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What I Learned on College Visits With My Daughter

Dear Sophie,

Our four-day college tour was a whirlwind. I did everything I tell the families I work with NOT to do. 

I squeezed in too many colleges in the time period we had to work with. 
I spent more money on this trip than I should have. 
And I got lost way too many times on highways, back roads, and even roads I know like the back of my hand. 
Truth be told, your ever-confident mom was nervous. I wanted to show you and your friend the beauty and inspiration a college campus could provide.
The moments we captured were far from perfect, but they provided something I know to be true. By visiting colleges in person, we discovered such truths about the colleges, you, and how you want this admissions process to play out: 
  • Visiting different regions of the country allows you to get a sense of where you want to spend your four years of college.
  • See colleges of different sizes. The size of the student body and campus may influence your decision. 
  • Look for those colleges where you feel like you matter and that you would be valued. This is more important than rankings, test scores, and reputation. 
I have tried to get so many students to embrace not what the college's stats are, but what the college stands for
You get it. Take the tour. Talk to real students—not just the ones hired by the admissions office, but the ones who speak off the cuff (like your scrappy New Jersey, public school mom). Catch the campus in its best and worst moments. All of this reveals a powerful visual that only a college visit in the pouring rain, breathtaking sunlight, and cold air could deliver. 
So if any of your classmates ask you what you did over Fall Break, I hope you tell them you saw truth and authenticity, not only in those colleges, but in you and me. I am not perfect, and neither are those colleges we saw. But in our imperfections, beauty is found.
I hope you tell your friends not to fully rely on guidebooks, virtual tours, or a canned presentation by an admissions officer. Tell them to go visit these colleges with a parent or mentor who will squeeze in too many visits, spend too much money, and get lost in the wondrous vitality of a college campus and on the road to get there.

I love you Sophie-much,


READ MORE: 5 Tips for College Visits in 2021