Parents Helping Teenage Son Pack For College

What do The Great Wall of China, Grand Canyon, and most college bound high school students have in common?

They all seemingly ascribe to the notion that “bigger is better.” I work with lots of students, helping them find their dream campuses, and most want to attend huge universities (15,000+ undergraduates). Did you feel that gust of air swoosh past your ear? – That was me, sighing loudly.

Why, I wonder, without considering their own learning styles, interests, etc. do most students only consider large universities? It’s taken some time, but I’ve come up with some ideas:

To begin, students seem to think that only large universities have football teams; further, game days seemingly equal the best parties (at least pre-Covid). Even if your interest and knowledge of the sport are minimal, you’re probably tempted to shout “Play ball!” with all the enthusiasm you can muster, though. After all, attending football games goes hand-in-hand with college—much like pairing Covid and 19, cows and the Ganges River or, if you’re my former father-in-law, sardines and peanut butter. But I digress . . . First of all, not all large universities have football teams, and tons of small ones do! Further, teams have to travel to play against other schools—often via the friendly skies. That leaves only 6 or 7 home games for students to don their spirit wear and paint their tailgatin’ faces college colors. What happens later though, while the cleats and helmets are stashed in the field house, awaiting another season? The fun still must—and will—go on (and perhaps, if you open your mind to other possibilities, on your dream campus at a smaller college!)

In another way, students usually believe that they’ll meet more interesting people and make more friends at large universities. Think about this, though: large universities are often forced by sheer size to break up their departments by campus. That in itself can be confining. Thus, students may only encounter others like them with similar interests on their particular sub-campus. Can you picture computer engineering students having continuous fun chats with computer science majors? Talk about a diversity bust . . . Quick! Someone push me in the direction of the theater department!

Finally, if the university happens to be a public regional one in a student’s home state, the assumption is that it’s the cheapest option. That’s far from the truth, though. Many small colleges have huge endowments (i.e., bank accounts) and offer generous merit aid (i.e., free money that defrays tuition which applicants are considered for automatically) that can potentially make the bottom line at a private small college cheaper than the large public university price, particularly for top students.

It all boils down to this: With approximately 4200 colleges in the United States for you to consider, it’s an exciting time for the collegebound—so you should cast your net wide! Don’t believe me? Then take the advice of someone far more wise and important, Isaac Asimov: “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” 

 

 

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