When I meet with students and parents regarding college selection, some percentage lead with a challenge: my child wants to go far away from Connecticut. California seems to be the most popular destination. But, there are other areas of the country, particularly the Southeast that are almost equally popular.
I immediately confess bias. As a father of three and as someone with a deep belief that family is the most important area of life, I tell the student that I am not fully objective. But, then I add some layers to the conversation that the student – and even the parent – might not have considered.
I first note that I appreciate the student’s desire to leave Connecticut and even the Northeast. From the perspective of adult transition, those willing to venture far away are ready for independence. I also acknowledge that growing up in small towns along the coast of Connecticut and attending schools such as Old Saybrook, Old Lyme or Westbrook where most of the students know each other since kindergarten is stifling. Even the somewhat larger towns in our area, Guilford, Madison, East Lyme, and Waterford, are outgrown by most high school students.
I then comment that most every college will seem bigger and different to high school students from Southeastern, Connecticut. There is no reason to head to California just to experience change. Radical change is coming to a high school student’s life even if he attends Xavier High School in Middletown and then goes on to Wesleyan College in Middletown.
As for California, I point out that the student’s desire to experience something different for 4 years will most always lead to something far longer than 4 years. After attending college in California, the student will have his/her friends, job opportunities, girlfriend/boyfriend (possibly) and way of life in California. Coming back to Connecticut becomes less likely and/or more complicated.
For some, this might be great. Perhaps they really do want to live someone else for the rest of their lives. I also realize that many students want to get away from their families. However, most of the families that I meet are close. The students desire independence but they don’t want to leave their families in a way that they would only see them a couple of times a year, at most.
I then comment on our great luck. We live in the Northeast part of the United States where there is no greater concentration of outstanding colleges than anywhere in the entire world. That’s not hyperbolic. We are incredibly lucky to have such amazing college choice in our general backyard.
Surprisingly, most students appreciate the lecture and even thank me for pointing out issues they had not considered.