Washington Post article about college visits

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Washington Post article about college visits
By Tabby (Tabby) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 09:15 am: Edit

For those of us in the midst of college visits for our '05 kids:


By Sybbie719 (Sybbie719) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 12:39 pm: Edit

I am not shocked by the article, because I have seen this behavior on more than one occasion on tours and at information sessions.

But for those that still must go on campus visits,Amtrack has a promotional offer of a free ticket with the purchase of a regualr price ticket through www.campusvisit.com

Promotion CodeL H364 Campus Discount 2004 free companion offer.

By Gracious95 (Gracious95) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 12:41 pm: Edit

Anyway you can post the article?

By Songman (Songman) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 01:11 pm: Edit

You need a password to see article?

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 01:20 pm: Edit

It is too bad that they only presented the two extremes in the article. On one end are the "pushy" parents telling the child where to apply or attend, asking all the questions on the college tours, writing the essays, and so forth. The other end they presented were the kids doing everything entirely on their own including the visits, etc and the parents not being involved at all.

My view is that neither of those extremes are ideal or at least not my personal preference. I don't think a parent should be telling a kid where to go to college. But I don't think it is great for a parent to not be involved at all. The happy medium and one that we followed (and I do believe my daughter was very happy with the arrangement and wrote me many letters of gratitude for it)....is that the student drives the process. The choices are the student's as to where to visit, apply, attend (if the parent agrees in terms of the financial limitations which should be told ahead of time). I think what is done on the college visit is up to the student. A parent, however, can facilitate and offer advice. The student can email ahead of time to professors, extracurricular coaches/directors, current students, and so forth and set up meetings. The student can do an overnight where the parent is not part of that informal contact which is so important. I don't see a lot wrong with a parent asking a question on a tour (afterall the parent is paying for their child to attend) but I rarely have, but would if it were asking of certain programs, opportunities or what not. I have seen some parents go overboard and ask stuff that even embarrasses me to hear. The example given in the article about asking about the visiting hours in dorms is a good example of that kind of question. I was part of a lot of my daughter's visits but some aspects she did without me like meeting with a coach, attending a class, or overnight with a student. On the open houses, we were barely together as I attended parent oriented things and she attended student oriented things. I was part of the info. sessions and tours as I also wanted to learn about the college for my own interest. We never told our daughter where to apply or to attend. I am not even sure which of her colleges I would have picked to attend, as there were benefits of them all and we only cared about her getting to go where she would be happy to go.

I think parents can play a role and it can be a good thing. That role is one of guidance. It is sitting down and brainstorming. It is having the child do research and come back and talk about what she finds of interest and where she would like to visit. Sometimes a parent can do some research legwork....here honey are some essay samples I saw in a book that are critiqued that you may want to read, or I found that X college actually does have a dance troupe. A parent might have time to locate some of that and hand it to the kid and then the kid can do whatever she wants. My child loved having a parent who made the time to find something when she did not have time. My child asked me to do a mock interview before her first one, as I have been a college interviewer. So the parent can be a resource, an advisor for when the child has a question and most of all a support person who is there to chat with about the process and to look anything over if the child wants someone to (mine liked having another reader of things like cover letters or essays). This is NOT the same as the parent taking the lead or doing it. But today, many guidance counselors do not either have the time or some not even the know how (for example, with elite admissions if you come from a school that does not deal with that much) and so a parent can be a support person. Our guidance counselor does NOT give suggestions of colleges for example. The kid must do it all on her own. My child did that. If I came across a school that met her criteria or had her intended major, I told her I found one she may want to check out but could care less if she did or not.

Anyway, it is too bad that only two extremes were presented (both of which I think are not the best situations) and that the parent as a facilitator or support person or teammate never came up. Some kids love that level of support. I know mine did. That article only presented kids who hated any parent involvement. My child came home from school and frequently lamented that her peers needed someone like me to tell them about the process cause they had no clue and nobody was helping them and they did not know many of the helpful things she did.

Just my view.

