Overcoming your sentimental alumni bias in the college decision process

My S21 is choosing between two colleges and we went on tours for both this week. I’m an alum of the one school and being back on campus for the first time since 1989 brought back strong emotions. Literally I was tearing up taking his picture, and muscle memory kicked in finding my way around. I hoped that we’d drive home with him saying “I found my home” and look no further. For the other school, I think the campus just clicked with him (totally different sprawling classic campus v. urban campus). The pros/cons or similarities of each school make them a pretty equal choice (academically “my” school might have an edge). I know this is his decision and there’s no way to objectively account for taste, just like love. I’d be a little sad if he didn’t pick “my” school. He’s still undecided and I’m doing my best to be neutral in laying out the information for him without bias. Did anyone else go through this?

My kid didn’t even want to apply to our alma mater so you are a step ahead of me. Both H and I went to the same school as did his whole family. D was in swag since before she could walk but we had a rough official visit to campus with a stressed out, unhappy tour guide. D hated everything about it and refused to apply. H’s family was appalled. In the end, this was her college search and experience, not ours so we supported her decision and ultimately agreed with her that it wasn’t the right fit for her.

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I don’t have that experience, however I vividly remember my dad suggesting I apply to his alma mater. This is a reenactment of my reaction: As if Clueless - YouTube

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I had it the other way: one of ours was seriously interested in a school that I had very strongly negative feelings about, based on what the guys there were like way back when I was at a neighboring school. Was really, really happy when she something else caught her eye!

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Thank you. It’s good to know I’m not the only one. I should say that the visit to my alma mater was a bit rough as well. It was raining and dreary and between the weather and COVID, nobody was out and about. The tour guide was screaming to be heard in heavy rain at one point. For the urban campus, the sun was shining, the bell tower was ringing and the marching band was playing (my son was in marching band). Everyone was out and about and happy (or at least they seemed happy despite the masks). I wonder if I go back to the first school on a sunny day with more students running around and girls playing frisbee in bikini tops (LOL) it would make a difference. Probably not. The classic columned buildings that brought me so much nostalgia all looked the same to him and bland. Instead, he liked the eclectic mixture of 150 year old stone buildings next to brand new modern buildings and bustle of the city campus. But maybe I’ll make him go back and see if I can hire the marching band. :rofl:

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I can understand. My son applied to a school which I thought was too much of a party school/all about football, and he knew I felt that way. When he was rejected (which was actually shocking b/c he was accepted to more selective schools) I was kind of relieved but did feel bad for him.

I wanted one of my kids to apply to my alma mater which would have been fine for her. She didn’t see it that way. It was totally off for my other kid.

One kid did apply to DHs alma mater but a completely different college within the university. It was the kids very likely admission…and he was admitted with a huge scholarship. But it’s sort of local to us and he had a lot of other options that were better choices for a number of reasons.

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My husband and I went to the same school and we toured with my daughter, mainly because we were in the area and it has a fantastic program for her major. It was one of the few college tours we did were the weather was perfect and she liked it a lot more than she expected. She applied and was accepted but it seemed important to her to forge her own way. She commented that when we visited her at school she wanted to show us around (and not the other way around). She ended up choosing something COMPLETELY different than our school (small private vs. large Big 10) and loves it.

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H and I wanted our three boys to go to our Alma mater because we loved it so much and even met each other there. None did. None even applied. Oldest was very nice breaking it to us gently when, right after a tour, he told us something to the effect of, “I know you really liked it here and it’s a terrific school, but I just don’t feel it’s me or where I’d like to be.” H and I thought about it and realized neither of us wanted to go where our parents did, so it helped us understand his POV.

From then on, we’ve gotten the sweatshirts from their chosen schools and proudly wear them in the right settings. And we still have ours. :wink:

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Thanks for bringing up this issue. D19 applied to our alma mater, but when she visited after being accepted, it was clearly not a fit for her. D21 now has our alma mater as one of her top 3. We’re going to do a quick visit to the area later this month, and it’s a good to be reminded our biases, especially since visits on campuses are so limited right now.

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We had the opposite issue. We knew my son really liked my wife’s school but just wanted to check out other school also. But when it came down to the like final 3 there was lots for him to think about. We helped with pro /con lists since we were having fun but one day a few days before his decision day my wife wore different Michigan Tshirts every day. I walked around with a Michigan cap and played their marching band theme on my phone while walking past him asking “Did you make a decision yet”? :rofl:

We knew he wanted to be there and couldn’t figure out why he was delaying… Lol… If we didn’t know where he wanted to be we wouldn’t of done this. We were having some fun with the process.

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Although I always have my own bias, I tried not to influence my son’s college decision. We cast our net wide. I helped him gather information on all the colleges, raised issues for each college for him to further explore, and always tried to be a sounding board for him to bounce off ideas. He didn’t make his final decision until he returned from all his admitted student days (pre-pandemic, of course). It was his decision alone and he picked one of my alma maters. I feel good that I can now check the additional box as a parent whenever I make my contribution to the school (which doesn’t give preference to legacies).

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DH and I met at Michigan 44 years ago and were inseparable from the second week of my freshman year. Several of DH’s siblings and kids are Michigan grads, just runs in the family. Our only child’s first intelligible words were “Go Boo!,” and we took him to Ann Arbor every time we went back to visit family. By the time he was applying to colleges, he could have given the U-M tour blindfolded. So, yeah, we were rather disappointed when he kicked Michigan to the curb for a service academy, but he knew what he wanted. We got over it. Eventually. I think.

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Mine is a little different. My husband and I went to the same college, and while we don’t care if our children don’t attend that school, we have certain biases against OTHER schools, based on rivalries with our school. There is one excellent school that was a major rival to ours, and if our son were to go there, my husband and I would NOT be able to support their sports team or wear the gear. Because my children have also grown up “hating” that school, I don’t think it will be an issue, but unfortunately they have a good reputation for the major my son is thinking of pursuing.

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We have a family member interested in a rival school and all I hear is a very unflattering hockey cheer every time someone says the school name. :wink:

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I don’t think my kids were aware that the U of Nebraska even exists. I certainly never mentioned it and I wasn’t paying for it.

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Based on my previous post, I think it goes without saying that our son was raised with, “Anywhere but OSU.” Thank heaven he didn’t rebel that egregiously. :wink:

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My son will find out tomorrow if he was accepted at my school, where I met his father and his grandparents also attended. He did not apply ED and was lukewarm on the option until recently. I think I now actually prefer one of his other options for him more than my school, I think it just may fit him better. I think they are academic equals, I just want him to be happy. I do keep going back and forth in my mind. I’m concerned he’s more worried about proximity to the college his girlfriend will be attending, haha.

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Two of my kids applied to my alma mater. One is attending; the other didn’t get in, and I confess I was a wee bit relieved, because I didn’t feel it was an ideal fit for him. But I never tried to talk him out of applying, and if he had gotten in and wanted to attend, I wouldn’t have stood in the way.

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My oldest attended my alma mater as it was a good fit and offered the best merit aid. While not his first choice, the cost differential for his first choice just did not make sense (he couldn’t borrow that much without our support and we wouldn’t do it). It turned out to be a great experience for him.

However, the other two didn’t even apply. It would have been a good fit for the youngest, but while he may have been admitted, he did not have the grades/NMF status that would have secured good merit aid.

For me, it was less about nostalgia and more about the school seeming to be a good fit - academically, socially and financially.

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