Much of the conversation about the college search process focuses on the stress and pressure kids and parents feel to find and get accepted at the perfect university. And while there is a lot to the process, one aspect that I don’t hear much about is that it can be really fun.
Admittedly, my kid is currently taking the SAT as I type this, so the fun factor for her is pretty low today, but overall the process has not been completely miserable. In fact, here are 7 reasons why, as a parent, I’ve enjoyed the college search with my teen.
So many possibilities
While the sheer number of schools, the multitudes of majors and minors, and the sheer volume of mail can be overwhelming, they also speak to the possibilities open to our kids. With so many options, there’s bound to be a place and a path that fits your kid.
As Frank Bruni illustrates so well in Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, there are opportunities to grow, stretch, learn, network, and evolve on every campus. Learning about them is exciting, and I’m appreciative of the many people working to give young adults great opportunities.
After visiting a lot of schools, it’s clear that there are several places where my teen could thrive. That’s fabulously comforting.
Basking in the hope
While of course there’s a certain amount of advertising that comes with the college search, it is still heartening to hear from people who want your kid to reach their goals, to explore new horizons, to develop their talents and determine how they can use them to make the world better.
College campuses are full of hope, both for Saturday night and far into the future. It’s great to observe and be surrounded by that positive energy.
Exploring new places
I had never been to Iowa City before we went to visit the University of Iowa last week. Scoping out a location that’s new to the family is exciting and fun. Find some funky places to stop at along the way, such as the World’s Largest Truckstop that’s in Walcott, Iowa, just off I-80, not that far from the University of Iowa campus.
Sharing laughs and inside jokes
College students can be really funny. Some admissions staffs have a wonderful sense of humor. The inside jokes we have as a family that have come from visiting college make us laugh pretty much every time, whether it’s about TempurPedic mattresses (one college mentioned them no less than a dozen times) or the fact that every single school wants you to see their rock climbing wall.
Learning lots of life lessons
From navigating on the highway to figuring our where a building is on campus, college visits offer lots of opportunities to learn (or relearn, because teens are crazy forgetful and you did already teach them this, amIright?) and use basic life skills they’re going to need when they’re on their own.
Other skills they must use in this process include evaluating marketing materials critically, asking questions, and walking the line of self-promotion without sounding like a pompous ass. Seeing your teen do all that is not only fun, it’s encouraging to see they’re ready for the next step.
Time with your teen
When an admissions director noted that kindergarten registration seemed like yesterday, I got teary. I staved off the water works but the truth of his statement resonated throughout the rest of our visit.
It really does feel like 16+ years have gone by in a blink. It’s a reminder to make the most of the time we have together. Teens are incredibly busy, so the opportunity to spend some time with just them in a car or on a campus visit is valuable. And they may enjoy it, too, even if they don’t make it obvious.
Stroll down memory lane
While much has changed with college admission, there are elements of the collegiate experience that remain very much the same. And there are some similarities to the way a group of 18 or 19 year olds relate that seem to mirror my experience all those years ago.
They have a way of transporting me back in time to my college days. Memories of good times with dear friends come rushing back and make me smile.
Watching teens figure our who they want to be
The college admissions process is brutal at times, no doubt. But it’s also a really unique opportunity for your teen to think long and hard about what makes them tick, what excites them and what goals they have. I really liked this article on how the college essay is a chance for introspection that we don’t present to really any other group on a regular basis.
My favorite part has been watching her eye light up when she talks about possible majors and watching her discover and embrace what her strengths are.
The parts of the search you enjoy may be the same, or totally different. Ask your teen – you may be surprised by what they say, or not. But a conversation about the positives may shift them into a better mindset about the process, one that involves more joy and less stress.