Archives for September 2015

The College Tour 101

My alma mater, Fordham University.

My alma mater, Fordham University.

Sniffing The Elixir Of The College Experience

I’ve trekked through snow, ice, gale winds and smoldering heat all in the pursuit of the “right college.” First for a college that would propel my daughter and now launch my son into a functioning member of society, the son who calls me when he sees a spider, proof that we all have our dreams!

We’ve seen storied buildings, soaring sustainable ceilings, charming ivory encased stone edifices, professional gyms…even a planetarium! Two kids, two years apart I’ve been on over 20 college tours. Tours that have left me, at times, exhilarated, bored and befuddled. The $64,000 question, and tragically in many cases the price tag is: “Where will my child thrive, be happy, get excited about learning, make friends and find a major for a successful life?”

To gain the best insight for your college tour hit up their website to learn about academics and essentials. The information session, which is usually emceed by a faculty member or admissions representative, will review the basics. If you’ve done your homework you can dig deeper with questions. It is also here where you will hear some erudite quotes about the world today.

The tour is conducted by a student who has experienced the positives and negatives of the school, so ask away. Topics to consider:

  1. Housing – Find out where freshmen live. I’ve found “freshmen only” dorms are wonderful for forming friendships. Don’t assume anything, there are schools that don’t house freshmen on main campus or they will show you the best upperclassmen dorms and skip freshmen housing. Find out where upperclassmen live. Housing can be complicated, get the facts before you commit.
  2. Social Life – Ask what students do on weekends, your child may not forgive you but hey you’ll be separated next year! There are parties on every campus, but insights into cultural events, clubs and school offerings will provide a general overview of options.
  3. Greek Life – Ask the guide, how pervasive Greek Life is and when rushing occurs. Many students thrive in Greek life while others stay away; consider how your child would manage in a school where a high percentage is involved. Beware of rushing before second semester where your child will have to make decisions before settling in.
  4. The neighborhood – Find out how involved students are outside of school and address safety concerns.
  5. Career Planning/Internships – I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of tour guides who have had internships. Granted these students are involved but dig a little deeper to find out about where they’ve interned and their experiences.
  6. Students – Observe students walking around, eating at the dining area or in the library to get a feel of the culture and how your child fits in.
  7. Majors – Ask about popular majors and if your child doesn’t know what they want to major in pursue a college with a broad spectrum of majors.

The overall tone of the tour will give you a good idea of how vested the school is in attracting quality candidates. I’ve seen it all from being addressed by savvy professors to a tour given by a clueless freshman who made us wait outside in the snow for a van that passed us by. College is a big investment so before writing that behemoth check get the facts!

Eradicating High School Behavior

small_430162762One Woman At A Time

The other day my daughter made a comment to me about a situation at college. She bemoaned, “It’s like high school all over again.” I advised her that she has the control to change every situation as my mind wandered off to the many times, as an adult, I have thought, “high school never dies.”

I didn’t attend a traditional co-ed high school, so without boys and all of the sports and interests that align kids today it was pretty mild. Yet, my kids enjoyed the full kahuna of groups, cliques and posturing. In my daughter’s case we watched enough of Mean Girls for total immersion in High School 101. So I began to mull the events in my life that prove the inner workings of high school never truly go away…

  1. The Senior Community – My father was losing his mind to dementia and a newbie in his senior community decided it was funny that he kept waiting for a car to bring him to the airport for a trip to Rome. One day this woman asked about his plans and began to laugh a la Regina George. So I approached her little clique, determined to ensure he wasn’t going to be her punch line anymore and said, “I assume you all know there are no travel plans and he is not well.” I walked away and said to my niece, “high school never dies.”
  2. The Group – I’ve always been an equal opportunity kind of gal with friends of all ages but this whole idea of being friends with your children’s friends parents doesn’t always work. Sometimes you’re late to the table and a crew of women has already formed a group and well you’re just not invited. This whole grouping concept, which seems to be a social norm in high school as well, is counter to the kind of friendships I ever had which are open and inclusive.
  3. The Opportunist – Oh, how high school rears its ugly head. Someone is showing a strong interest in friending you, play dates with your children seem to be increasing as well as phone calls. In the back of your mind you are thinking, “Isn’t this nice or not.” When the dust settles you find out that this person was jockeying for a favor. It’s important to note that this type typically moves on to new prey fairly quickly once they have no use for you.
  4. The PTA – There are those that volunteer for the pure joy of it and those that think volunteerism will bestow privileges for their progeny. Lest I say anymore…
  5. The Judger – I was told once that my suit was nice but the color was outdated. This was at a nursery school function. I had two children 22 months apart, I was barely functioning and happy the suit fit. Was I concerned that the fashion police was going to issue a ticket in the form of a “friend” who judged everything from my clothes to my car?

Last night during the Presidential debates, Trump was accused by Rand Paul of “junior high” behavior for his predilection of judging candidates by their looks. This behavior is just everywhere and now I’d like to add “we all know what they say about people who peak in high school”!

Applying to College: Round Two

5427517501_79340c3ac2_m-1Watch out College Process

You know how it is with the first one. You walk around with sanitizer 24/7, ban sugar consumption and delude yourself that you can protect your progeny from all evil. Number Two is a different story.

Number Two is applying to college this fall and since I still have lingering post-traumatic stress disorder from Number One’s senior year, she’s now a college sophomore, I’m heading into this terrain with a brand new mindset.

Last time I absorbed, inhaled and feared the massive amounts of information headed my way. From college nights, websites, computer match-ups, articles and other parents proclaiming they knew better, the process owned us. This year I vow to:

  1. Ignore the college tsunami of information. For every truism that was out there I could hold up examples that negate it. Lesson: Mind your own business and schools fill up with many different kinds of students and yes some of it is not fair. So, if you want to give a reach school a try, why not, it’s only money and keep your checkbook open.
  2. Hand the reins to Number Two. During round one, I was too involved. I enjoy my sanity too much for that to happen again.
  3. Keep my mouth sealed. Remember naming your baby? Everyone wants to know your choice and then they will tell you what they really think. There is so much more to consider in choosing a college than impressing others, like programs, grants and distance. So you won’t have to ask when we meet in the supermarket: “My Second is not going to Harvard.” The 5 percent acceptance rate got in the way.
  4. Not spend my year in fear. Go through the process once and the curtain has been revealed. Colleges play games like sending out free applications as a ploy to lower their acceptance rate so they place better in the rankings race which is so flawed that’s another article. The lesson here is that colleges are harboring their own fears, managing a business to pay for rock walls and group study rooms. The hype is everywhere, so remember they need you just as much as you think you need them.
  5. Demand more for my money. From a recent Washington Post article: “…everyone, except for the super wealthy, is having a hard time paying for college. Tuition has risen faster than the rate of inflation. Wages certainly have not kept pace with the costs of college, neither has any form of financial aid.” Enough said.
  6. Like my child. When child Number One went off to college; I was too exhausted to enjoy many of the milestones.
  7. Develop a new kind of kitty litter with college mail. I threw this one in to make sure you were paying attention!

If there is anything I learned during this process two years ago is that shedding the pomp and circumstance of finding “the perfect school” is an absolute necessity. You may believe one school will set your child on the correct path but there is no school that will magically achieve this. This is your child’s job and whether you see it in them already or you’re still waiting, this is what we all should get worked up about – helping them build the skills to succeed. Deciding on a college is just the beginning!

photo credit: <a href=”″>The Fighter</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

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