College Tips from a Seasoned Mom

photo of a regal-looking college building in red brick

My third child has started the college search as he moves into his senior year of high school. I’ve done the college search with two other children and thus consider myself somewhat of a seasoned expert on the topic. With that hubris in mind, I thought I’d share a few tips that I’ve learned along the way.

If you like a college, say you hate it. This guarantees your kid will love it. Try it. I’m right. #collegehunting Click To Tweet
  1. Whatever you do, don’t tour California colleges first. Keep this in mind particularly with your third child. Seriously, DO NOT TOUR CALIFORNIA COLLEGES FIRST! California schools are each more beautiful and enticing than the last. They are nearly impossible to get into and they cost more than the salaries of three top Facebook executives. Standing in the middle of another gorgeous, green lush California campus, with beautiful people surrounding us and our wide-eyed third child saying, “I want to go here,” my husband and I looked at each other and I said, “We are idiots.” Don’t do what we did.
  2.  If you really like a college, tell your child that you hate it. Say bad things about it. Tell them you can’t possibly afford it and it would be best that they pretended they never saw it. This technique will guarantee that your child will love said college and immediately apply to it. Try it. I’m right.
  3. While on the college tours, don’t ask the following questions unless you want your child to disown you:
    • “Where is the ride board?” (Hint: online)
    • “What if my child is homesick?”
    • Any of the following worst case scenario questions:
      • “What if there’s an active shooter on campus?”
      • “What if there’s a fire in the dorm?”
      • “What if the power goes out in the dorm?”
      • “What if there’s a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, etc. on campus?”

    You will embarrass your child to the point of them running away from the tour if you ask these questions. Trust me, the college will tell them what to do in all of these scenarios and you will be better off letting them figure it out on their own.

  4. Also, while on the college tours, if they teach you the college chant or cheer, they are teaching it to the future students, not you. You will drastically decrease the likelihood of your child attending that school or ever talking to you again if you loudly chant the cheer versus smiling politely when the students and future students do it.
  5. Try really hard not to cry on the tours. For some reason your children won’t like that. I recommend big dark sunglasses (regardless of weather) so that your periodic crying jags won’t be quite as noticeable. I pretended I was having terrible allergy issues throughout most of the tours. Something about watching your baby fall in love with anyplace but home brings about a huge lump in the throat and crocodile tears.
  6. Finally, enjoy the process. It’s really the last time that you are likely to be such a large part of a very big decision in your child’s life. You are sending a child off to become an independent adult. It’s a privilege that many parents won’t have. Don’t take it for granted and don’t spend it arguing with your child. Be patient, be calm, don’t cry in public, and for heaven’s sake, don’t go to California. Trust me.


Lisa Kaplin Psy. D. CPC

Lisa Kaplin Psy. D. PCC

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