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February CPR Newsletter: Loving The College Search?

Hello fellow parent, and welcome!

The Valentine’s Day love fest has come and gone, flowers delivered, chocolate consumed. And now, as seniors wait for admission notifications, juniors begin scheduling college visits, many in hopes of finding their one true love college of their dreams.

Big mistake. And a set-up for heartbreak.

There are many colleges that will work for your child, so my Cardinal Rule: No falling in love on the college search!

Don’t fall in love with your tour guide who will likely be adorable, as tour guides are chosen for their charm as well as knowledge and enthusiasm for the college you’re touring. Meet as many representatives of the college as possible, not just the one. Otherwise, your child might rule in (or out) a college that’s right (or wrong) for them based on their impression of a single person (who was trained by the college to sell it).

Don’t fall in love with everything you hear in the info session, which will be helpful but also a sales pitch presented by an employee of the college. Listen closely for all the factors I enumerate in College Admissions Cracked, and then compare your findings with other colleges of interest. You’ll find that many colleges offer the same curriculum style (liberal arts colleges with distribution requirements are practically interchangeable) or a fancy new gym (which is inconsequential if your child will spend most of their time in the run-down arts center).

Don’t fall in love with the look of the campus, not too difficult during this dreary February in New England, but more students than I can count judge a school solely on the architecture. They think they want a college that feels like a Medieval fortress or they’re attracted to a sleek, modern look, neither of which have a stitch to do with the people they’ll meet or education they’ll experience within those buildings.

Don’t fall in love with the “feeling” you have while you’re on campus for two hours. Love at first sight happens easily on a sunny spring day strolling through quads full of frisbee-playing youth, not so much on desolate walkways in a blizzard. Extend your college visit by adding a meal in the dining hall, sitting in on a class, or throw an overnight into the mix (your kid in a dorm room, you in a hotel with a spa!). If you can, return during a different time of year if the college becomes a top contender. The longer you know a place (or a person, for that matter), the more their idiosyncrasies begin to emerge, which can be endearing, or not.

Don’t fall in love with the video on the website. I love, love, love that colleges jumped to create an alternative to expensive travel for college visits during the pandemic, and now those videos are a staple on college websites. Enjoy movie night with your child virtually touring a lovely campus, but please remember that the college paid professionals to cast, film, edit, and produce those videos as marketing tools, the same way they hire companies who specialize in photographing, writing, and publishing the enchanting “viewbooks” that arrive in your IRL mailbox five minutes after your child registers for the SAT.

Don’t fall in love with a college’s “ranking.” A new development: Ivy League medical and law schools have begun opting out of participating in the US News College Rankings, and decisions are pending for numerous other graduate AND undergraduate colleges and universities to follow suit. This is good news. The US News is a business with the end goal of accruing revenue, not serving you or your kid. There are so many reasons not to fixate on college rankings while searching for or choosing a college, ranging from unnecessary stress to unnecessary debt to unnecessary family drama to unnecessary heartbreak.

I don’t mean to be a downer. I believe in love! Love grows with commitment, so once your child arrives at their chosen college and takes full advantage of all the fabulous offerings, I predict their college love story will have a happy ending. But while searching, keep your heart open to finding a handful of colleges where your child will blossom instead of letting them get their heart set on just one.



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