recently left, leaving the program struggling to figure out what they were about and lacking essential partnerships with industry.  While the program was a good fit for my student in theory, the state of the department made the school a gamble.  I've been to a school that was very interest-led, project-oriented, which sounded wonderful, only to find their students' work was poor and not marketable and the students themselves (grad students) were lacking the ability to present themselves in a professional way.  And I've seen it the other way around too - a school that was somewhat lackluster on paper had an amazing program that was growing and thriving, led by a dynamic administrator who was industry-savvy and employment-oriented.

 

A visit lets you view student work, speak to teachers and administrators, view labs and dorms and dining halls, meet current students and ask them questions about their experiences on campus, get a sense of student life through posters advertising clubs and events, understand the surrounding community and the opportunities and challenges it presents.  Visiting more than one school helps you to filter out some of the things that most schools have in common, and see more of the details that makes one school a better fit than another.  

 

For the OP's son, it sounds like there are several options even if he stays home.  I'd explore those options first by touring the schools, then see if there are any that might be similar to the local ones he likes and tour one or two.  Or, if you're travelling, pick a school along the way and stop in for a quick tour.  To keep it from being too boring, scoop up another kid or two or three, and make it a group outing.  If the school isnt a good fit for one, it might be for another.  

 

I once took four kids to the state flagship.  They had a good time with each other on the outing but hated the school.  But after the visit they could better articulate what they did not like about the school, and were confident knowing that they had explored the option and rejected it as a bad fit.  They won't be left with "what if" regretful feelings about rejecting the popular school.

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Middle son is a Junior this year.  He is going to the local PS.  

 

He seems to have no desire to visit colleges and finally said over Christmas break, "Mom, I really just want to live at home and go to school locally.  Is that ok?  Do I really have to go away?"

 

DH's response is that

 

A.) Unless he matures greatly in the next 18 months, he really isn't ready for a college away from home, and

B.) If he is willing to stay at home, it sure would save a lot of money, and let him stay at home, and

C.) We have a very good local 4 year state college within driving distance as well as several community college options and several private colleges.

 

I don't know why I really would like him to at least look at away colleges if he really isn't interested, but I do.  I need to get over it I guess.

 

I'd be jumping with joy and buying that kid a car.  :laugh:

 

He's doing exactly what we want emerging adults to do; Know thyself. 

 

There is no great benefit to the mere act of being in another location.  (Now sometimes that other location is meaningful, such as the foreign city in which dozens of languages are spoken, to a linguist type).

 

But if this is what he wants, and the school is good, I'd be fine with it. 

 

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Thank you all.  

 

The local 4 year school is good and it is very inexpensive.

 

We could afford to send him to another school, as long as it was reasonable.

 

It would be fun to do a preview weekend or two, but not sure how he would get there.   I have to work and they are all when DH has busy season and isn't allowed to take any time off.

 

 

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Well, after looking online a bit this past couple of days, we decided to look up the top schools in his field and see where they are located (he doesn't need a top school, but we thought that was a start.)

 

I was SHOCKED to see that a state school right here is listed as #5 in quality.  I hadn't even heard of this school before!  I am not sure the ranking was accurate, but it really doesn't matter, it still looks like a good fit!  Small school, focused on only a few majors, and still state price.

 

In fact, it has degrees for both of my older boys.  I had no idea.

 

So, I am looking into at least touring that school.  They don't have a preview weekend that I can see.

 

It is only 1.5 hours away, so it can be a day trip in the Spring.

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I would pick a couple that really interest him (if there are any) and go visit those. Campus visits played a crucial role in getting my DS motivated. The irony is that the school he attends is one we did not tour officially. We had visited the town during a homeschool Civil War field trip four years earlier and that was our only exposure to the University and the area.

 

Your DS is a junior and college visits might help spur interest and motivation. Getting to see what opportunities are available might be exactly what he needs.

Edited by Scoutermom
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WE basically had to insist on dd visiting the college she now attends.  In junior year, she was pretty certain she would go to a state school about 1.5 hours a way.  Because of her dual enrollment in her senior year, she decided that if it was possible, she wanted to go to a smaller, private college that still did a lot of work manually.  (Math, science problem sets on paper, not on the computer).  SHe is very happy at that school now.

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Well, after looking online a bit this past couple of days, we decided to look up the top schools in his field and see where they are located (he doesn't need a top school, but we thought that was a start.)

 

I was SHOCKED to see that a state school right here is listed as #5 in quality. ...