By Sybbie719 (Sybbie719) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 01:26 pm: Edit

Here's the article;

Parents Casting a Shadow Over College Applicants
Campuses Try Student-Only Tours

By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 10, 2004; Page A01

Maggie and Nate Pancost searched for colleges pretty much on their own. They booked cross-country flights and made campus visits by themselves. Both eventually picked the University of Maryland at College Park, which was not at the top of their parents' list.

When David and Karen Pancost of Silver Spring tell other parents about their hands-off approach, "they think we're nuts," David Pancost said.

They are, at the very least, swimming against a heavy tide. As the peak campus-visiting season gets underway, parents are becoming more active than ever in the admissions process, educators say, leading some colleges to look for ways to rein them in.

Admissions office staffers and high school guidance counselors say parental over-involvement comes in many forms. Some parents refuse to let their children apply to schools that don't rank high enough on the U.S. News & World Report list of prominent colleges. Some rewrite application essays. Some intrude on even the simplest parts of the process.
"I am always shocked when a parent and student come in and I'll ask the student their name, and the parent will literally jump in front of their child to answer for them," said Georgia Summers, a Georgetown University senior working this summer at the school's undergraduate admissions office. "I've even had parents fill out the basic info sheet on behalf of their child."
College admissions deans say the new SAT and ACT essay question -- which starts next spring and must be completed at a proctored testing center -- will help them determine if a suspiciously well-written essay on an application is the student's own work. And colleges make it relatively easy for students to transfer if they find their parent's choice of school is not to their liking.

But what many colleges and students see as too much parental participation in college visits is still a problem. Summers said 80 percent of the questions on the campus tours she leads come from parents. She said she tries to break through to the actual applicants by addressing them personally whenever possible. A few colleges are experimenting with more assertive methods.

This August, officials at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, will again tell those attending its group information sessions that parents will be touring with one guide and students with another. This practice grew out of Bates Admissions Dean Wylie L. Mitchell's observation that the teenage applicants "are intimidated by their parents and mostly humiliated by some of the parent questions."

Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, is also splitting parents and students during tours. "Parents can ask any questions they like without worrying about what their son or daughter will think," said Jennifer Delahunty Britz, dean of admissions and financial aid, "and students can have a direct experience with the school without managing their parents' reactions to it."

Other colleges and universities are also looking for ways to free student visitors from what may be an oppressive parental presence, particularly when the students are returning for another visit during the crucial weeks in April when they have been accepted and are deciding where to go.

"I think students can go into a numb sort of feeling on campus visits, because they sit through lectures on financial aid and how to pay for college and they hear current students on student panels talk about how great the school is, but rarely do they get to sit down and just talk candidly with a student, free from the eyes and ears of their parents," said Caroline Friedman, who graduated from Annandale High School in Fairfax County and will attend the University of Pittsburgh.

Joann Tseng, who graduated from Blake High School in Montgomery County and will attend Stanford University, said she thinks one reason she remained silent during campus tours was that she was subconsciously defying her parents, who "constantly nagged me to be more proactive about my educational future."

Many parents say their own mothers and fathers were not much involved in their college searches. But these days, college has a higher priority -- graduates have significantly higher incomes, on average -- and tuition and living expenses are so high that parents want to make sure they are getting their money's worth.
Larry Brown, parent of a high school student in Portland, Ore., said he thinks that parents' questions on campus tours are important. "They can often detect holes in the narrative provided by the guide or ask questions they perceive as relevant to their family's situation," he said. "What is the harm in that?"

Some admissions deans cite authors Neil Howe and William Strauss, who in their 2000 book "Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation" argue that parents and students in this era are more comfortable being partners in such activities than families were in the past.
Heather Boggs, a graduate student at DePaul University who has worked in college admissions more than five years, said she has noticed that students from low-income families with few relatives who have attended college often like bringing uncles, cousins and young children on campus tours to share in their new adventure.
But for some students, parental priorities simply don't make sense.

