I'm Planning College Visits with my 15 year old. Why?
Spring Break is right around the corner and quite unexpectedly, I find myself planning college visits with our 15-year-old daughter. She is a sophomore and our youngest. With three older siblings, we've been to this rodeo before. In the past, we have always commenced with this ritual in the winter and spring of junior year. Yet, for Mary, I feel compelled to start now. Why?
I've been questioning whether it's too soon to be starting down this rabbit hole, especially since she plans NOT to apply as a student-athlete. I'm clear that I feel strongly that Mary's admissions journey would benefit from having a longer runway – but why? I jotted a list in my journal and this is what I have come up with (so far):
- Mary has a curious and eclectic set of interests; of our four kids, she is the most "undecided" about her core interests.
- She is expressing interest in going to a school that has a small, medium, or large campus, is maybe urban or maybe not, and she wants it to be in a warm climate while also being able to ski race at the club level. Yes, all of these desires co-existed in the same sentence. Obviously, some re-alignment with realistic expectations is in order.
- Spring Break this year is one of our "windows of availability" and there are students on many college campuses at this time of year.
- Mary likes to consider things carefully; she needs time to mull, process, and consider various angles of an idea to trust it.
- She enjoys live music and museums, so we can throw in some cultural "brainfood" on our trip.
- While I've been building a list in my head for her for about three years now, that list doesn't include a single school that SHE knows much about.
- I'm personally hoping that seeing schools now will become a motivating factor for her as she heads into junior year. The challenge of keeping up with schoolwork in more difficult classes combined with a demanding athletic schedule won't be easy.
Writing out these motivations has helped me get clear on why I want to start the process now with Mary. But each teen is unique. Just because starting early makes a lot of sense for my student, it didn't make sense for any of my other three kids, and it might not make sense for your teen.
Here are five things to consider if you are thinking about taking your teen on visits as a 9th or 10th grader:
- Will college visits help your student envision possibilities without introducing too much anxiety about the admissions process?
- What "windows of availability" does your family really have to make campus visit trips over the next 12/24/36 months? (I talked about perceived runway vs. actual runway in this POST last spring.)
- Is there something you and your teen can do in conjunction with the visits that would create a joyful shared experience?
- Has your teen already decided (i.e. fixated) on THE ONE school and you want to broaden their horizons and introduce other possibilities?
- Is your teen considering highly-selective institutions with very low admissions rates, and needs to not only show demonstrated interest but gather intel so that they can get super specific on their "application pitch" or angle when it comes time to apply?
For Mary, my answer is a resounding YES to four of those five questions. If you answer yes to three or more, my recommendation is to start booking visits on the admissions pages of college websites and hit the road with your teen. The worst that could happen is you make some new family memories.