I guess I always took Spring Break for granted. I never thought about the fact that school breaks wouldn’t always be dedicated to fun family vacations or short adventures. Whether it was toes in the sand, ski trips or visiting friends, I guess I wasn’t psychologically prepared for the realization that change was a brewin’ and the time clock was running down. Breaks are now dedicated to the business of picking a college.
Yup, I’m the parent of a high school junior, and it feels like any three day breaks we now have we feel the pressure to squeeze in yet another college visit.
College campus visits are the perfect reality check that help you and your child decide whether their specific college choices live up to their expectations or the school’s reputation. I recommend that parents and students definitely don’t hold off until senior year for these visits because you and your child will lose the vital time to compare, absorb and digest. There are emotional reactions and thoughts about a college, which will help you to tweak their list by comparing their ideas about a campus to the real life feel of that campus. That can only be done by being there and experiencing it.
So, okay…Do you need to totally leave those ski clothes or swimsuits and snorkel gear in the closet this spring or completely sacrifice Martin Luther King Day, Presidents’ Day and Spring Break? No, says this travel junky! You can still make looking for colleges a lot of fun! Plan trips to see schools that are all in the same regions or areas where you normally go for fun. Just make sure to incorporate fun activities in that college area and do some sightseeing in between looking at lecture halls and dorms. Or plan your family getaway within reach of a selected campus contender. Remember that Colorado has great schools and SKIING. Arizona has fine educational institutions and lots of POOLS while Florida and California have plenty of universities by the BEACHES. Make the college search fun and don’t skip the vacation!
I suggest that you don’t overdo it and cram in too many schools during your child’s junior year or your student can become burnt out on the whole college process before it actually begins. You don’t want to overwhelm your child. Finding the balance is key! Start the search in their sophomore year and spread it out over more time.
Something to keep in mind is that during Christmas and Summer Breaks many campuses may not offer tours and if they do, many schools are pretty empty and it’s often hard to get a true feel for campus life. An empty campus will make it hard to see how diverse the student body is and what the campus/student culture is like! Having college students around makes it better because you can ask the students questions like: What do they like best about the school? Worst about the school? If they could change anything about the school what would it be? Really, anything that current students can offer your child in terms of advice will give your child a feel for how they themselves might fit in. Get all the info you can, it will be pivotal in the decision making process. After all, this is the first major decision of your child’s life.
Looking for colleges is an exciting and often stressful time, so work on making it fun! My advice is to soak it up and lock and load these college trips into your memory because it won’t be long before your child flies from the nest and wants to spend Spring Breaks with their friends. My heart breaks a little more every time I think about it, but that’s a story for another time.