"One mother I spoke to recently was upset that we do not have restricted visiting hours in our dorms," said Summers, the Georgetown tour guide. "She said she was very concerned that her son would not get enough sleep in his freshman year. I told her that in my experience, chances are he probably won't, but that's all part of going to college, and he probably will not suffer long-lasting consequences."

A few students have forestalled such awkward moments by banning their parents from the process altogether. Mara Jacobowitz of North Woodmere, N.Y., said her son PJ visited Indiana University with a high school friend, eventually enrolled and thereafter discouraged visits. "I swear," she said, "I never set foot on Indiana University's campus before graduation."
Nate Pancost, 19, who took a year off before enrolling as a math major at U-Md. in the fall, said he liked his parents' hands-off approach, compared with what he has seen among other Montgomery Blair High School families.

"Pushy does not even begin to describe some of the parents of my friends at school," he said. "Ultimately I feel like it works against the kids, because once Mommy and Daddy aren't there pushing, they stop working, and there goes a $40,000-a-year education."
Maggie Pancost, 23, now an organic chemistry graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said some colleges were amazed to find her visiting on her own, but her parents had let her fly by herself since she was 5.

David Pancost, an English professor at Gallaudet University, said "anyone old enough to vote and get shot up in Iraq is old enough to choose his own college for his own reasons, even over Mom and Dad's objections."

Despite that, Maggie said, "I did have to do a small battle to go to Maryland," because her parents preferred Haverford College or Bryn Mawr College, "but I won, and we all knew that I would."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 02:15 pm: Edit

Susan, you are right about the whole middleground between the extremes. And though a kid may be at a tour on his own,that does not mean he has card blanche as to where he is going to apply. And sometimes the most quiet parents on a tour are the pushiest when push comes to shove.

With education costs as high as they are today, and the parents being the primary ones responsible for the payment of the tuition by both federal and college methodology, what the heck do colleges expect? If I pay $40K into any investment, I am going to research it and ask questions and if there are things about the return I do not like, I'm not going to put my money there.

There was a Doonesbury cartoon a few years ago that gave me a chuckle. Parent is asking kid who is off to college what he needs. A ride? Nope. Lunch before goes? Nope Company? Forget it. Help pack? It's done. Anything?? Weeelll, there is this matter of a check for $40K.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 03:14 pm: Edit

When my older S was looking at colleges, I had my ankle in a cast, so I spent a lot of time sitting in the car or in the lounge while he and his dad went on the tour. But I was there at the beginning to suggest questions he might want to ask and things he might look into, and to exchange impressions with at the end.
My younger S has so far gone on 4 tours; I was with him on only one of them. Gradually, he has learned what to look for, what questions to ask and how to ask them in such a way that they are not leading questions. He has become less shy in approaching total strangers, including undergraduates. If it had not been for our prodding, he would never have dared ask a Yale undergrad about her experience there or why she chose Yale over MIT.
How much a parent should be involved depends partly on what stage of the process a student is at. I feel that my S could now go on a college visit on his own.
As for filling the basic information on college applications, I'd do it in heartbeat to save my S the time and drudgery of doing so. I don't see it as compromising the integrity of the application to be filling in his date of birth and SS number. I gave far less feedback on his essay to my older S than I have given to student posters on CC and expect to abide by the same policy with my younger S.

By Caseyatthebat (Caseyatthebat) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 03:18 pm: Edit

I participated in an on-line discussion with Jay Matthews about the college admission process. I asked whether he accompanied his daughter on the visits she (presumably) arranged for herself. His response was that he did go, and he asked questions. I believe he said he did so because this was his last child and he wanted material for his book. I read the article in question awhile back, and if it worked out for those folks fine, but I can't see agreeing to send a young person to a particular college, with all that that entails, without visiting and being fully informed from a parent's perspective.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 05:18 pm: Edit

