Twins and College Visits: One Parent’s Story

Kudos to Lisa Silvershein and her twins of Basking Ridge, N.J., for a well planned, well executed, satisfying summer of college visits. Could their story be a model for your experience?

Cal_collage Because Lisa’s boy/girl twins have completely different interests, she divided the calendar between the kids and asked them to research schools and tell her where they wanted to visit.

Kudo #1: Recognizing their individual interests (good idea whether you have twins or a single)
Kudo #2: Letting them do the research (gives them responsibility and buy-in from the start)
Bonus: Giving each child his/her own time with the parent (if schedule permits, this can be a prize for the parent(s) and the child)

Lisa’s daughter, a “city girl,” is interested in art and business. Her son wants to major in biology and is open to any school that will prepare him for vet school. They saw schools together only on a December family vacation and a spring break trip.

Over the summer, Lisa and her children saw a total of nine schools in six states on the east coast. All travel was by car. They chose hotels based on proximity to the schools and on whether they could get reward points and a breakfast buffet. “The biggest challenge,” says Lisa, “was stringing the visits together like a puzzle.”

Lisa shares some observations on supporting kids’ explorations while allowing their independence:

[Let kids make choices …]

“I gave them tons of suggestions based upon their interests, but I encouraged them to check out the websites for themselves. There was an early visit where my son had not read the ‘fine print’ and we wasted our time by visiting a school that had huge lectures for Intro to Biology. After he made that mistake once, he never did it again.”

[… but create some guidelines …]

“I did have a rule that if we went to a college we would stay for the tour. In one case the building looked terrible from the outside and my daughter wanted to leave the moment we pulled into the lot.  After driving two hours we decided to stay and the business program ended up being very strong. In another case my son was turned off by the tour. He wanted to cancel his meetings with the pre-vet adviser and an admissions counselor. We agreed that it would be rude to cancel. By the time we left the school it was one of his top two choices. If you make the trip, you might as well get the entire picture.”

[… and look at it all as a growth experience.]

“During our first trip down south as a family, each of my kids got to pick two schools to visit. I had suggested some schools that did not get included on their list. Seven months later we went back down south and my daughter threw the schools into the mix and ended up loving them. She wasn’t ready to visit them before.”

some observations on how different schools handled their visits:

“We were very unsatisfied by the tours that highlighted the dorms, the dining halls and the library without showing more than the lobby of the educational buildings. We wanted to see science labs, the art facilities, the business program classrooms, etc.

“We also realized the importance of a welcoming waiting area. Both of my children desire a smaller school with a personal touch, so the waiting area sent a message about how they interact with their students.”

… and some observations on why it is all worthwhile:

“Visiting a school makes a huge difference. For example, one school looked great on paper for my daughter, but she didn’t like the social environment when she actually went to visit. Another school only looked ‘OK’ on paper. At the suggestion of about three people we decided to visit it on our way from one school to another. She ended up loving the school and it is currently her #1 or #2 choice.

“As a parent I treasured the time I got to spend with each of my children as we visited schools. The meals we had together, the TV shows we watched together, the music they shared with me were all part of the experience. I got to learn more about them as they got to learn more about themselves. It was exhausting, but a lot more fun than people told me that it would be.”

 Bravo, Lisa!


Kathie Dickenson is an award-winning higher-education writer and editor and a regular contributor to SmartCollegeVisit.