Most of us follow a set path while preparing our children for college—we give them formal education, we motivate them with dreams of future success, and we give them suggestions on what to do and where to go. However, we do not teach them to aspire for education. Consequently, we have to force them to study and constantly remind them of the importance of academic performance.
A dream is more than scores and a selective list of extracurricular activities. It is a sense of being a part of something bigger. Take your children to institutes of excellence in your country or abroad. Share with them the history and grandeur of each institution. By teaching your children how to dream, you empower them.
Accompany them through an immersive experience of what it means to be on the campus of a world-renowned university in Singapore, the US, the UK, or Australia. You will see their eyes light up. You will see how they begin to dream big and start connecting that dream with their daily tasks. You need to give them a dream big enough to nourish their imagination and their sense of purpose.
In Hong Kong or the UK, parents take their children on several academic tours by the time they are ready to start college, whereas in India such family academic tours are a rarity.
Formal Academic Tours: the next step
Planning tours is simple since almost every college has a schedule and sign-up option on its website. Avoid college break times such as Winter Break, Veterans Day, and Spring Break. You should definitely be on the lookout to meet Admissions Officers, so avoid application review season as they are less likely to have the time for an extended discussion with you regarding your child’s prospects and career.
When deciding which colleges to visit, keep in mind your child’s academic interests, the historical interest the place might hold, the weather, and the activities your child can participate in. You should focus on letting your child experience the college campus and its facilities, the city atmosphere, industry presence, food, people, cultural landmarks, recreation options, and cafes. Your child should gain the holistic experience of being a student there.
As an added benefit, you will find that formal academic tours often lead to great admissions essays as well! This is not surprising since children can better imagine themselves as students in the place they have already visited. Each college has a unique vibe that is difficult to imagine and even more difficult to write about unless you have felt it first-hand. Furthermore, college visits will enable colleges to know your child as well. While some colleges explicitly state that they don’t track college visits, there are many colleges that do.
Imagine being at the Low Plaza at Columbia University. Modelled on the Greek Amphitheater, the plaza seems a fitting attribute for an academic centre of excellence going back to 1754 when it was called King’s College after King George II of England.
A group of students in animated conversation distracts you for a moment before you turn to your child and begin telling her about the place. She holds on to every word. You see her absorbing not just the facts and figures but the ethos of the place.
Next time she hears about Columbia she will remember not just a name but an image of a learning community. She will carry with her the awe and respect for a longstanding centre of academic excellence. She will have learned to dream for herself without you telling her to value education in so many words.
Imagine standing next to the swimming and diving facility at the University of Michigan, the shadow of Michael Phelps looming large. Will your child does not appreciate how these universities have nurtured and driven athletes and politicians and economists and entrepreneurs? Will they not begin to consider life at a world-renowned university to be a concrete achievement possible In the future instead of something that simply happens to other people?
Also consider that the academic tours or walks in the US are often guided by sophomore students, giving your child insights into life on campus and actual people to be inspired by.
When to begin taking your children on academic tours?
Fairly early on I would say. A family I know started with a visit to the Shantiniketan campus for their daughters who were 10 and 15 years old. The kids got to experience the history and ethos of an institution that played a pivotal role in shaping our country’s culture. More importantly, they experienced the “place” for themselves, by travelling to it specifically as they would see any other monument or temple. Over the years, they continued this practice of visiting educational landmarks and centres of excellence that have stood the test of time.
Try to make education as immediate and personal as possible for your children. Parents should make the effort to point out their alma maters and discuss the centres of learning in the city. Education should be as much a part of conversations around the house as say politics or sports or business.
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