I'm all for the middle of the road route, perhaps accompanying child to to first and second of seminars, then visits, offering suggestions about essays--not using a $2000 plus service.
BUT--when S decided to apply early, we had 2 days to chose schools and get forms to teachers. Incredible bonding, looking beyond his 3 dream schools. I was happy that for first time in years, he could lean on me to help make calls to colleges, download forms, type in name/soc sec.
We only visited schools he was accepted at, and I went along, to help manage 5 flights, renting cars, etc. He "used" me to be his second pair of eyes. It was difficult, but I forced myself to be quiet, and my reserved S was more assertive than I have ever seen him be. I realized that not only would he have been OK to make trips by himself, he really is mature enough to attend college.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 07:57 pm: Edit

I agree with Susan and Marite. Bottom line is that these kids are 17 years old on average and can be susceptible to a slick marketing job. I really don't mean to sound jaded, but I was a business major and see colleges as being in the research and education business and admissions as marketing. (No harm in being business-like, it keeps their doors open.) I sat through a couple of information sessions and, because of my college experience, and my husband because of his, would take a step back and say that doesn't compute. Let's look at this again. Had extra questions on a tour also. Our son is a very bright kid, but a little inexperienced in the ways of the world. And whereas he wasn't like Pinnochio with the Donkey Boys, I think it was a relief to him to have honest dialogue with us after each visit and after each session.

At a some of the sessions for top 25 schools, I saw kids with average stats either fish around or directly ask if they had a chance even though they knew their stats were below the mid 50 on the brochure. I never once saw an admissions person tell a kid that their stats were below normal and they probably didn't have a snowball's chance at their school. They would glowingly talk about a student that was mediocre in everything, but they had an inspired essay that was so wonderful that they not only were admitted, but scholarshiped. (Seriously, at several sessions.) They never told the kids whether or not that student was also a URM or a development admit or even how many years ago he/she was admitted. They never once said that we're going to collect your money when you should be applying somewhere else with it. IMHO, that's where parents can head trouble off and gently redirect focus.

Like I said, I don't mean to sound jaded. There are lots of great schools that do an honest job in the admissions process. What your child thinks about the school is probably an accurate picture. But then there are those few ............

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 09:13 pm: Edit

You are so right, Alongfortheride. I, too, have heard the essay spiel a few times. I was the obnoxious parent at one of these sessions when the adcom was going way off about the importance of the essay. I asked how many worked in the admissions office, and if there were any extra readers. With 15,000 applications and the staff at hand, two essays and several short answers questions and supposedly two readers per app, well, the math did not work out for any essay analysis that I could see.

Also, too often the tour guide can influence the kids (and parents) as well. But if you go on enough of these tours, you will be more able to understand the way they work, and see beyond a personable or rotton tour guide. But you are right about kids turning into donkeys during some of those visits. Their heads can be turned on or off by some dumb distraction and if you are there, you can try to put things into perspetive for them.

I know my son was very affected by a kindly, wonderful adcom that really had the magic touch. Unfortunately the school had little of what he wanted and it was sad to me how he could so easily be turned by someone with this magnetic personality that could relate to him. I could see that this adcom had this same effect on many of the other kids there. The problem is that once the kids are admitted, there really is little contact with this gent, so you need to focus the part of the school that will be your day to day life. And my son is not as easily taken in that way as many kids, so I am sure that without parental guidance many kids would feel welcome enough to consider an adcoms personality as a major consideration in their decision.

By Tabby (Tabby) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 09:44 pm: Edit

I have enjoyed reading everyone's opinion on this article. I agree that there's a "middle road" which can be followed with regard to being over-pushy or too nonchalant. I've enjoyed going to see colleges with my S over the past months, and have seen both extremes in action. May I never be one of "those" parents!!!

By Sirelio (Sirelio) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 10:45 pm: Edit


As a student, I resent your implication that kids on average can be "susceptible to a slick marketing job." While I will agree that some kids are reluctant to ask questions, if we're within spitting distance of being legally considered an adult, then I think that means something. Parents seem to have a real problem letting go. While for most parents, where their kids go to college has an important financial impact, this decision will affect the kid more than anything else.

