Ken, a father of a student from East Lyme, Connecticut, had a simple view related to college: figure out what you want to study and attend the highest ranked college in that area.
As someone providing college to career advice, I more than understand the logical and linear view of doing so. Ken was not educated in this country. So, while he was aware of the US college experience, he did not readily understand its nuances. “Choose a college where there are a lot of parties? No thanks.” Ken’s wife, perhaps because she was more entrenched in the soccer mom scene of East Lyme, had a deeper understanding of the college experience. She had been trying to explain that the type of students, the school’s social atmosphere, the school’s location and so forth mattered. She, too, had not been educated in the US so her husband did not take her that seriously.
When we met for our first college counseling session, Ken’s son Andrew was clearly unhappy. He didn’t really know what he wanted to do. It would likely be STEM related but he didn’t want to become a doctor and he simply was not sure what other fields to explore. He liked the idea of going to a top tier college but when he tried to explain to his Dad that going to highly ranked colleges in locations that did not interest him such as Rice (Texas) or Washington University (a misnomer since it is in St. Louis) were not appealing to him, his father was not listening.
I’ve noticed that location within the US does not seem to matter that much to many immigrants. After all, they are living far away from home themselves.
But location does matter to many students and certainly to many students who grew up in such nice communities like East Lyme.
Certainly, vocational training matters but the people at the college end up being as if not more important than what one studies.
I met my wife in college. I know at least a dozen others who met their spouse in college.
The Godfather of my youngest child was my college roommate.
Next week, I will be seeing another one of my college friends for dinner and two weeks after that I will be visiting another one in a different state. (Note: these friendships are now 30 years plus).
The location where I went to college – Washington DC – became a second home for me. I worked there after law school, even though I went to law school in Philadelphia. My wife and I visit DC frequently.
My college had an ethos related to service. That created a big impact on my life’s mission.
I am at once completely convinced that most spend too little time thinking about career issues when heading off to college and also completely convinced that factors outside of career are of equal importance for the college experience.