It’s a Family Affair

Elisabeth Oster, Editor-in-Chief

Elisabeth Oster

  Beginning the college process is often characterized as an opportunity for increased freedom and the exploration of the unknown—a time for
discovery, learning, and a fair share of parties. This excitement, however, isn’t exactly the same for those with siblings. Before I even began my college searching, I had already toured at least ten colleges, slept in multiple dorms, and frequented college dining halls.
  For me, the college search wasn’t necessarily about finding the right college for me, but rather finding a different experience than my sisters.
  According to a study conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, one-fifth of younger siblings enrolled in the same college as older siblings.
  In fact, this happened in my family— both of my older sisters spent hours decorating dorms and going to business classes within the walls of the University of Northwestern-St. Paul campus. A college with fewer students than Wayzata and a mere half hour from our house, my family became familiar with a very particular college atmosphere.
  My older sister, however, did not begin our family’s introductory college experience at Northwestern. She instead packed her containers and ended up among the trees and hipster storefronts at the University of Minnesota Duluth. To put it simply, it did not go well.
  A few weeks in, our family received a myriad of Skype calls filled with comments of homesickness and a large amount of crying. Faster than you could chant “U-M-D B-U-L-L-D-O-G-S,” my sister became a Northwestern Eagle.
  When it came time for me to apply, my parents had a large sense of what they felt a college should be like and what I could handle.
  According to a Kaplan Test Prep Survey, an extension of Washington Post, parental influence has increased so rapidly, that 61 percent of colleges have been prompted to establish new initiatives for parents specifically.
  My sisters’ alma mater became a model of college for my parents, particularly regarding its size and location.
  So when I firmly said I wouldn’t be populating the halls of the University of Northwestern-St. Paul with another Oster daughter, I definitely received some parameters to my college search.
  Because of my parent’s experience with distance when it came to college, I was clearly told to avoid anything farther than a car ride. When I began considering schools more than 8 times larger than Wayzata, I received talks about if I would be able to find communities to be a part of.
  Having siblings who have gone through college is overall not a bad thing. I have personally experienced less stress looking at college mailers and generic college essay questions. I have an understanding of what are actually the most important factors when choosing a college as I have subconsciously been thinking about it for the past six years.
  Older siblings are an important and intriguing factor in college decisions that is often swept under the rug when it comes to counselor appointments and advice received from the general population. Previous sibling decisions create unique pressures to take the same path as older siblings and to look for the same things. In general, it’s important to understand that how parents feel about a student’s collegiate search has a lot to do with previous sibling experiences or even their own.
  Despite this pressure, it also becomes a source of motivation to work towards a different college experience. That being said, this coming fall you will definitely not see me donning Northwestern Eagles apparel, nor will you see me majoring in anything business-related—and that’s perfectly fine.