The college tour has become a staple of middle and upper middle class family life in America. As soon as Junior hits puberty, parents plan their spring and summer vacations around a tour of colleges to which their child might apply.
My family has been no exception. During their junior and senior years of high school, my older daughter and son had the chance to spend some quality time with Dad on the college trail, going as far as Maine and North Carolina in their quest for the perfect college.
I remember my own college exploration some mm-mm-mm-mm years ago. It consisted of filling out the application to the University of Illinois and waiting. The U of I was and continues to be the finest public university in the Land of Lincoln. (Sorry, Redbirds, Salukis, and Huskies.) I was lucky to get in and had a wonderful education.
These days it seems kids have so many more choices and opportunities to go to school in far away states or even overseas. My oldest studied in North Carolina, and my second-born is currently studying in Texas. (At least I hope he’s studying!)
Now it’s our rising senior’s turn to find his dream school, and I got to go along for the ride. We took a trip to California this week to goggle at the campuses of UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, and USC. We also looked in on a beautiful, small, quiet Catholic college called University of San Diego. (A mom can dream, can’t she?) Instead of studying at a place in the middle of corn fields (my college experience), these California students have the ocean as their backdrop and the bustling city of L.A. as a playground. They can take classes such as Sailing and Surfing or prescreen new movies in a Films class.
As we cruised the surroundings of UC Santa Barbara, I wondered just how students find the will power to buckle down and actually study. Some live in houses or apartments facing the Pacific Ocean. Even the dorms have ocean views. There will be no huddling in winter coats and walking to class against a brutal Midwestern wind here.
Call me old-fashioned, but shouldn’t going to college involve a certain amount of suffering and deprivation? Shouldn’t bleary-eyed students be walking around like zombies with mountains of books in their arms?
I guess I’m glad my son wants to spread his wings and meet kids from other parts of the country and the world. Living in California might seem idyllic, but it’s an awfully long way from home. If California becomes the setting for my boy’s college experience, at least I’ll have a nice place to visit on parents’ weekend.
I have had such a wonderful week spending time with just one of my children, something I have seldom had with this third-born child. We laughed and dined and talked about the future. He regaled me with funny stories about his friends. I shared some stories from my own college days.
All in all, I recommend going on the college tour circuit with your teen. It’s a great bonding experience and a way to get a glimpse into their dreams and their future.