Advice for a parent?
It's college decision time! My daughter has been accepted to Jacobs, UMichigan and Oberlin (violin performance at each) and I'm really excited for her, as I don't think she can go wrong with any of those options. My ask the audience question is, do you have any tips for a parent during this process? She's a super sharp kid and is doing all the homework about studios and who fits for her. But COVID meant we never got to visit any of these places in-person. I'm pretty hands off about this stuff (with the exception of opening the checkbook to pay). I just figured I'd ask the group if they have any suggestions for me from the parent's perspective.
Maybe this would help your question: Is there something in particular that she is really concerned or anxious about? Is there some part of the process she isn't understanding or wants to know more about?
my personal viewpoint is to find a good balance of giving her the benefit of your experience, wisdom, and judgment in terms of making life decisions for valid reasons, but avoid micromanaging and substituting your opinions for hers. Sounds like you don't have issues with the latter, so just try to keep informed and have good conversations with her about the pros and cons of each institution for her, and say something if you're concerned about the logic or long-term effects of her logic, or compliment her if it all sounds beneficial and well-thought out. Writing the check gives you a major right to know what you're writing it for!
My advice is: Listen to everything Mary Ellen has to say about this if she replies!
I think Mary Ellen is the one who had seen the inside of this.
Since I have been summoned......LOL
Thank you all for taking the time to respond and for sharing your wisdom! You have helped ease the mind of an anxious dad who feels like he's about to cosign for a very expensive car we've never driven.
I don't know much about music college, but it seems to me that it's important not only to get an education as a violinist, but also as a musician. So the other courses need to be taught well too. But I wouldn't have any idea how to gauge that among the three programs.
Mood regulation can be important for learning. If you hate being in the main building, not much else will matter for those four years.
Take Mary Ellen's advice.
I worked for a an M.D. Pathologist. His BA was in music at Oberlin, with the pre-med. courses added on. such things are possible.
I can’t speak to the musical aspect, but I imagine there’s a huge difference between student life at a small town LAC where the two populations, the conservatory students and very intellectual/liberal students, together dominate the small campus, and large flagship Us in larger college towns where the music school students are just a small part of the whole and the population runs the gamut from intellectual/liberal towards the more conservative/preppy/fratty type (realising those are large generalisations and no students fit neatly into this imagined dichotomy).
For what it’s worth, the Oberlin conservatory vibe is distinct from that of the College. I fit pretty well into the former, not very well at all into the latter, when I was there. But it does have a distinct flavor and it is not for everyone.
I'm two years behind you on this journey, so I can't really share expertise. However, I've been to all three places at various times and have a good sense of kind of how they feel, and my son has worked with a number of the teachers in either summer programs or masterclasses.
Lydia wrote (about Oberlin) "Even if there's little interest in the academic side, it's important as a possible backup plan -- for instance, in the event of an unexpected major injury."
At the Jacobs School, performance majors take their lessons from the faculty members. Any instruction from the graduate assistants is in addition to, not instead of, faculty instruction.
Sounds like Michigan is the can’t go wrong option.
With respect, only the OP’s daughter is qualified to determine which school feels right to her. No school is the right school for everybody.
One more x factor to consider: how did the three schools handle COVID-19, and what might that indicate about potential future issues? We're probably going to be in much better shape next year but it's still a bit of a race between the new variants and vaccine availability/acceptance. If I were paying an institution $$$$ to take care of my kid, I'd want to know what their contingency plans were around housing etc., and I'd look to see how the leadership handled things over the past two years. Were they flexible? adaptive? did they incorporate new information (e.g. about aerosol transmission) into their planning, or are they still stuck on early pandemic hygiene theater? Did the leadership have their priorities straight? What percentage of their faculty/students/surrounding area have been vaccinated at this point? How good/accessible are student health care services? Etc.
One thing that I think bears emphasizing is that Oberlin doesn't have grad students - in my opinion, that's positive because it means that all the faculty will be focused on teaching at a level appropriate to undergrads (i.e. improving musical and technical skills) rather than grad students (i.e. getting a job). That said, probably the single most important factor is going to be how well your daughter works with her teacher - can she have trial lessons with them, even over zoom? I also second asking the teacher to put her in touch with some of their current students - she can learn a lot about the atmosphere of the school, how serious people are, etc from that. A lot of it is really about fit, and she may have an idea on a subconscious level - a gut feel - that might differ from the best choice "on paper" - I'd go with the gut.
While I have never been a student at either Oberlin or U of M, I have done some guest teaching at Oberlin, and also happen to live in the town where the U Of M main campus is located.
To Irene's point: Protecting children is in large part a matter of physical environment -- trying to ensure that children are not in a position to be molested, and that children feel safe reporting any such behavior.
I can't speak to Michigan at all, but both Oberlin and Indiana have been exemplary in their pandemic handling.
David's point about community size is not trivial, along with Mary Ellen's reminder about personal preferences being hard to predict. My daughter looked at Oberlin for the college, and while there is a town of sorts, it is tiny. Cleveland is not too far away by car, but it is not everyone's first choice of fun undergraduate city. She did apply to other small, non-urban places, but Oberlin really jumped out as a place that did not feel right for her.
I wouldn't expect Oberlin to be a first choice for a kid whose first priority is wild partying, since in Oberlin, even the car bumpers stop rusting after midnight.
“Even the car bumpers stop rusting after midnight “ LOL very true.
I agree with David. I went to a small college in Michigan for my undergraduate degree (Hope College) and it was VERY nice to NOT be spending a lot of time just getting around, and to never really need a car. (Holland, Michigan is not exactly Las Vegas, either. Holland is where Betsy DeVos is from, so that should tell you something about the general atmosphere.)
What does your daughter have to say about this? Does she have one she'd like to attend? Splitting hairs about schools is more he-said-she-said than anything else. Is there one school she feels most excited about attending? If so, that's the one. Her life, her choice.
Lot of valuable insight from folks with first-hand knowledge. Thank you! Update: Looks like she’ll have a chance to visit after all. We are both fully vaccinated now and decided we will make the road trip to see Michigan and Oberlin, walk around a little, kick the tires and try to get a sense of the vibe. She won’t be able to tour the actual spaces but can at least get a sense of the campuses. It has come down to those two for many of the reasons discussed: best fit and feel for the teachers (even if it has been only virtual), music and academic opportunities and the total size of the programs. I think she's leaning toward Michigan. I guess the allure of the big university college town for an 18-year old is a thing. Who knew? Though she says Oberlin is still very much in the running, which makes her practical dad pretty happy.
So many wonderful ideas have already been shared. Here are my "two-cents" as a parent who has gone through this twice in the past four years.
"She won’t be able to tour the actual spaces." I'd be surprised if the building doors are locked on weekdays. Performance spaces are likely kept locked when not in use, though, so you'd need a tour guide to get into those. I teach chemistry at Virginia Tech. During tour season it's not uncommon to see a parent and teenager in the lobby of my building just having a look-see. I usually ask where they're from, and if there's something special they want to see.