 

Yay!  I really think going through the process itself tends to produce all kinds of useful info for both parents and students.  Even if the student ends up going to Local U and living at home, they have made an informed choice.  It can help them to really value the benefits of their chosen route, and to and put up with any negatives because they understand the trade-offs they are making.  (And, as you've found, you don't know what you don't know; the process can help you see things that you may not have previously thought to consider or look for.)

 

I've watched lots of kids tour all kinds of fancy-schmancy schools in the fall, while trash-talking the local State U, only to see half of them happily enroll in State once they really weigh the costs and benefits of each school.  If their parents had told them No Fancy Schools right at the start, they would have felt they were forced to settle for "less than".  But because they've had an in-depth look at their options and time to think through the pros and cons of them, they ended up choosing State U.  And of course, on the flip side, there are some who go the fancy-schmancy route, but with a much more informed understanding of what they will get from the school, what it will cost them (which is some cases works out to less than State U!), and what a privilege it is to go that route (so less chance of them taking it for granted).

Edited by justasque
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Yay!  I really think going through the process itself tends to produce all kinds of useful info for both parents and students.  Even if the student ends up going to Local U and living at home, they have made an informed choice.  It can help them to really value the benefits of their chosen route, and to and put up with any negatives because they understand the trade-offs they are making.  (And, as you've found, you don't know what you don't know; the process can help you see things that you may not have previously thought to consider or look for.)

 

I've watched lots of kids tour all kinds of fancy-schmancy schools in the fall, while trash-talking the local State U, only to see half of them happily enroll in State once they really weigh the costs and benefits of each school.  If their parents had told them No Fancy Schools right at the start, they would have felt they were forced to settle for "less than".  But because they've had an in-depth look at their options and time to think through the pros and cons of them, they ended up choosing State U.  And of course, on the flip side, there are some who go the fancy-schmancy route, but with a much more informed understanding of what they will get from the school, what it will cost them (which is some cases works out to less than State U!), and what a privilege it is to go that route (so less chance of them taking it for granted).

 

 

And you know what is hard for me?  Our church has all these bragy kids and parents who all think that you have to go away, and preferably to an expensive, prestigious school, far away.

 

Here are some of the comments I hear:

 

"Oh, your child is thinking of going THERE?  Oh, that was Johnny's 'safe' school to fall back on if he didn't get into X University because you know, they take almost anyone."

 

OR

 

"Oh, we told our child that he has to go away to school.  Kids NEED that college experience."

 

OR

 

"He really wanted to get into Harvard, and he did, but you know, we don't qualify for free tuition and he got better scholarships at BLAH BLAH school, so we are settling for that"  (thinly veiled brags as to how much money they make and that THEY turned down something, not the other way around.)

 

And the list goes on.  

 

It wears me out.  I was kind of glad this year when he opted to stop going to youth group.  It wore me out.  It wasn't so bad when they were younger, but now that they are teens, I see how much of a country club church we go to.  Not everyone is like that, and our friends aren't, but overall I am frustrated.

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And you know what is hard for me? Our church has all these bragy kids and parents who all think that you have to go away, and preferably to an expensive, prestigious school, far away.

 

Here are some of the comments I hear:

 

"Oh, your child is thinking of going THERE? Oh, that was Johnny's 'safe' school to fall back on if he didn't get into X University because you know, they take almost anyone."

 

OR

 

"Oh, we told our child that he has to go away to school. Kids NEED that college experience."

 

.

This isn't the main reason I quit attending church, but I hated socializing at church for this reason. At one church we attended for years, coffee hour became a one upmanship conversation. I don't find true community in that.

 

I wouldn't say my kid needed the college experience. I told him he had to go away because he and I were killing each other.

 

In your situation I wouldn't believe what any of these people are saying. A lot goes on behind the perfect life crafted for church coffee hour. Not many people give the full details. If you continue to socialize, perhaps take note of the people who go quiet at times during conversation. There are other people who are having trouble with the braggy conversations.

 

Anyway if you feel the need to participate, I'd focus response on the importance of your DS making decisions, not you. But personally I'd withdraw from participating at all. Dh found z new church and takes my youngest. When I do go, it's strictly worship and leave.

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And you know what is hard for me?  Our church has all these bragy kids and parents who all think that you have to go away, and preferably to an expensive, prestigious school, far away.

 

Here are some of the comments I hear:

 

"Oh, your child is thinking of going THERE?  Oh, that was Johnny's 'safe' school to fall back on if he didn't get into X University because you know, they take almost anyone."

