Our First College Tour

On Saturday, my oldest child turned 16.  On Monday, she got her learner’s permit.  And yesterday, I walked with her all over my alma mater, Northwestern–our first ever college tour.  Today we look at University of Chicago.
Whew!  Time flies when you’re having (or even not having) fun.
As I’ve talked about this college trip at the end of her sophomore year, almost everyone (including my husband), says something like, “Wow, you’re starting early!”
And of course, I suspect they’re also thinking, “There goes the Tiger Mom pushing it again.”

But a couple moms with seniors or college age kids have said, “Good for you!  You can’t start too early, it’s a completely exhausting process.”
In my defense, I flew out here for a reunion and celebration of a mentor’s semi-retirement (see Best Advice I Ever Got) and decided to bring Ling because we may not have the chance to return to the Midwest.  Carpe Diem!  Seize the Day!
After one whole full day of college touring, here are some initial thoughts and questions:
  • Dang, I got a good education and didn’t appreciate it at the time.  My friend says doing college tours made her want to go back to undergrad again, just now with all her grown-up sensibility.  Me too!  If youth is wasted on the young, so is college.
  • Dang, getting into any name-brand college is a crapshoot these days.  There are 4 times as many applicants to Northwestern as when I applied.  I’ve heard so many stories of kids with straight As, good scores, and excellent extra-curricular activities not getting into top-tier schools that I’m trying to think realistically and help my daughter do so also.  Back when I applied to college, I was pretty sure I’d get into many of the 8 schools I applied to.  Today, all of those schools are considered “reach” schools, with no guarantees.
  • Dang, as a follower of Jesus, how much should I, or my child, care about name-brand colleges anyway?  This can, and I’m sure will be, it’s own full post or series of posts in the next several years.
  • Dang, even this early, she hated the pressure she felt to pretend or exaggerate her worth, even as she loved so much about the school.  I made the mistake of taking her to an info session at the School of Education and Social Policy (the school from which I received 3 degrees—I wanted to hear where it is now) which ended up feeling like an interview because we were the only ones there.  Can I say we (or she) wasn’t prepared?
  • Dang, how do I not promote the overweening message Northeast/Chinese culture preaches that her worth and future are determined by the prestige of the school she ultimately attends, but coach her to do her best? As we processed later, I said, “It’s not about faking it, it’s about letting your light shine.”  Hard for a shy girl.  But a necessary life skill, and something Jesus tells us to do.
  • Dang, I think I injured my right foot walking all day.  How’m I going to make it through the U of C tour today?
I’m sure questions about college, prestige, achievement and ambition can stir up a very lively conversation—would love to hear your comments and advice as we begin the process.
Until then, University of Chicago, here we come—Carpe Diem!
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This first appeared on What She Said

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