It was an odd time for the train to be full. Full of anxious and excited teenagers and anxious middle-age parents. This was the annual migration. Of Lower Sixth formers to visit one of their possible choices for undergraduate education. It is the season when the organised take numerous trips to universities across the country. I'm guessing that the numbers this year are somewhat down as the economic realities of racking up an enormous debt in an uncertain labour market will steer many away from the corridors of further education.
Once upon a time we would all make the trip alone, but these days it seems most are accompanied by parents. To be honest I haven't a clue why. Really I think it's madness. But such is social pressure that I was there on the train as it trundled down to Southampton. It's not that I mind going...why would I? But this is the start of the process of a child becoming a young adult, making their own decisions, making their own mistakes...and deciding where they want to spend the next three or four years is something they should be able to decide without parental interference....and try as any parent might, if they are there with them, they will express an opinion, and influence the choice. We're looking at what might best be described as pretty safe universities...all with good histories, well respected and certain to educate The Boy to a good level...so in effect it's a bit like choosing a car - you know that a Jaguar, a BMW, a Mercedes, an Audi is a good car, and the decision on which to get is just a personal thing. I suspect the whole parents coming along thing is simply a reflection of how over-protective we have become, and that doesn't do anyone any favours in the long run.
Anyway, he liked it. Even in the rain. My opinion is neither here nor there. And there are plenty more to take for a test ride.
By some remarkable coincidence, whilst we were standing at the bus stop getting soaked to the skin, I received an e-mail from Parent Adviser that aims to help parents through the university selection maze. It can be found at www.parentadviser.co.uk I hope it helps.