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Cancelling the College Tour Road Trip

Kim Moldofsky was planning what seems to be a new rite of passage, the family college tour road trip, until it dawned on her that she shouldn’t be the only one creating the itinerary. Read more from Kim on her blog, Hormone-Colored Days.


The whole college application thing is a complicated dance. You want your kids to lead because in the end this largely about your child and his choice. But on the other hand, if you simply relegate yourself to the role of follower, your child might might miss out on certain opportunities, like actually being organized enough to apply to college the fall of his senior year of high school.

The college counselor at our high school is a big advocate of campus visits. So with Spring Break on the horizon we started planning an epic college visit road trips: 4-5 schools in as many states with brief stop in Canada to see some family. At my nagging urging, my son made the requisite school tour reservations (I’m told admissions offices do not appreciate working through parents) and we checked the dates with our dog sitter.

Last Friday I assured my husband that our trip was a go before he left town last weekend, but I changed my mind by the time I picked him up at the airport on Sunday.

We didn’t cancel as a punishment to my son. And it’s not that we feared the “fun” of the four of us being packed into my sedan for a nearly a week, knowing that at least 50% of our children would be tired/bored/hungry/grumpy. We didn’t back out because of the thought of 4 near-adults sharing a single hotel room (not to mention bathroom) made us twitchy.

We cancelled because I was the driving force behind the trip. We planned to see an urban liberal arts school, an urban highly selective technical school and a technical school in a small city. All good possibilities, my son agreed, but all schools of my choosing.

My son didn’t oppose any of the schools. He remains open to the thought of someday attending any one of them, but he didn’t express a passion for any of them. I wouldn’t say that our trip would have been a total waste of money, but I also don’t think it would have been money wisely spent at this time.

If he wants to get a sense of different campuses there are plenty we can see in Chicagoland. And when he decides he wants to see a school that’s far from home, we can make a visit. (Or, in the case of a certain highly selective school or two, we might wait until he gets accepted before planning a campus tour.) Maybe it won’t be a big family trip–chances are it won’t. In fact, maybe he’ll head off alone to a university that one of his friends attends–that’s how I made my college visits.

How are you handling the college review and admissions process? How do you encourage your child to take an active role in it? And doesn’t this seem so much more intense than when we went through it?

Kim Moldofsky

Kim Moldofsky started blogging about her cute young boys in 2005 at Hormone-Colored Days. Now she shares tips and experiences related to college admissions. Mostly, though, she writes about science and technology at Instagram: kimmoldofsky

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Kim Moldofsky

Tuesday 14th of April 2015

Thanks for commenting, Gail. We 're encouraging my son to consider out-of-state schools, but we got the same reaction as you did. My son doesn't have a top choice, but has seen a few Chicago-area schools. They're all good ones for him, but we'd like him to look a bit beyond that before he decides. He's still got plenty of time to look (I think!). I'm glad yours has found a #1.

Gail Hargis-Brubaker

Monday 13th of April 2015

I cancelled our spring break college road trip for the same reasons. My junior son has his heart set on one specific school. Although we have attended two college fairs and he's collected scads of pamphlets, in an effort to expand his options, I did hours of research and planning to go visit several schools out of state. I soon realized I was facing thousands of miles of driving to visit colleges he said, "yea, sure, that would be ok" about visiting. The money spent on that trip would make a good memory, but probably wouldn't change his mind. He did a college preview weekend at his #1 choice school, and it seems like a great fit for him. Thankfully, he's got the grades and scores to get in.

Kim Moldofsky

Wednesday 8th of April 2015

Hi Wendy! I hear you. I suspect our process will be quite different when we go though it again in just a couple of years with my younger one, and not just because he saw his big brother go through the process!


Wednesday 8th of April 2015

With one in college, one headed out in the fall and a junior who is starting the process.... I can relate! We've had proud moments (and not) but mostly let our boys drive the process. College visits do provide great time together to talk about all sorts of things - and for us, that focused time is not as plentiful as it used to be. I can tell you that every kid is different - ours couldn't be more so!

Kim Moldofsky

Wednesday 8th of April 2015

Thanks, Candace. A gap year is not out of the question, but I'd like him to apply next fall and then defer in such a case. I know I'm not alone in the concern that once they do a gap year, they won't go to college, though I do try to remind myself there isn't just a single road that leads to success in a career and life.

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