My oldest is a junior in high school and we’ve encouraged her to be proactive about her college search. We’ve taken all the kids to college campuses whenever we’re nearby for “unofficial” visits. We think that the more colleges you see, the easier it will be to know when you’ve found the right place for you. After all, college is a place where you will grow both academically and mentally. It is the place where you will start to forge your own path and create your own identity – all of that is an important part of the college experience. That’s why I think it’s important to find a place where you can comfortably explore and grow.
Two years ago my daughter was all about going to college far, far away (oh the words that my teenage self uttered came back to haunt me many times). But when faced with the realities of paying for college, she came to realize that staying in-state is best. We are lucky to live in a state with many good, world-renowned universities – and it’s hard to beat paying in-state tuition for that kind of education.
Over the past year she and I have started going on college visits. I want her to have plenty of time to explore, re-visit and learn what colleges have to offer her. But last week was a first. Last week, we visited my alma mater: Indiana University.
My 17 year old self did not want to go to IU – to an in-state school with so many others from my high school. (and my 17 year old daughter has those exact same feelings) However, once I saw the campus I knew that it would be okay. It’s a beautiful place. Big and sprawling. Filled with thousands of people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. Meadows, creeks, bridges and arboretums are all a part of daily life walking to class. As are hearing different languages and meeting new people. A school as big as IU is not for everyone, but it was a great place for me to take my first steps into adulthood.
I don’t know yet if it will be the same for my oldest, though she did indeed fall in love – even though she wasn’t expecting to, in fact was resisting the thought. As I watched her walk around campus on the very same paths that I walked so many years ago, I had the weirdest sensations. I remembered so many of my thoughts and feelings of that age and knew that I never, ever considered what it would feel like to lead my daughter around that campus. To look around and see how she fits in and how many opportunities are surrounding her. To sit down at Nick’s and have a beer while we talked about what she wants to do next. (Well I had a beer, she had a lemonade.) My college looks a whole lot different through these eyes.
Lately I’ve felt like I’ve crossed into a new parenting phase. My youngest will leave elementary school this year and I very much feel as though I’m officially the parent of older kids now. I’ve left the fun, busy, exploring days of parenting young children behind. I’m entering the fun, busy, awe-striking days of helping my kids find their paths. It’s pretty cool.