Monday, March 7, 2011

From the Trenches -- Starting Points for the College Selection Process Part 2

Today we're looking at how families deal with building a foundation for the college search -- and how they work with their children to sort out the basics.

Our college admissions panelist gives us an honest perspective, one that I feel I lived myself many years ago. When I was looking at colleges, I didn't do much research but did have some gut (though generally uninformed) feelings about what I wanted.

She says, "I can’t help but feel that this is where we fell flat as a family. My daughter’s choices were based primarily on a few factors (in a major urban center, medium to large-sized, not in the South) and she refused to consider anything outside those parameters, although at least it gave us a starting point. I felt that she didn’t really know why she wanted those things (other than not being in the South since that’s where we live), she just did. Now that we’re a month away from final decisions, she’s still happy with those choices, though, so maybe she knows herself better than I think."

She goes on to mention two other young women she knows well. "Our niece the musician chose only schools where there were notable instructors for her particular instrument. I worry that she didn’t look more broadly at the schools themselves, but I suppose time will tell. Our friends’ daughter selected schools based on her desire to major in dance, and now she’s finding that she’s not being admitted to the dance programs, even when she’s admitted to the schools." I hadn't even thought of that admissions nightmare.

Panelist Kim Cook says, "We did a lot of visualizing with our kids in terms of how they saw an average day at college, what were classes ideally like, what should dorm life offer, are you seeing yourself using the gym, do you need a city nearby or would a small funky town be a refreshing change, do you want some nature nearby, how often do you see yourself coming home...We talked through these questions frequently, not just once, and some of the answers began to appear over and over while others evolved until finally we had a pretty decent ‘scenario’ from which to work."

Jeanne Hogle's daughter started getting her admissions moorings in sophomore year, right around this time last year. Till then, she was bouncing around in her thinking about the where and what of college but doctor or lawyer were definite interests. She started talking to an English teacher, who had been a lawyer, and to doctors about becoming one. She also took the Fiske quiz mentioned last week and seems to be pretty focused in her efforts.

Tomorrow, we'll look at some specific steps parents can take to bring some discipline to the effort -- while also taking some pressure off their teens.

If this is giving you anxiety attacks -- because you don't think the process is going well, or you are too involved, or not involved enough (as if anyone knows what the answer is to that one), treat yourself to a quick read on an area of psychological research called self-compassion. The article grabbed me on the first sentence. "Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family?"

If you answer yes, I want to know how you do it.

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