Let's simplify the college search. As a society, we have made such a fuss about it, such a monumental drama -- a lengthy, stressful, anxiety-inducing task.
It's a lot of work to apply to college, I know. But we don't have to make it even harder on ourselves or our kids by making it into more than it is. It's a four-year education. Four short years. And it's not going to entirely mold junior into the person he is meant to be. If you zoned out for the first 19 years of his life, writing a big check to a fancy college -- or to any college -- is not going to make up for this time. And if your child has a certain temperament, let's say a challenging one, that's not going to miraculously change in these four years. And if she is a party animal, searching recklessly for happiness, college isn't going to save her from that either. There will just be less supervision. And if she's already happy and good? Then she's happy and good.
So let's stop making college into something it's not. It's not a stand in for parenting. It's not a guarantee for success nor a ticket to happiness. It's a campus, some classes, peers galore (is it really the best thing to lump them all together with very few adults for them to interact with? I wonder about this one, but whatever); it's a great privilege, an opportunity, and a financial decision.
We start the process way too early, in my opinion. Talk about rushing things. Do kids really need to start touring campuses sophomore year? That's age 15, or 16 for some. They aren't even driving yet, and it's just two years after middle school. Middle school. Think braces and hyperbole. Most kids don't know what they want to do when they grow up at this point, because they are busy growing up. At least they were until they started to hear the anxious, overzealous roar of the adults chanting College. College. College. Let's start obsessing now. Do you know how many times these kids could change their minds about what they want to study between age 15 and 18? Do you know how clueless they may be about which college is best for them? And about exactly where and how much of your hard-earned money should be spent? I think we should all just chill out until at least junior year. And even then, let's stop acting like which college they go to is the most important decision of their lives. What they do while they are there, or what they do afterwards, may be crucial, but where they do it is probably not.
Because mostly, it's about the food. Why does it seem hardly anyone takes the food into consideration when searching for a college? These kids are going to be eating there three times a day, minimum. Food is a big deal. It affects mood, health, weight, brain function. Heck, it affects happiness. I was thrilled to read that my daughter's' university was ranked second-best in the nation for their campus food. I love knowing they have high-quality fare at their fingertips at every meal -- locally-grown fruits and vegetables, delicious and diverse meals prepared by top-notch chefs.
Four years is not long, unless you are feeding yourself crap. Then it is many, many days, several times a day, down the road to sluggishness, moodiness and weight gain. Now this is life changing. Habits are life changing. Lifestyles are life changing. So please, let's stop freaking out about where our kids are going to go to college. It's making them anxious and ungrateful and hurried. And it's making us crazy. Take a deep breath, and if you're going to go on a tour, start with the dining hall. Afterall, you are what you eat.