“How Many Colleges Have You Visited?”

15 Aug

I get asked that question a lot.  It is usually accompanied by the questioner’s tone of slight incredulity, along with a tiny shake of the head, raised eyebrows and maybe even a discreet roll of the eyes.  They think I don’t notice but their body language always betrays them.  Perhaps they’re just making conversation, saying something to fill in the awkward gaps.  My response is to laugh nervously and respond too quickly with a remark about being obsessive-compulsive, trying for self-effacing humor to defuse my embarrassment.  I’m feeling defensive even though I know that I have no reason to.

Our family enjoys these college visits (well, maybe my husband is a wee bit tired of them – “Do we really have to visit this college?”  “Yes!”).  But it’s a veritable vacation for me – I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner, shop for groceries, cook the meal, clean up, and start the process all over again the next day.  I don’t have to make the beds (although I don’t make the beds at home either) or clean the bathroom or nag my daughter to clean her bathroom.

When we first started touring schools more than a year ago, there were a lot of unknowns. Are these visits really going to help my daughter decide where to apply?  Which schools should we visit?  What if she falls in love with a college that we hate?  Then, something unexpected happened along the way.  I discovered that after enduring hours of sitting together in a car, driving to unfamiliar places, staying in small hotel rooms, walking around campuses listening to a guide drone on about how great the college is, and listening to admissions officers tell us why their college is different from all the others, we bonded as a family.

After a tour, over a meal at a restaurant we usually de-brief the visit.  There’s a lot of asking of each other, “What did you think?” as impressions and observations are tossed about.  Sometimes there’s surprising unanimity of opinion, and sometimes there are differences of opinion but this back-and-forth discussion results in an informal sorting process.  The colleges have arranged and re-arranged themselves on my daughter’s list of desirability, depending on what we have seen and discussed.  And now that we’ve visited about two-dozen schools, my daughter has become adept at narrowing her choices.  While I don’t know how many schools will be on her final list yet, I believe that by visiting so many colleges, she will avoid applying to too many schools, saving us a few hundred dollars on application fees alone.

I realize that any potential savings is offset by hotel, meals and gasoline expenses.  But then it is impossible to put a price tag on the family time together spent sitting through another information session and grinding out another tour.

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One Response to ““How Many Colleges Have You Visited?””

  1. susannah August 16, 2011 at 9:42 AM #

    Very heart warming post on a rainy day. Thanks. Never thought about it before but now I know why I enjoy those family road trips so much… the sense of togetherness and a sense of shared investment in each other’s lives. Just like John Lennon said, “life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” Glad you’re enjoying it!

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