You're right that these admissions people are trying to get people to apply/attend, and that is their goal over actually getting what's best for a child. But I think that the best resource is current or former students. For example, we were talking to a student at CMU who specifically said "don't apply here, don't go here, it sucks." I applied, was accepted, but definately wasn't going to go.

As for me, I really didn't intend it to happen this way, but I'm going to a college that neither of my parents or any close relatives have ever even seen. It's a few hundred miles away (Duke--I live in MD), but in the whole process of applying and visiting, my parents just never got the chance and I didn't really feel it was worthwhile to drag them down there. This was my decision, not theirs. They weren't paying tuition either, so their approval didn't really amount to much.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 10:58 pm: Edit

My son never visited any colleges. (He did visit his uncle's friend's lab at MIT--when he was 12.) He didn't see the point: "I'm applying for the people I'll work with, what difference does the rest of it make?")

My daughter, OTOH, had STRONG visceral reactions to college campuses. She detested Amherst, for example--without even getting out of the car. (Yes, I put up with that: what was the point in fighting?) But she would never have visited Reed--where she is now--if I hadn't forced her to visit. As in: I scheduled the appointment for an interview, drove her there, walked her around, etc. Why did I bother making her see Reed? She wanted a small LAC; she wanted a thesis or senior project; she wanted a strong junior year abroad program. She liked a lot of the east coast schools Reed is compared to. What was her initial objection to Reed? I had planned to apply there (but I'd never even visited).

So I can see three sides to this argument: visits are irrelevant (which I hear from engineering students, surprisingly often); parents should have little say (which I think is ridiculous, unless the kid is financially emancipated); and parents should have input into a decision that the kid is happy with (obviously my point of view). Frankly, I think parents often know their child better than the child knows him/herself!

By Reidmc (Reidmc) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 11:11 pm: Edit

I think that parents' focus should be on the process - making sure the student has really thought about the criteria for a school decision, has a reasonable assessment of his/her strenghts, weaknesses and interests; has gathered enough information on individual schools, reviewed "fit" issues and is able to discuss the pros and cons of the schools he/she is interested in.

If all that is happening the details of school visits are not that important, though I would try to make sure that S/D gets a chance to talk with plenty of current students.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 11:16 pm: Edit

Sirelio, I would not say "kids on average" are susceptable to a slick marketing campaign, nor are all kids donkeys as I kind of implied. But you kids are still not "fully baked" as I often put it and sometime it is helpful to get the viewpoint of someone who has had more experience in that area. Of course, not everyone has reasonable parents either. But there are more perspectives to be given when more than one person goes on the tour. I, for one, am not going to put a lot of stock on random students saying a school is great or not to come there, any more than I would the adcoms sales pitch. There are unhappy kids at many schools and if you happen to hit a streak of them at a school of happy people, well, you have an off impression of the school by that measure. Also, who this random student is and what his reasons are can have nothing to do with your what your experience can be. Having lived in the neighborhood of CMU, I can tell you there are kids who love that school, and kids who despise it. It's figuring out where you will fall that is the issue.

Many kids went to college back in my day without ever visiting a school. I know that I did not. And it seems to me that 90% of liking a school has to do with the adaptability of the person and some luck too. If you get hit by a bunch of bad experiences right in the beginning, it will certainly color your feelings about the school from the onset. But these days visits are deemed important, there is pressure to visit from the highschool, peers, and the colleges themselves. You can compromise your app not visiting some schools. So we visit, and try to squeeze as much relevance out of the visit as we can.

As a parent, I am more concerned about how my child will feel at the school and whether he could do well there than about any ancillary issues such as the weather, the distance, the name, etc. I really want my child to feel at home there for the next four years, and that is what I have my eyes out to see.

It's great that you are paying for your education and that you are so independent, but you are an anomoly from what I am used to seeing. Most kids need some adult imput and they definitely need their parent's financial support. And put in $ figure, college at a school like Duke is probably a $180K investment for parents who are paying. I don't put $180K anywhere without asking questions and watching my investment, so I sure as heck am going to be looking at a college that costs that much. And there is nothing more valuable to me than a child, even an adult child, so I certainly will ask questions and keep an eye on him as well. For me, it's being a parent.