 

OR

 

"Oh, we told our child that he has to go away to school.  Kids NEED that college experience."

 

OR

 

"He really wanted to get into Harvard, and he did, but you know, we don't qualify for free tuition and he got better scholarships at BLAH BLAH school, so we are settling for that"  (thinly veiled brags as to how much money they make and that THEY turned down something, not the other way around.)

 

And the list goes on.  

 

It wears me out.  I was kind of glad this year when he opted to stop going to youth group.  It wore me out.  It wasn't so bad when they were younger, but now that they are teens, I see how much of a country club church we go to.  Not everyone is like that, and our friends aren't, but overall I am frustrated.

 

I think you just have to keep in mind that every kid is different, and the key is to find the best fit school for that child, not the one with the most prestige or other bragging rights.  Look at the other side of it - when parents you don't know well are talking about colleges, it's small talk.  Everyone is trying to sum up their experience of a long, complex, individualized process in a brief sound bite that's fairly positive.  So listen to the subtext and see what you can take home from it that will be useful.   And make a note of who might be good to have a more in-depth conversation with.  

 

"Oh, your child is thinking of going THERE?  Oh, that was Johnny's 'safe' school to fall back on if he didn't get into X University because you know, they take almost anyone."

 

This is someone trying to say "Hey, I'm familiar with that school!" because they're trying to make conversation with someone they don't know well - they pounced on a familiar thing with which to continue the conversation but they blew it and said something really stupid and insensitive.  Nonetheless, they've been through the application process and perhaps done an in-depth tour of the school, so they may have some useful info for you.  And you can do some probing and find out what they liked about X and why they chose it over the safety school, and see if any of that relates to your kid.  And of course, remember that different majors might easily flip a school's safety vs. reach status for two different kids.

 

"Oh, we told our child that he has to go away to school.  Kids NEED that college experience."

 

This is someone who is making a general statement - assuming that what is right for their kid is right for everyone.  Overlook that aspect, and you can dig a little deeper - what is it about the "away" experience that they wanted for their child?  What was it about their child that made the away experience a good fit?  That conversation might help you feel confident about your own choices for your ds, who is presumably quite different than their child.

 

"He really wanted to get into Harvard, and he did, but you know, we don't qualify for free tuition and he got better scholarships at BLAH BLAH school, so we are settling for that"  (thinly veiled brags as to how much money they make and that THEY turned down something, not the other way around.)

 

I wouldn't assume this is a brag - this family had a tough decision to make - go for the name school or go for the cheap one.  They made the less prestigious decision, something they may still be wrestling with and unsure about.  And make no mistake - a school like Harvard is seventy thousand dollars a year - that's a quarter of a million dollars over four years.  If the family doesn't qualify for much in the way of financial aid, that's still a hefty amount of money no matter how much they make.  And if their kid was not likely to be a star student among the star students, the other school was probably a better fit anyway.  So again - what's your takeaway?  Well, this family did a good job of applying to both the reach and the financial safety, so that they had choices come May 1. They might be a good resource for talking about how they decided which schools to apply for, how to choose a good safety, and how they guided their dc through the decision-making process as to which to choose once the acceptances were in.  Your own dc might be wanting to forgo applying to a reach school because there isn't one that's a good fit, but right now you're still early in the process, so don't rule it out.

 

I know these are just off the cuff examples, but other parents can be a huge source of information, guidance, and cautionary tales if you overlook any hint of bragging or generalization, probe a bit deeper, and focus on FIT.  (And the follow up - how well did their choices turn out for their dc - will also be interesting/informative to observe for several years to come.)  Of course, if your dc is likely to have a brief search leading to a minimum number of applications, an easy acceptance and an easy choice come May 1, then you won't have a "war story" to trot out in these conversations!  I think parents whose kids had a fairly small pool of "good fit" schools, picked one, applied early and got in "one and done", are kind of left out when the conversation turns to the college application process.  Nonetheless, if you don't take it all personally, you may find that you pick up some nuggets of info that may be useful down the line - even if it's in terms of what not to do!

 

So in short - remember that their choices will be different than yours, because they are working with different resources and a different kid.  But you can still learn from listening to how they made decisions at each point in the process, and how those decisions played out for their kids.  And if the process is a whole lot easier for you because that's how the cards fell for this dc, that's a good thing!

 

Take what's useful to you, and leave the rest, as you would with any advice.

