College and Holiday Breaks: Things to Consider Before You Choose Where to Send your Student

If you read my post from a few days ago, you know I’m on a trip to visit a college with one my sons. There is lot to consider when looking at colleges. It is very much a personal decision governed by family values, resources, the student’s desires and preferences, and more.

For us, it has always been both fun and stressful when it came time for one of our sons to select a university.  But, our two young men who are already in college made good choices that fit their needs, desires, and a budget that we set and saved for them.  We, know, and they know, that there is privilege associated with the ability to make these choices and this is not at all a post about social justice issues.  If they desire/desired a place over and above said budget, they knew that they were responsible for making up the difference. They were told not to count on aide, grants, or even scholarships, even though we did have a National Merit Scholarship winner and valedictorian.  I’ve long wanted to write a post on whether those two designations were important or not, but I’ll save that for another time.

Today, I want to address college holiday schedules. I have been reading, with interest, social media posts by parents who are upset that their college students (mostly freshman) do not have more than a few days off for Thanksgiving break. If the length of college breaks are important to your family, then I strongly encourage you to look into this variable as your student is choosing a college AND make it part of the decision making process.  It is not acceptable to be angry at the university or demand change if you are unhappy with the break schedule where your student attends. You and your student chose (for the most part) to attend said college. You should have been aware of the implications of a short break and decided to live with those implications (or not) BEFORE sending your student to attend that institution.  It is also NOT your job to fix this for your student and/or family.

Today, I’ve seen many posts asking universities to change their break schedules to fit their student needs (or desires) for a longer break.  Again, many of these requests are due to people living six or more hours away from where their child attends university and their personal problems with the tightness of the schedule for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

None of these complaints make any sense to me at all. Maybe it is because our family has dealt with odd holiday schedules for years. My husband worked in health care and he usually had to work either Thanksgiving or Christmas and New Year. None of us complained or expected the institution to change. People get sick during holidays as well as any other day.  As a health care worker, you know you are signing on for this when you decide to be one.

Similarly, when you pick a college, you are signing on to their set academic schedule. Do not expect them to change for you because you live hours away from where Johnny attends or because you agreed to serve dinner to your extended family and cannot make the trip to retrieve him for break. Make no mistake, this is what is being asked and some of the reasons why it is being asked of these institutions.

My oldest son attends university where they have a week off for Thanksgiving. It is a well needed break for students who have been in class since the third week in August. But, since he has been involved in working on campus, in research, rarely has he been home “for the week.”  My middle son falls partially into the category of institution described above where he has just Thursday and Friday off for Thanksgiving. He attends a university six hours away from our home. We made plans to get him after class on Wednesday and return him on Sunday. It is just the way it is.

Is this an inconvenience? Well, it is, and it isn’t. We want to have him home for a few days. He wants to come home for a few days. We agreed to let him attend his university of choice, six hours away.  If there is a problem with this break schedule, it is ours, and no one else’s.  Let me just stay we do not have a problem with this. It is important for us to have him home, and we will go get him. He also made our trip easier by finding a ride that will bring him closer to home by half the distance! We appreciate that effort on his part.

I can assure you the distance of where they attend college and the ease of getting home for breaks was thoroughly discussed in our home before any decision was made about where our student go to school. Academic calendars are usually posted online on the institution’s website. You AND your student need to look at those schedules beforehand and decide what a possible plan for break might be as far as transportation to home and back to campus might look like.

Going to college and where you go depends on many factors. But, discussing break lengths and transportation should be part of the decision making process whether your student attends near or far. But, if they attend an institution far from home, you need to be ready to live with the holiday schedule the institution has set.  It really is not their problem.





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