By Mimk6 (Mimk6) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 02:46 am: Edit

It's not just kids who can be suspect to the advertising -- parents can be too and we've spent a lot more years being targeted by advertisers and have been burned more times. Every April orientation we went to was full of kids who said the same thing -- how this was the best place, etc. Every school said much the same thing. Trying to discern what the subtle differences were was difficult especially as none of the top schools will say anything that could remotely be considered negative about another school -- some kind of code they seem to have. The schools care about their yield rate -- they are in business -- they are not going to tell you that they are not the best place for what you want. I was with my daughter during the visits to decide and in some cases she asked all the questions and in others I asked some. It wasn't easy and I consider myself to be pretty savvy about education. It reminded me of when I bought a car a couple of years ago and it was like pulling teeth to get any real information out of the salesperson.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 03:14 am: Edit

Bookworm, I agree about the second pair of eyes...and ears. When TheMom was along, we had three sets of each. At the Smith Open Campus, D and I split up to take tours focusing on different areas and then got together to compare notes later.

As far as briefing, debriefing, and analysis...I think we were better than the CIA.

And the results are that D is even happier with where she is going than I am. Which is saying something. (TheDad can find negatives in almost anything, he's just wired that way.)

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 11:51 am: Edit

Sirelio, you have articulated in another thread on the parents forum that you wish for you parents to be no part of your life and wish to keep what you do your business and not theirs. Things such as grades, law suits, etc. That is not the way that things work in my family. You still have obvious strong feelings about your family and their role in your life. You seem to be angy at parents in general, and with that in mind, I will just wish you good luck and a good life a Duke.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 12:03 pm: Edit

>> I think that parents' focus should be on the process - making sure the student has really thought about the criteria for a school decision, has a reasonable assessment of his/her strenghts, weaknesses and interests; has gathered enough information on individual schools, reviewed "fit" issues and is able to discuss the pros and cons of the schools he/she is interested in.

I agree. I felt that my number one job in the process was to make college selection a "win-win" experience -- by guiding the process towards a realistic list and by emphasizing that there are no bad choices, each school having advantages and disadvantages.

We also had many talks about the realities of college life, issues such as travel logisitcs, true diversity, college being more than the academics, and the onset of ivory tower claustrophobia relative to campus size.

As the visits started to unfold, I guess my role shifted to one of eliciting the reasons for her liking or not liking particular schools.

As for visits, she did many on "girl's weekends" with her mother. We did many as a family. And, she did some solo.

By Idler (Idler) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 12:20 pm: Edit

Some of the best family times we had in the later teen years was on college tours, sharing common experiences and impressions of beautiful, alluring places. We parents tried not to ask too many questions, but made an effort to push our shy teenager into sitting in on classes, talking to coaches, etc. It helped him, an after the first six or seven, he seemed to have learned a lot about how to visit a campus. We must have visited a dozen or more together, and all agreed on liking most of them very much indeed. And in the end, he picked the one college, on the opposite coast, that he visited alone!

By Quink (Quink) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 04:02 pm: Edit

Due to the personality of my DS, a rising senior, the college visit process has been nothing like I expected. Maybe some of you can relate to my story:

He has visited 9 schools to date, some with his dad, most with me - regular visits, some open houses, a few overnights - and will visit another 5 this month in New England. DS is enjoying his high school life very much, and is still not motivated to think much about college going into his senior year.

I don't think fear is the issue. On any given day in the admissions committee, he would have a shot at getting in anywhere. Straight As and 5s in AP classes, 1580 SAT, 800 800 760 SAT IIs, will be National Merit finalist and Maryland Distinguished Scholar (may even get 3 awards - one for academics and SATs, one for NM, and one for Drama), college courses, academic awards, great ECs, good writer, etc. He will volunteer that he intends to double major and pursue a PhD or an MD/PhD.

