(3) Searching Students x (1) Motivated Mom = Beaucoups Memorable College Visits

by Lisa Campbell Warren


To talk with Laetitia Krisel, a high school junior at the Lycee Francais de New York, in NYC, and her mom, Donna Zilkha, about the college-search process is to learn something about the delight of the “match.” Finding out about schools and about yourself (and, for a parent, about your child) are described as intertwined threads in one exhilarating exploration.

No strangers to adventure, Laetitia’s family lived in France through her third-grade year, after which they moved to New York. Laetitia and Donna visited nine college campuses in New England over a four-day period in February 2011, and Laetitia blogged about the visits as an intern on “Artistotle Circle.”

In love with learning

When I spoke via Skype with mother and daughter recently, what impressed me most was their thoughtful and joyful approach to learning—about schools, various subjects, other places and people, and themselves.

For example, when I asked about Advanced Placement courses, Laetitia said, “I’m taking AP Economics now, and I’m falling in love with economics!” Isn’t that really what it’s all about–when you’re trying to choose the right college–being willing and able and prepared to fall in love?

Read on for some thoughts about conducting a college search that could lead to your perfect match.

SCV: Laetitia, how did you decide which colleges you would visit?

Laetitia: I knew I wanted to go to college on the East Coast, so that I would be able to come home on weekends whenever I want. From there, I looked at schools that I thought would be a good fit for me academically. I saw 12 schools in all, and I liked all of them!

SCV: Donna, you have two older children as well. How has your college-search with Laetitia compared with those of her older brother and sister?

Donna: The three kids looked at different kinds of schools, based on their interests and where they were likely to fit best academically. So while all three “tours” focused on East-Coast schools, each child’s list of schools, and thus their experience, was unique.

My son, who is the oldest, was not very interested in visiting colleges or even going to college, to be honest. I knew I would have to make the trips interesting and fun to engage him. We wound up visiting Washington, D.C. , area schools, and he really liked American University. Going there meant we could also see the sights in D.C. He actually flew home early to see his girlfriend, but Laetitia and I visited the Smithsonian after he left!

SCV: Where else did you go in conjunction with college visits?

Donna: My other daughter, Laetitia’s older sister, thought she might want to go to school in the south, where the weather was warmer. We visited Emory, in Atlanta; University of Miami; and Tulane, in New Orleans. Visiting New Orleans was wonderful. We went on a swamp tour and to the aquarium. Having fun with my kids, exploring, and broadening their horizons became a really important part of the experience.

SCV: Laetitia, what were some interesting or fun places that you visited in conjunction with your college visits?

Laetitia: Well, Cambridge and Boston were great, and there was lots of good shopping. I liked getting to go to the shopping malls; we don’t really have malls in New York City! There’s a really nice, interesting archaeology museum and a children’s book museum in Amherst, Massachusetts. It had some original illustrations from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

SCV: So did you find your perfect match? Do you know where you want to go to college now?

Laetitia: There were several schools where I thought I would be very happy, including Wesleyan, Williams and Wellesley. I loved Princeton [University, in Princeton, New Jersey], but that is a dream school, and close to impossible to get into, even for someone who works at it as hard as I do.

I saw Princeton in January, before we went on the nine-college tour. The campus is absolutely beautiful. It has so much in the way of style, history, tradition, school spirit and involvement. The focus there is really on the undergraduate educational experience.That’s not necessarily the case at other prestigious schools, where graduate student education is more the focus.

I plan to apply Early Action to Princeton and have a decision by December 15. If I don't get in, there are other schools where I will be happy as well. Princeton also is my mom’s school! I had been there before, many times, but not as a prospective applicant. Now I really hope I will be admitted, because I think I would be very happy there.

Donna: [Big smile.] That’s what I hope, too. I think Laetitia has a chance. We’ll see!


Learn more about Princeton University through a video tour available here: Visit by Video