Edited by justasque
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This isn't the main reason I quit attending church, but I hated socializing at church for this reason. At one church we attended for years, coffee hour became a one upmanship conversation. I don't find true community in that.

 

I wouldn't say my kid needed the college experience. I told him he had to go away because he and I were killing each other.

 

In your situation I wouldn't believe what any of these people are saying. A lot goes on behind the perfect life crafted for church coffee hour. Not many people give the full details. If you continue to socialize, perhaps take note of the people who go quiet at times during conversation. There are other people who are having trouble with the braggy conversations.

 

Anyway if you feel the need to participate, I'd focus response on the importance of your DS making decisions, not you. But personally I'd withdraw from participating at all. Dh found z new church and takes my youngest. When I do go, it's strictly worship and leave.

 

Oh, we already have our small group of "real" people.....but this is in the big group, and once the kids are seniors and the moms are talking.

 

This is a HUGE reason I didn't take the high school teaching job our church's school offered me this year.  This was just one reason, but it was a big one.

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I think you just have to keep in mind that every kid is different, and the key is to find the best fit school for that child, not the one with the most prestige or other bragging rights.  Look at the other side of it - when parents you don't know well are talking about colleges, it's small talk.  Everyone is trying to sum up their experience of a long, complex, individualized process in a brief sound bite that's fairly positive.  So listen to the subtext and see what you can take home from it that will be useful.   And make a note of who might be good to have a more in-depth conversation with.  

 

"Oh, your child is thinking of going THERE?  Oh, that was Johnny's 'safe' school to fall back on if he didn't get into X University because you know, they take almost anyone."

 

This is someone trying to say "Hey, I'm familiar with that school!" because they're trying to make conversation with someone they don't know well - they pounced on a familiar thing with which to continue the conversation but they blew it and said something really stupid and insensitive.  Nonetheless, they've been through the application process and perhaps done an in-depth tour of the school, so they may have some useful info for you.  And you can do some probing and find out what they liked about X and why they chose it over the safety school, and see if any of that relates to your kid.  And of course, remember that different majors might easily flip a school's safety vs. reach status for two different kids.

 

"Oh, we told our child that he has to go away to school.  Kids NEED that college experience."

 

This is someone who is making a general statement - assuming that what is right for their kid is right for everyone.  Overlook that aspect, and you can dig a little deeper - what is it about the "away" experience that they wanted for their child?  What was it about their child that made the away experience a good fit?  That conversation might help you feel confident about your own choices for your ds, who is presumably quite different than their child.

 

"He really wanted to get into Harvard, and he did, but you know, we don't qualify for free tuition and he got better scholarships at BLAH BLAH school, so we are settling for that"  (thinly veiled brags as to how much money they make and that THEY turned down something, not the other way around.)

 

I wouldn't assume this is a brag - this family had a tough decision to make - go for the name school or go for the cheap one.  They made the less prestigious decision, something they may still be wrestling with and unsure about.  And make no mistake - a school like Harvard is seventy thousand dollars a year - that's a quarter of a million dollars over four years.  If the family doesn't qualify for much in the way of financial aid, that's still a hefty amount of money no matter how much they make.  And if their kid was not likely to be a star student among the star students, the other school was probably a better fit anyway.  So again - what's your takeaway?  Well, this family did a good job of applying to both the reach and the financial safety, so that they had choices come May 1. They might be a good resource for talking about how they decided which schools to apply for, how to choose a good safety, and how they guided their dc through the decision-making process as to which to choose once the acceptances were in.  Your own dc might be wanting to forgo applying to a reach school because there isn't one that's a good fit, but right now you're still early in the process, so don't rule it out.

 

I know these are just off the cuff examples, but other parents can be a huge source of information, guidance, and cautionary tales if you overlook any hint of bragging or generalization, probe a bit deeper, and focus on FIT.  (And the follow up - how well did their choices turn out for their dc - will also be interesting/informative to observe for several years to come.)  Of course, if your dc is likely to have a brief search leading to a minimum number of applications, an easy acceptance and an easy choice come May 1, then you won't have a "war story" to trot out in these conversations!  I think parents whose kids had a fairly small pool of "good fit" schools, picked one, applied early and got in "one and done", are kind of left out when the conversation turns to the college application process.  Nonetheless, if you don't take it all personally, you may find that you pick up some nuggets of info that may be useful down the line - even if it's in terms of what not to do!