BUT - feedback about college visits is usually limited to only one or two pithy phrases, such as "Another liberal arts college" (Swarthmore). Since he had visited his sister at Williams on several occasions, we could eliminate that one as well. We stopped visiting liberal arts colleges and now are only going to large and mid-size universities. So far, he is most impressed with Johns Hopkins - it was obvious to him that it was a high-powered place - the kids on the panel were all superstar types and he was stimulated by that. We will see how he reacts to HYB, MIT, Chicago, and WUSTL...........

DS is an INFP (Meyers-Briggs fan, anyone?) and has been meeting with indifferent success in strengthening his decisive qualities to actually ELIMINATE colleges from the list, God forbid. Also is (self-described) 'easy to please' so hasn't yet toured a school where he didn't think he could get a good education and have plenty to do in the arts. Add in the fact that he is not sure about his major area - sciences, humanities, drama, voice - and the net result is an amorphous, undefined, lethargic slug where narrowing the list is concerned.

The only time visits have actually resulted in a clear-cut decision was when we went to Ohio to visit Kenyon and Oberlin - Kenyon was "small, seems friendly" and the atmosphere of Oberlin was "too dark." (Literally, that's about all he offers - I have to force him to respond to a visit by saying something like "We're not leaving the parking lot until you produce 6 well-thought out sentences about your reaction to this school! It has become a family joke.) I had deduced, from carefully reading nonverbal cues, that he was underwhelmed with the midwest. We were driving back to our hotel and I looked at him and said "I'm sorry I insisted that we visit schools in Ohio" and we both burst out laughing.

The positive side of that visit for him was that he was able to eliminate midwest liberal arts colleges and several similar schools elsewhere. For me, I pretty much stopped worrying about the college selection process, because I realized that 1) this somewhat eccentric individual will find his own path for making application decisions and 2) he will get himself a great education, regardless of where he ends up.

Therefore, I looked at the 20+ colleges still remaining on his 'long list' with a practical focus - programs that met his stated requirements, limiting the number of applications to 8-12, and including financial considerations (e.g., some must offer merit aid, MD schools accept his college credits and the MD Scholar $, etc.), and came up with the following draft application list:

(Pick 1 or 2)


(Pick 2 or 3)

Johns Hopkins

(Pick 2 or 3)

Boston U

(Pick 2 or 3)

St. Mary's of MD

This is the weirdest darn list, isn't it? But we reviewed it together and he prounounced "Good job." (High praise). I was happy - progress had been achieved. However, last night he told me about one of his friends who was at Tisch and who had been called back for the lead in Weber's new musical, and said "That's cool, maybe I should apply there too"................

I comfort myself with the fact that by January 1 this little journey of discovery will be concluded!

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 04:34 pm: Edit

Quink -- great e-mail, and I love the fact that you have maintained your sense of humor! I also think that sometimes when your kid is getting on your last nerve, the best response is to just crack up laughing! We also visited several LACs before D decided she would feel stifled.

And as a Brown parent, I like the term "HYB" :)

I think his (your) list is a very good one, and you've grouped the schools together well. UMd and St. Mary's should be clear safeties for him (maybe even with significant merit aid). I would even think he could drop Goucher and Tulane off his list if he is OK with attending either of the state schools, but no harm in including him (all you've got to lose is the app fee, if there is one).

Also, others may disagree with this, but for a kid w/your son's stats, it might not be a bad idea to apply to 3-4 (at least) reaches -- maybe all 4 of your first category? He is in what I call the "crap shoot" group -- clearly well qualified, no question about that, so at the top schools it's just a matter of chance/luck for him, and perhaps you could improve chances of getting into one of those "reach" schools by including more of them. Esp if he's OK with Md and St. Mary's as safeties.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 02:23 pm: Edit

Oh Quink! FOFL! We have an INTP at our house, who is 1 point away from INTJ (you realize INTJs often grow up to be army generals, sub commanders and head nurses, that sort of thing?) living in a house of INTPs (only my poor son, lost soul, is something else) - I can sympathize. DDs stats are not quite as good as your S, but not too far off, and she has about the same degree of enthusiasm for the process. Add to that no acceptable state school alternatives, a preference for small up North LACs, and you have a recipe for parental overload!
We're doing the reach/safety method with an ED school pulled out of the hat - good luck to you.

