It was the summer before my oldest son’s junior year. We both knew we needed to be thinking about this college thing, working on this college thing, but neither of us was quite sure where to begin.
So we started visiting some schools. This was a great way to get us both focused, to start ruling things out, and finding ‘yes’ schools to put on his list.
“Too small,” he would say.
“Too weird,” he would say.
“Cute girls” – ok he would never say that. But I know my son well enough to know when he thought this was the case. His commentary – visual or verbal – often made me laugh.
“I could see myself here,” he started saying – sometimes.
The biggest thing I learned during that time was that we both often left a campus with completely different senses of the place.
“Now THAT was a great school,” I would say as we pulled out of the parking lot. I’d look over to see him shaking his head. “No way, not ever, not going to happen. I have zero interest in that school.”
And that was my first very important lesson of the college search. Whether it was a relate-able tour guide, the weather on campus that day, what they thought of the dorms or the food in the dining hall, your son or daughter will form an impression. It will often be different from yours, and now is the time to start saying these words, “My opinion doesn’t matter, his does. It’s his journey. It’s his life.”
Of course our opinions matter, and often we can get them to listen (maybe) or rethink that first impression. But I have found that most times, we can’t. It’s all got to feel right to them – starting with that first impression – and whatever that means.