 

So in short - remember that their choices will be different than yours, because they are working with different resources and a different kid.  But you can still learn from listening to how they made decisions at each point in the process, and how those decisions played out for their kids.  And if the process is a whole lot easier for you because that's how the cards fell for this dc, that's a good thing!

 

Take what's useful to you, and leave the rest, as you would with any advice.

 

 

I would love to have this perspective, but the fact is, I know these people personally.  They are definitely bragging.  It is in the tone, the way it is said, past experiences with them, and the fact that the overall vibe of this group is the one upsmanship.

 

As for the family who said their kids HAVE to go away.  They mean it.  They have 4 kids.  It was never what was best for him/her to stay or go, it is a mandate in their house.  The father had such a great college experience that he tells his kids they HAVE to go away to experience it.  Never mind that 2 of the 4 came back after college to live at home and didn't enjoy it.  And never mind that they have had unemployment for an almost 7 year stretch and now are deeply in debt and can't pay for the schools.

 

Sigh.

 

It is what it is.  I just listen and smile and go do what I need to do.

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I would tour the schools closest to you. Yours include things like info on student services and programs to get new students off on a good fit.

 

For example when we toured WBU, one of the guides talked about the camping program they had for incoming students. He was a big fan because when school started he already knew a dozen people to hang out with. I wouldn't have thought about it in those terms.

 

If the in town school is a good fit, that's great news. I'm not convinced that you have to go far away to get a good education.

 

Our experience was that it was too hard to set up tours tours given our travel times to the mainland and the senior's class commitments with dual enrollment. We had done some tours in past years. DS1 ended up at one of the schools we visited his freshman year. His other likely school was one he'd never seen.

Edited by Sebastian (a lady)
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Even if his number 1 plan is to stay home and go to school locally (which a great plan in general, but not necessarily for all kids), you guys should do a college search anyway. It is interesting and nudges kids into thinking more concretely about their future. Ds1 was particularly not interested in a college search, but we required him to find 8 schools that looked interesting where he fit the stats (academically and financially). He had an interesting group of schools and really did end up at a great fit for him.

My ds2 is a junior now. He was very, very resistant to the college search and he is the kind of kid that would stay home (he would be welcome) and just keep going on. But, we forced the issue with a low key driving trip and a tour at a very close (affordable) out of state university. It seemed to jump start thinking about the future and he is looking at schools now. 

 

The college search is very valuable effort for everyone. It really clarifies the finances, the opportunities, and the different ways everyone can go to school.

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Middle son is a Junior this year.  He is going to the local PS.  

 

He seems to have no desire to visit colleges and finally said over Christmas break, "Mom, I really just want to live at home and go to school locally.  Is that ok?  Do I really have to go away?"

 

DH's response is that

 

A.) Unless he matures greatly in the next 18 months, he really isn't ready for a college away from home, and

B.) If he is willing to stay at home, it sure would save a lot of money, and let him stay at home, and

C.) We have a very good local 4 year state college within driving distance as well as several community college options and several private colleges.

 

I don't know why I really would like him to at least look at away colleges if he really isn't interested, but I do.  I need to get over it I guess.

 

I think that for the parents, there is a lot of validation in finishing well.  Depending on the kid, that might be having them ready for the working world, starting at a local community college, setting off on a gap year trip, or going to school across the country or around the world.  Some kids seemed ready for these new stages at 16.  Others might still be working through the process in their 20s.  

 

We only toured three colleges.  I didn't know where we would be living when my kids were applying to college.  We frequently passed West Virginia University on car trips to extended family, so I picked that as our first tour.  I told them that I had no expectations that they would apply or go there.  I just wanted a practice college tour.  It was a great experience.  It calmed me down that my kids could probably find community and academic growth if they ended up at a large state school.  They saw that college looked like something desirable, not just an endless fount of more work.  We went out to lunch afterward and the whole family talked about what we'd seen and heard.  It gave us an opportunity to talk about what was likely to be common at most colleges and what sounded good, but didn't really hold up to scrutiny (for example, the number of students studying abroad sounded great, unless you considered it as a percentage of students).  It was a good exercise in demystifying the college world.

 

I don't think you need to put a lot of effort into touring and applying to lots of distant colleges.  He and your dh have both expressed that they thing local is a good fit.  That is a perfectly acceptable conclusion.  

