More on college

Today we did a triple whammy.  We drove out to Tufts for a tour and info session.  I went to school in Boston but never made my way on to the Tufts campus.  It was very interesting for a variety of reasons. 

First of all, the tour was packed.  Possibly 50 students and either with one parent or two and some brought a few siblings.  The guy who spoke to the group about what separated Tufts from other schools was fantastic.  Not only did he speak about Tufts, he gave the group some advice on writing their essays.   What was interesting is the mothers in the crowd taking copulas notes.  The woman in front of me was writing an outline as he spoke as if she was back in college in a lecture hall.  Both Jessica and I were dumbstruck.

I started watching the mothers taking notes.  Each of them were very serious.  They almost tried to connect with the speaker on stage while taking everything in.  Their kids just sat next to them listening.  I found it just amazing.  I wonder if these mothers also pour cereal for their kids every morning, pick out their clothes and make sure their homework is complete before handing it in.  How are these kids actually going to leave the nest and function?  Why are these mothers doing this?

Is it because these mothers have made their kids their work?  Perhaps it is a backlash to their own childhood?  Were mothers of that generation so laissez-faire that their children felt they had to be so involved that they hold their kids hand through ever step of their lives?  I honestly do not know but I wonder how these kids are going to become adults.  How are they going to be able to make intelligent decisions, are they going to go to college and just let loose and drink until they drop, are they going to be lost and find the need to come home every weekend, are they going to graduate and come home to live permanently, are they going to be able to function in the workplace?  Quite frankly, I find it scary.

Once again, these kids asked not a question.  One kid actually sat in the front of the tour part blowing bubbles and im’ing on her phone while her mother listened and asked questions.  Many of the kids actually looked so disengaged because why engage yourself when your Mom can take care of everything for you.  Maybe it is the cost?  Perhaps parents feel that they need to make sure the decision is ever so right because the cost of going to college is so high.  Thoughts out there?

We left Tufts and traveled by car to check out Babson that has a really nice campus and Brandeis that doesn’t.  Babson is set in the middle of a beautiful suburb lining a country club and golf course.  Not sure either are right for Jessica but again, that is her decision.  She asked plenty of questions and is taking the whole thing in. 

Like finding the right person to work for you or finding the right apartment or house, you just know.  There is an air of comfort the minute you meet someone or walk in the door.  The same is true of shopping for colleges.  Unfortunately you can’t just expect that the college that you feel the best about is going to feel the same about you.  It is a true crap shoot.  Although you might know in your heart that you are the perfect fit for a place, you can only hope that the institution feels the same.  In essence, you better find a few places that you feel comfortable on and not set your sights on the ultimate one. 

After our college outings we drove back to Boston.  I drove Jess around the city and showed her where we used to live, our perspective colleges, and places we used to hang.  It was really fun and it was incredible how quickly the roads came back to me.  We tried to get into the fraternity that Fred lived in ( I lived there two memorable summers as well) but nobody was home.  I would have loved to show Jess inside.  At least I got a picture of her on the stoop.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Shripriya

    The parents do indeed continue to do everything for their kids even after they get into college. It is truly astounding.

    One parent I know worked feverishly on her son’s resume and sent it out to companies for summer internships. This was when he was a junior in college! In fact, the son, from what I could see, was barely involved at all.

    I wonder if these parents will do their kids’ jobs when they finally get employed. Oh, have a presentation due next week? I’ll do it for you kid!

    This is a serious issue – kids are less and less prepared as they enter the work force. As a manager, I was already seeing a huge difference of the attitude of kids in their 20s from their peers in the thirties. There was a sense of entitlement towards promotions and they were more focused on moving up than actually doing a good job where they were. There is a huge hole in their professional skills – some don’t even do the basics of following up after a meeting they request with a thank-you email etc. etc.

    I shudder to have more of these under-prepared, over-indulged young men and women in the workforce.

  2. Kit

    “… our perspective colleges…”
    “… our prospective colleges…”

  3. casey

    let me know if you head south to check out any schools (Duke, UNC, maybe?) miss and love you guys! xo casey.

  4. James Siminoff

    I remember the same thing when I went on my college tours. Parents are doing their kids such a diservice by holding their hands like that, I agree 100%. I think that a lot of my drive comes from the fact that my parents helped me but in a way that still allowed me to fail. Life does not have big safety nets and by doing everything for their kids parents are giving a false sense of security to them. Like anything else pushing it off only makes it worse when it hits.

    I went to Babson, graduating in 1999. I really enjoyed the school and even more absolutely loved being in Boston.


  5. Ellen

    Where did you attend college? I had no idea you lived here. You must tell us where you had dinner? I would love to hear your critique. Are you staying for the marathon?

    Brown is great, but Providence in general is a less than stellar place to live. In fact my sister didn’t marry a guy because he had to stay in Providence for his business.

    Brandeis is great. Many of my friends and their children had received a great education from that school. The men’s basketball team was really fantastic yrs ago.
    I am not familar with it now or even if they have a womwn’s team.

    Tufts is good too, but every time I am near Medford I get lost so I have never ever seen that campus.

    Babson’s location is good, because it is really in a very safe area.

    You should check out Wellesley and Simmons also, before you leave.

  6. jonathan

    You touched nerve when you talk about parents who seem to be maintaining (or even intensifying) the influence over their kids’ lives when they should be letting go. I am reminded of a story told to me by a friend who is a senior guy at a big investment bank. He said that he has had parents ask if they could sit in on their children’s annual evaluation (were not talking about college interns — but recent grads working full time making 80K). On occasion he gets a phone call from a parent to discuss how their child is doing. He ignores them. These are parents who have gone past being involved in every aspect of their children’s lives (a/k/a helicopter parents) and entered another dimension altogether. The parents of the junior IB’ers, just like many of the parents shopping for colleges, look at the life decisions their children make as bets that are simply too important to lose. It must have been something in the Kool-aid at the 11th grade parent’s dinner.

    My wife and I are involved in our 11th grader’s college search. We facilitate the process by taking her to see lots of different types of schools (including most of the ones you have seen, but that’s another story). We get to live vicariously a little bit (well, maybe more than a little bit) — but it is really about our excitement watching her use her judgment and form opinions. We try not to get caught up in the panic over sub-10% acceptance rates at the “highly selective” colleges, but it is hard. (Who said “when all around you are panicking, and you remain calm, perhaps it is because you don’t fully understand the situation?”) We also recognize that this is not a decision that lends itself to decision trees and pure rational evaluation. There is no efficient frontier here. It is about gut feel and intuition. We cringe a little when that gut feel is based on not much more than hearsay, but she’ll figure it out.

  7. gotham gal

    I am still thinking about the parents today, yikes. Jessica will figure it out. I went to Simmons so it was nice to be back in Boston. There were not as many extra curricular activities back then. I am not sure if it is something that the students have created or the colleges have. My guess is most of it is student generated after their experiences in HS where extra curricular is part of the whole program.

  8. Steve Kane

    Jess may be interested to know that Tufts ‘hood, davis Square, is now arguably the coolest part of town. years back, Tufts was cosnidered to be in the boondocks. no longer. davis square (which has a red line T stop) is boston’s east village circa 1985

  9. Dave Hyndman

    Couldn’t agree more re: the parenting thing. Have you seen Carl Honore’s new book, “Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting”? He’s the guy who wrote “In Praise of Slow.” I haven’t read it yet but it’s on the list and thought you might be interested.

    BTW, I went to Babson. Great school. But in hindsight, after later doing an MBA, I wish I did a Liberal Arts undergrad.