School daze: Ten warning signs you've spent too much time touring college campuses

Parents of rising high school seniors with college aspirations have likely spent a good chunk of time this year experiencing that peculiar educational tradition known as the "college visit." Even those who have already criss-crossed the country catering to the whims of a child enthralled with the prospect of attending school on the West Coast or maybe in the Northeast or perhaps Florida, or all three simultaneously, if that were only possible, may have miles to go yet before they sleep.

They have worn out shoes walking across campuses and car tires getting there, listened patiently to hours of lectures from dozens of admissions officers and student volunteers, learned more about college architecture and history than they'd ever dreamed of knowing, and taxed the GPS abilities of their smart phones, particularly since every school in the nation seems to be overrun by construction crews adding to their architectural inventory right now.

Is it possible that parents can go too far in this thankless quest? As a public service to our readers, we offer the following checklist to find out.

The top 10 signs you've spent too much time touring college campuses with your son or daughter:

10. You no longer "ooh" or "aah" over luxurious dorms and upscale dining hall fare but have started to resent them because they lack the mildewed mattresses and "mystery meat" entrees that you recall from your own, more "authentic" experience.

9. The staggering cost of tuition at private, liberal arts colleges no longer causes you uncontrollable heart palpitations. As so often happens in Washington budget deliberations, the numbers now seem perfectly ordinary even though they represent they equivalent of buying one new luxury car each year and pushing it off a cliff.

8. You start asking your student tour guide more about his or her parents and their finances than about the school.

7. When you return to work, it seems odd that your office doesn't have a large, manicured lawn in front with dozens of young people tossing Frisbees.

6. You have become fluent in obscure Division III athletic conference acronyms like the AMCC, the CCIW, the NCHA or the PAC.

5. It has finally dawned on you that all the talk about how "green" these places are was a commentary on their environmental stewardship, not their cost.

4. You no longer snicker when the list of possible majors includes art history, music therapy, film studies, sports ministry or floral management.

3. Your retirement date has officially been put off for an additional five years. (And the spouse's by 10, but don't tell her).

2. You are so gripped by student envy that you seriously consider trading places and enrolling in 2013 while the kid writes the checks.

1. The idea of driving to Minnesota for a weekend visit doesn't seem out of the question.

Peter Jensen

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