To Stay Home Or Go Away?

We just got back from our college road trip. Our son is considering four schools: UH and three on the Mainland. They are all solid options and we are happy and proud that he applied to, and has been accepted at, these very good schools. We visited a small college in West Virginia, a medium-sized campus in Denver and a large institution in Seattle. We came away with vivid impressions from each place and a much better understanding of what they have to offer.

Now the hard part: deciding where to go. For the first time, our son will be making a major, life-changing decision on his own. Well, mostly on his own. We are still his parents, of course, and he will want and need our support and guidance (I hope). But he really has to figure this out for himself. As his mom, I am quite sure I know best where he should go (insert eye roll here). I’m pretty sure his dad is equally certain he knows best. But I have to grudgingly admit we would be wrong. Our son is the one who has to feel comfortable wherever he chooses to go. He’s the one who will be living with the consequences, whatever they may be, of his decision.

We can and we will sit down as a family and discuss the pros and cons of each university. There are so many factors: Does he prefer a small, medium or large campus? For his special needs, what about the ease and availability of services? Housing issues, transportation, distance from home, weather – all are important – as well as academic requirements, array of courses, helpfulness and accessibility of the teaching staff, and friendliness of students. And, of course, affordability is a critical factor for almost every family.

We can’t possibly have all the answers, even after visiting, but we at least got a better feel of the character of each place. This is why, for those who can afford them, campus visits are so valuable. Websites can give you a pretty good glimpse of what a school offers, but a physical visit provides a healthy dose of reality. It makes a huge difference to actually stand on the campus, talk to people, get a firsthand look at dormitories and libraries and classrooms. All these experiences help a young person decide if the “fit” is right. We were going to dismiss that tiny college in West Virginia but added it to our trip at the last minute, and it ended up as a frontrunner.

What a year. We’re still coping with getting ready for graduation, which is already a major emotional event. While we’re leaving that part of our lives behind, we have to push forward fast into the next phase. It’s unsettling. It’s the unknown, and that is scary. But it’s also exhilarating and full of possibilities.