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Choosing College: Where Your Friends Don’t Attend

March 3, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Choosing College: Where Friends Don’t Attend | For your child, choosing a college where their friends are going is probably high on their list, but there's a great opportunity to learn who they really are if they choose a college where a lot of friends aren't attending.

As juniors in high school are scouting potential colleges and seniors are choosing from the schools they were accepted to, a common deciding factor is where their friends are going. Many high school students go to one of the state schools, as it’s more cost-friendly and is usually a little easier to get into, which means a lot of friends will also be going there. But is going to a school where your high school friends attend the best decision?

Encourage your child to consider choosing a college where fewer of his or her friends will be attending for the following reasons:

Broaden horizons
Without an established group of friends to act as a crutch, your child has an opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds, try different ways of thinking, and really find him or herself.

Find independence and strengthen character
It’s easier to learn who we really are in moments of solitude, and starting college alone would help facilitate your child’s journey to discover that person. At first, starting a new school without an established group of friends to fall back on will be difficult and lonely, but the experience of getting through that loneliness will strengthen your child’s character and prepare him or her for the more difficult life moments ahead.

Get out of his or her comfort zone
Getting out of one’s comfort zone helps strengthen character and encourages independence. It’s really hard to do, and as a parent, you might need to field a few phone calls from your child crying, but assure him or her that it will get better.

Encourage your child to go to a campus event alone, no matter how dorky it might seem. Worst case, he or she can always leave after 30 minutes if it’s insufferable. Best case, your child meets new people, learns a little bit, and feels more confident for taking that risk and feeling a little uncomfortable at first.

Find your true matches
One of the best parts of college for me was meeting entirely new groups of friends who I truly clicked with—people who grew up in different environments with different stories, but in the end, we were true friend matches. Some of them have ended up being the friends I’ve now had the longest in my life, and it’s truly wonderful to have people who have known and liked me when I was finding my way through college and my twenties. I never would have met them, though, if I hadn’t branched out, met new people, and learned who I really was and am.

Focus on academics
For many college freshmen, the first few months of school are really difficult. Learning how to balance class, study time, group projects, chores, and a social life is tough, especially when they suddenly have this newfound freedom and the ability to do whatever they want whenever they want. Without a built-in group of friends, your child will have a little extra time to focus on establishing good study habits so that when he or she starts socializing more, studying will be less of a problem.

Of course, it’s also possible to gain these benefits by attending a college where many of your child’s high school classmates are attending. Just encourage him or her to make an effort to meet new people in addition to strengthening high school friendships. The above reasons can still apply even with an established group of friends if your child branches out just a little.

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