If you have a high school junior, you're probably ready to hit the road on an iconic bonding trip with your disengaged teen. Here are ten surefire tips to help organize a journey that will turn off your student to higher learning and destroy your relationship forever:
1. TRAVEL DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF APRIL
Although one would expect glorious, or at least pleasant, weather during this early spring week, there will most likely be an ice storm in Ithaca, a blizzard in Bloomington, gale force winds in Providence and torrential flooding in Seattle.
2. BEGIN YOUR TOUR AT A COLLEGE THAT IS 400 MILES FROM THE NEAREST MAJOR AIRPORT
Start at Middlebury College in Vermont. Because this excellent school lies off the grid, there is no easy way to get there, and your Garmin will spend the whole trip "recalculating." By the time you arrive, your family members will not be talking to each other.
3. IGNORE CHECK-OUT TIMES AT LOCAL HOTELS
Beware: Many sweet, charming inns are owned by their sweet, charming neighboring colleges. If you don't show up at noon for check-out, you will receive a nasty text on your cell ...which will be forwarded to the admissions office.
4. ARRANGE FOR YOUR STUDENT TO SPEND THE NIGHT IN A DORM WITH A "REAL" STUDENT
This sounds like a good idea, but will surely backfire. If the college sets up the visit, the host will be so chipper and clean cut that your teen won't even want to apply. But if your child stays with a friend, especially on a Wednesday (which is the new Thursday) and has too good a time with a borrowed fake ID, you won't be very motivated to write a check for $200k.
5. SIGN UP FOR AN 8 AM INFO SESSION
Beware of undercover admissions officers who track yawning, squirming and snoozing.
6. ASK OBNOXIOUS QUESTIONS THAT WILL MORTIFY YOUR CHILDREN
Example: "Theoretically, if a student has taken every AP offered by his school and has patented a non-surgical method to remove bunions, will you waive your four-year language requirement?"
7. CHOOSE A TOUR GUIDE WHO HAS DISCOVERED A GALAXY
The smugger the tour guide, the less interested your teen will be in the school. Other turn-offs include studded headbands, pink polos with popped collars, black nail polish, Sherpa caps, Uggs on males, preppy ponytails and perspiration issues. Also overuse of any of the following terms: civic-minded, power-of-ideas, neuro-globalization and intellectual cross-training.
8. HAVE YOUR STUDENT CONTACT A PROFESSOR ABOUT SITTING IN ON A CLASS
If the class is fascinating, your teen will want to attend the school, but will probably not be able to get in. And if it is dull, your child will be turned off to college, and will instead sign up to work on an organic farm.
9. BRAG TO OTHER PARENTS ABOUT YOUR STUDENT'S VALEDICTORIAN STATUS
Sadly, colleges are equally braggy about the large quantity of vals they turn down.
10. BOOK NONCHANGEABLE FLIGHTS
After touring three universities, your son or daughter will have had enough. He or she will want you to skip the next twelve schools on your itinerary and hop on a plane to the Turks & Caicos for a proper spring break ...but unfortunately, you booked those seven nonrefundable flights!