Are too many Connecticut students heading South for college?

150px-SACS_map“I want to go to college in the South.” Will, a senior at Valley Regional High School in Deep River, CT said as we started our college counseling session.

As has tended to be the case in such situations, Will has no relatives in the South. His family has no plans on moving to the South. Will has never lived or travelled extensively to the South. The only trip that Will has made to the South was to Disney World. As is commonly understood, much of Florida, specifically Orlando down to Miami is not really the cultural South, geography notwithstanding.

I’ve heard Will’s college aspiration uttered by my Connecticut students with increasing, and, in my mind, alarming frequency. That’s not just Northeastern snobbery but rather from the perspective of a college counselor who has watched parents take the statement literally without taking the time to uncover the meaning.

More importantly, I’ve had to work with an increasing number of students who initially attended college down South and now want to transfer closer to Connecticut.

Parents, guidance counselors and other college counselors tend to ask follow up questions that do not get to the heart of the matter.   They ask “why” which seems to be a sensible question. The student, however, is then put in the position of justifying his answer. “I want a warm climate” tends to be most common response. Going some place fun, attending a big college, and a college with football are often follow-up responses.

My questions tend to focus upon what the pattern of attraction represents. For many, going someplace new (getting out of Connecticut) is one of the dominant reasons. For high school seniors, the college experience, in and of itself, will be new so there is no real need to get on a plane for a new experience.

Fun also is a dominant answer. Images of large Southern colleges tend to show wild parties in a sunny atmosphere. Such images are certainly more visually appealing than snowy Northern colleges but Northern colleges are plenty of fun as well.

The desire to attend football games in large stadiums tends to represent school spirit. Plenty of schools in the North have phenomenal school spirit.

As for the weather, well, that’s a hard one to replace. But Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia have far more temperate climates than Connecticut. That’s usually enough to satiate the desire for better weather.

The college counseling lesson: uncover the meaning underlying the expressed desire to go South for college.