 

 

I would definitely do tours of the local options.  Sounds like you have an in town public university, a couple CC's and some private options.  Do formal visits at those.  Consider degree options.  For the CCs take a deep look at transfer agreements.  At some schools, most students are commuters.  At others, a non-campus resident may find it more challenging to fit in and may find that they don't take advantage of things like study groups because that would require a trip back to campus.  Some students find it draining to spend the day on campus without a room to go back to between classes.  At DS1's school the meal plans differ depending on whether the student lives on or off campus (can be less expensive if they choose a smaller plan, but they might also pay more per meal eaten on campus).  

 

After you tour the local schools, maybe he will think that he likes some aspects, but it would be even better if ...  Then you can explore colleges that aren't far away to see if there is a better fit that would still allow frequent trips home on the weekends.

 

You are only called to parent your own kids.  You don't have to justify your family choices to everyone you meet.  Choices they made are based on their family needs and goals.  My kid attends school over 4000 miles from home, because we don't expect to still live here by the time he is graduating.  Many local kids don't look off island or beyond the west coast.  

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I think it's perfectly fine to stay at home, but I am a big supporter of college visits when possible. I'd certainly have him tour all the local ones, and a few more that can be done within a day if that applies. 

 

We learned something with every college visit, including ideas on what to look for and ask about on the next college visit. There is one local university that my kids were convinced they would never attend, but I made them take the day tour anyway. They were completely free to decide against it (which they both did), but it didn't kill them to spend a few hours on campus. 

 

Visiting in person definitely informed and altered their decisions in a way that information on paper did not. Campuses have a culture and personality in the same way that companies do. People working the exact same job can have a very different experience based on their company, likewise for students in the same major on different campuses.

 

Fit and feel are more important to some people than others; for my kids, it's quite important. They are also slow to warm up to new situations, so seeing the campus well before move-in day is definitely a huge advantage for them. 

 

Okay, most of that was a digression into why campus visits can be a good thing. To circle back, I think that staying local is perfectly fine, but, like others, I want it to be an informed choice and not a default. I also think a lot can change in the next year. fwiw, my youngest had gone along with her sister on several visits, and was a bit meh about her own search. When I reminded her that she would get to stay in a hotel and eat out, she was on board with a few new visits. Clearly, we do not live an exciting life  :laugh:

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"Oh, your child is thinking of going THERE?  Oh, that was Johnny's 'safe' school to fall back on if he didn't get into X University because you know, they take almost anyone."

 

This is someone trying to say "Hey, I'm familiar with that school!" because they're trying to make conversation with someone they don't know well - they pounced on a familiar thing with which to continue the conversation but they blew it and said something really stupid and insensitive.  

"Oh, we told our child that he has to go away to school.  Kids NEED that college experience."

 

This is someone who is making a general statement - assuming that what is right for their kid is right for everyone.  Overlook that aspect, and you can dig a little deeper - what is it about the "away" experience that they wanted for their child?  

 

"He really wanted to get into Harvard, and he did, but you know, we don't qualify for free tuition and he got better scholarships at BLAH BLAH school, so we are settling for that"  (thinly veiled brags as to how much money they make and that THEY turned down something, not the other way around.)

 

I wouldn't assume this is a brag - this family had a tough decision to make

 

...and...I now have my new year resolution: to be more like justaque and see the good in people.  I'm not being sarcastic either.  I truly need to learn this.  

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...and...I now have my new year resolution: to be more like justaque and see the good in people.  I'm not being sarcastic either.  I truly need to learn this.  

 

I loved Justaque's post.  I also tend to react negatively to comments.  At the same time I know that I long to share the joy I have in how my kids are doing, but often feel that it would not be welcome to the listeners.  

 

I've been resolving to try to be kinder and gentler - to let negative reactions pass away from me and choose the positive spin.

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I loved Justaque's thoughts! I know I tend to be a talker about everything in an effort to connect with people.

 

Anyway, that college that you found that's an hour and a half away sounds like a great place to do a trial visit! In the end, he really may prefer to stay home, and that is a-okay, but at least you have given him a peek at other possibilities.

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So far I think we will just tour the local 4 year school and the one 1.5 hours away.  We MAY find one on the way out West this summer or we may just forgo it.

 

He did ask about DH's and my alma maters.....both WAY too much $$ now to even consider, and both West Coast.  I don't think, even with inflation, they were that far out of reach when we went there!  Sigh.

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Jusasque, you got me thinking. Any decision DD makes will be hard to communicate and talk about because it will not be a typical choice for at least some of the people we engaged with on a regular basis. I think that being very clear about the reasons for her decision will help communicate with others.

 

DawnM, it sounds like you have a plan to provide DS exposure within his comfort zone.

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