Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Traveling to Readiness

The quad at my alma mater, Bucknell University, which is
not in New England, and therefore not one of the
unnamed colleges in this post. :-)
(Photo credit:
This is the summer of the college visit. My daughter completed her junior year in high school last month, and the fun, casual college visits of summers past have given way to focused visits with information sessions and admissions office-sanctioned tours at schools she's seriously curious about.

Toward that end, we spent the last week in New England. For reasons my daughter can't identify, Boston is high on her list of desirable college locations. She'd never been to Boston -- until last week, she'd never been farther north than New York City -- and so a trip north was placed on the agenda for June.

Though I was looking forward to the trip, I was not-so-secretly hoping she'd hate it. That she'd go to Boston and get it out of her system, then come home and choose a sensible location closer to home where she could go "away," but not so far away that I couldn't get to her if she were sick or needed a sweater (or something more serious).

Wishful thinking.

But something else happened during last week's trip. As we toured schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts and ventured into the cities surrounding those schools, I saw something beyond the newness of unfamiliar territory.

The view of Boston from the
John F. Kennedy Museum

I really didn't want to like the school situated in the heart of Boston, especially after we got horribly lost and arrived after a trip through a less-than-desirable part of the city. But how could I not? With an adorable, upbeat tour guide who obviously loved the school and extolled its every virtue, there was only one conclusion that was plausible. 

And so I became a cheerleader. 

It was easy at the first two schools. In Connecticut, I fell in love with the beauty of the state the minute we crossed the border (literally), and the campus there didn't disappoint in terms of either beauty or possibility. The second school -- the one with the fabulous tour guide -- was an entirely different environment, but my fears were allayed as we walked the campus and I became more and more enthralled with all the possibilities.

A fantastic tour guide of
quite another ilk:
"Josiah Quincy,"
who led our tour
of downtown Boston.
The third school was another story. It was raining. The tour guide was okay, but suffered greatly by comparison to his predecessors. A highly selective school, it exuded cattle call rather than personal experience, and halfway through the tour, I was ready to leave. In fairness, that had as much to do with the weather and the fact that this was the final stop in our multi-state tour as it did with the on-campus experience.

Still, as we completed the tour, I started to panic. What if she loved this place? How was I going to be the cool, supportive mom who stepped back and let her draw her own conclusions?

I needn't have worried. As it turned out, my daughter had already drawn those same conclusions. Though we all agreed the school had much to offer, it wasn't the right place for her.

As we embarked upon our long, long car ride home, it occurred to me there's a reason we make these visits. Obviously, it's so my daughter can find the place she wants to spend the next four years of her life, but as it turns out, these trips aren't just for her benefit.

We need them too. As parents, we're making a transition, too. We need to be able to envision our kids on a campus every bit as much as they do. While that's very easy to do when the campus is just a couple of hours from home, it's much more difficult when we go beyond the invisible circle we've drawn. Mine's about four hours in diameter, and while the school in Connecticut is pretty close to the edge of that circle, the ones in Boston stretch it to the breaking point, and only by going there and experiencing them and watching my daughter experience them can I morph from "that's much too far away" to "wow, what great opportunities -- how could she not apply here?"

Only by first taking these steps with her can I begin to prepare myself for her to take them by herself, and can I see what I should have known all along.

She's ready. And as the cool, supportive mom, I'd better hurry and catch up.


  1. I was comforted when my older son decided not to look farther than 1 hour out. To my surprise, my daughter did the same when it was her turn. My youngest, though, has his sights set farther afield (though he's got 4 years before this is an issue). But he's the one with a chronic health issue, so I have different reasons for wanting to keep him close by! It's hard to let go.

  2. It was so much easier to be their age and feel invincible!!