By Quink (Quink) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:53 am: Edit

Cangel - Have you taken her to Bennington? One of my son's friends is going next year, has visited several times and really likes it - very small, intense professor/peer interaction, artsy, in a gorgeous area. This kid also checked out Hampshire and Bard and I believe they were 2nd and 3rd choices.

Rhonda63 - thanks for your thoughtful response - what has been the feedback on the Brown experience?

By Cangel (Cangel) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:58 am: Edit

No, she's not the artsy type, she's more the intellectual, organize everyone's life if given any chance, doesn't suffer fools gladly type. She read about those schools, but didn't think they were for her.

By Originaloog (Originaloog) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 01:47 pm: Edit

I vividly recall our first college visit to the University of Rochester during spring of son's junior year. The richly panelled reception room was packed with parents and prospective students. Arriving a wee bit late, we were seated to the far left of the room. Our son was poised to ask a few questions as the lights were turned on after a short "PP" presentation. Immediately parents began their rapidfire questioning of the Admission reps. By the end of the allotted time, only a few students had been able to ask a question and my son figuratively shrugged his shoulders and decided to save his for the student tour guide who turned out to be, in his words, a bit "bimboesque".

Needless to say, my wife and I were surprised by what we observed that first visit because our son was the one who had read the brochures, studied the college guides, visited the universities web sites and decided which ones he wanted to visit. We had no intention of asking any questions during that group session and didn't.

Second visit to Allegheny was quite different. We had our own student guide and he spent 75% of the time talking directly to our son. We asked a few passing questions, but the running conversation was between them. After the tour, Admission rep Martin Vaughn deftly invited our son into his office and after about 45 minutes asked us in to ask any further questions. Five minutes later, after exchanging thank you's, we were off to the dining hall for lunch courtesy of Allegheny College. It was a great visit and when fall came it was no surprise to us that Allegheny was still on his list while Rochester had long since been eliminated.

These experiences showed us several things. Some parents seem far too involved in the whole "college thing". While it is entirely appropriate for parents to set some initial guidelines(costs and general location being the only 2 that I could think of), students should be responsible for the rest, while being free to ask us parents for periodic advice at any time along the way. Second, colleges must find tactful ways to keep parents from dominating the visit. Some domineering parents might be turned off and eliminate that college from their child's final list, but do they really want students who acquiesce to such treatment.

By Mini (Mini) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 02:16 pm: Edit

I took my d. on a bunch of college visits. In every case, where possible I took a separate tour from the one my d. took, and sat in on separate admissions presentations. We always tried to schedule overnights, and to set up time for her to meet individually with profs with whom she thought she might be interested in working. In one case, Earlham -- where both she and we have lots of friends, she stayed for 2 1/2 days, while I went on a speaking tour around Ohio. Then we'd compare notes.

I know I can be a dominating figure, so I took responsibility for getting out of the way.

By Patient (Patient) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 04:12 pm: Edit

I only went on two college tours: Williams and Amherst. My son did all of his other visits on his own. At Amherst, I went on my own tour while he was going to classes and so forth. At Williams, we went together. The tour guide asked the students to stay at the front of the group and the parents to be in the back, giving the explanation that her voice didn't carry that well and she wanted to be sure that the students heard the information on the tour.

Well, you can imagine that gradually more and more parents drifted toward the front! I actually never saw any obnoxious parents although I can well imagine that they exist in abundance.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 04:19 pm: Edit

If I were an adcom, I would be more forthright. I'd ask the students to sit in front and tell parents I'd prefer to field questions from the students themselves.

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