It's that time of year. The university calendar is in full swing, freshman students have settled into college life and dads are wearing school logoed tee shirts and sporting mascot bumper stickers.
I thought it was the perfect weekend to take a college visit from Dallas down south on IH 35 to Texas State University's department of musical theatre. And it proved to be glorious on many levels.
First, what is normally a maddening sea of southbound highway traffic, turned out to be splendidly barren. This was due, no doubt, to college football. Everyone was in the stands.
Second, seeing the evening performance of Rent, directed by program head, Kaitlin Hopkins, left me in awe. The show was spectacular. And watching my former advisees light up the stage in their touching, Broadway level performances, made it even more personally impactful.
But, what I hadn't counted on were the scads of effusively happy parents, who had flown in from all parts of the country, to see the musical production. They couldn't stop thanking me, and complimenting the university and the program for being "just the right place" for their child. That got me thinking, how wonderful to know that your student has landed in the "perfect fit" college. And how do students and families know when they have found that "perfect fit."
So I asked some parents from different parts of the U.S., and well as professors and students from the University of Michigan and Texas State University, if they could articulate that feeling when you know "it's right." The overriding theme seems grounded in giving students a sense of being personally valued.
"Professors that take an active interest in my child's development as an artist; not 'just a number,' and being part of a family."
"We all want our children be exposed to valuable opportunities in college, but it's so rewarding to see your child feels at home there and they are personally valued by the teachers in the program."
"I go to sleep at night with a smile on my face. This could have been a very long four years if she was unhappy -- but she's told me she feels she's in the best program in the country for what she wants to do. That feels like success."
"These students are treated as adults and learning to make the transition into being independent people. I hope to make a student feel safe enough to take that leap, and come to me themselves, if they need guidance or advice."
"We (both students and faculty) have to be the right fit for each other. When that happens, you can feel it, and that's when the magic begins."
"You know it's the right fit when the freshman kid's first thought is, 'I'm home.'"
"They thrive in the environment because they feel both safe to explore and fail, and challenged to push past what is comfortable."
"I knew Michigan was the right place for me because it marries a very rigorous training program and still feels personal. We're a family here."
"I feel safe and protected. I can fail big and learn even bigger."
"I still miss my family, but I have family here. When I don't have my mom, I have Kaitlin (Hopkins). She takes care of me, just like her own."
It seems as if "the perfect fit" is a gut feeling; kind of like being in love. It's hard to describe, but you know it when it happens. It's a feeling of being supported, respected and cared for. As a college audition coach, my business is being an advocate for my students and families. So, here's to your "perfect fit." May you and yours find it. You''ll know it when you feel it.