Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Etiquette for Visiting Colleges

Like many parents in our community, my wife and I had our two children go to an after-school etiquette program during the fifth grade. We got past the actually moaning and groaning and had them ready to learn more about how to interact with others. I can still remember sending my now college senior son to his first day with a pre-tied necktie in his bookbag, only to have him come home with the tie pulled up tight against his neck above his actual shirt collar. Seriously, it was the strangest sight ever. I should have known then that he was destined for a more casual, less proper life - just like me. While my kids only went through one year of this program, both of them did learn a few manners, my son understood how to actually tie a necktie, and hopefully some of the etiquette did sink in.

In the same way that there are certain etiquette rules for social events, interacting with others and dining at restaurants, there are also certain steps you can take when visiting colleges. While many students might have already starting visiting colleges by now, a large number of you will be attending admission events during your senior year. This could involve campus tours, visitation days, open houses and the like. Here are a few suggestions on how to make sure the visits go well for everyone involved. Don't worry, this has nothing to do with table manners, how to bow, or how to drink tea properly.

  1. Make a reservation - While you don't need to always schedule an official visit to a campus, things generally work out much better when you plan ahead. Sign up for the campus tours well ahead of time, especially if it is for a visit in March/April (key Spring Break times) or during the summer. Showing up unannounced can add stress, not only to your own party but to the admission offices. You don't want to visit a college only to be told the tour is full or the office is closed that day. If you are going out to a nice restaurant, you probably want to make a reservation ahead of time, right?
  2. Alert the college if there is a need to cancel - If something comes up that causes you to not be able to attend a scheduled tour/event, let the admissions office know about it. Many times, space at these events are in high demand, so letting the college know of a change in plans can free up space for another student/family to visit. Many times, the emails sent confirming the visit also have instructions on how to chance/cancel a visit. If you make a reservation at a restaurant and then just don't show up, the front desk is going to waste a great deal of time calling out your name and holding a space for you unnecessarily.
  3. Hold questions which are not "large audience-appropriate" for later - At any admissions event, we love questions. We truly enjoy talking to both students and parents, and you asking questions helps us direct the conversation towards meaningful discussions. But at times, there are questions that should be held onto until a time that is more one-on-one. One of the most awkward times my wife and I had at a restaurant was when the couple next to us starting loudly berating the waiter about the wine options (they even suggested one wine that should be on the list which we had seen in a gas station earlier that day). I think the entire restaurant heard this discussion, and it would have been much better if instead they had requested a quiet talk with the manager. In the same way, if you have an issue with how decisions are made or  if you have somewhat personal questions, I suggest you talk with an admissions person on the side at a later time. It makes it much less awkward for everyone.
  4. Give feedback - At the end of the day/event, admission offices generally send out surveys for visitors to complete. We are glad to hear back from you about the day, and your thoughts and ideas can help us in shaping future events, either by making changes or by keeping some things the same. UGA is not a college which bases our decisions on "demonstrated interest", so feel free to give us your honest opinion on how things went on your visit. Responding to our surveys means that you cared enough to let us know how you feel.
I hope these notes help, and Go Dawgs!

Friday, July 6, 2018

DIY Admissions-Parent Edition

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post about how students should be able to handle the application process on their own, with a limited amount of guidance from parents/counselors friends. This month, the focus is on how parents can help get students to that stage of the process:

Last week, I was volunteering at a camp for six days, and I had eight campers in my cabin from a range of placed in Georgia. It was a wonderful week, but as you can guess, there were also a few challenging times, usually associated with either getting all eight out of the cabin on time or that wonderful event of mealtime, also known as "please just eat your food and don't make too much of a mess". One of our campers had a challenge with certain mealtime things, from cutting up meat, eating yogurt without getting it on his face, and the horribly sticky mess that is syrup (they really should just ban this substance from all children under the age of 13).

One of the newer counselors at the table stepped up to help this camper by cutting his food, going to get paper towels, and pretty much sticking close to the camper for every meal in case of emergency. About a day later, one of the wiser, older counselors (not me, I swear) stepped in and essentially said "Stop helping him. He needs to learn how to do these things himself." The focus became less on doing things for the camper, and more on helping him learn how to take care of himself. The first day or so was a challenge, watching the camper struggle with the steps. If you have ever watched a kid struggle trying to learn a new skill, your first instinct is to help in any way you can. But by the end of the week, everyone was less stressed, the camper was much more independent, and mealtime was much better-if you don't count syrup as being the devil's condiment.

This same situation plays out again and again in a number of areas. Think back to elementary school projects, with some seeming to have been created by a professional artist, while others are barely able to remain standing, but at least completed by the actual student. Or how about some thank you cards being written in too-perfect script, while others have letters of all sizes and dirt smudges on the edges. There is a time for helping our kids with certain activities, and a time to let them handle the process on their own. This is one of those times. As one of my fellow counselors just said, let your student ride the bike and you just act as the training wheels, because the training wheels are coming off next fall whether you like it or not.

The Admissions application process is a key point in letting the student take care of their own "project". Yes, parents are there to give guidance, to gently nudge their kids in the right direction, but to also know not to cross over the line and just do it themselves. It might be easier to go ahead and be a big part of the application process, but the skills that are learned by having the student do it themselves will translate into more comfort in managing their first year in college, apply for internships, etc. When students start signing up for their first semester of classes, generally during orientation, the first step many times is telling the parents that they should go get some coffee as the student needs to handle this step.

I have been through this process twice as a parent, and I know it can and will be challenging, but you will make it (and so will your child).

Good luck, and Go Dawgs!