Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Slice of Life: Reflections in the Middle of a College Tour

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My second daughter is about to start her junior year in high school, and, since several of the colleges are far away, we are in the middle of an early road trip as I write. The slices have piled up, and I have wrestled with what to write, but, in keeping with the academic nature of the blog, I have chosen the most academically related one.

We have toured two campuses so far, and I have to say that one of them (I will not name the university) impressed me much less than I thought it would. Here's why:

  • On the back of every toilet stall that I used was information about drinking and instructions in case anyone has alcohol poisoning.
  • The classroom that we were proudly shown was a lecture hall with about fifty very comfortable chairs that were immobile other than the swiveling action. These chairs were positioned on levels to face the front podium. 
  • Although the room had several technological features--there was a computer in the front by the podium, a television in the back (I'm not sure how the back row would access it, though), and speakers all around--there were chalkboards in the front. I haven't seen chalkboards in a while. Do people still use them? My daughters don't understand it when I complain about squeaking chalk on fingernails on a board. (Both give me goosebumps.)
  • Our tour guide proudly told us about his relationships with professors. One was based on how his professor helps him to use mathematical formulas correctly, and the other was about how he and his professor love to talk about and analyze the latest X-Box games. 
  • He also told us about the food, the dorms, the extra-curricular activities, the various traditions, parties and celebrations, the sporting events, and the conversations with his professors about professional athletes. 
  • Julia and I went to the town to have lunch and one of the two people I know who goes there was waitressing at an Irish pub, so we had lunch there. It was a forgettable meal, although I was happy to see our friend. "It's not the best food, really," she said as I paid. "Mostly, it's a drinking place."
I told my daughter that I am working hard at not making judgements, since I  do want the decision to be hers. I'm actually really interested in watching her process information, tours, cultures, and climates of various places. I've reminded her that it's summer, so it's very different than when school is in session, and she should keep that lens on when envisioning herself at any of these places. However, I will make a couple of judgements in the safe environment of my TWT community--Julia should really read my blog! 

Where's the excitement about learning???? What is the college experience about? For $250,000, we will get more than safe drinking environments and knowledge about how to work mathematical formulas, right? I know that the answers to these questions are probably more what I want them to be at this particular school, that what came across yesterday, and I do think that this university does great things and involves students in powerful learning opportunities. However, if Julia does end up choosing between this school and others, I will be looking hard at how and what kind of learning is valued!

Off to see more! Happy slicing!


  1. It is truly a changed world. I too, noticed a change in values and message between the time my two daughters went on the college search circuit (only 3 years apart). Good luck and hang in there!

  2. I know a college prof who says he can always count on chalk! He hates having to use technology. Looks like your daughter has some thinking to do. Enjoy the rest of your visits!

  3. You are definitely coming at this from a different perspective than your own college days! (Not the least bit of which involves financing this education!) Best of luck with the search!

  4. My oldest is also in the middle of this process. And the thing that strikes me, nearly everywhere, is the luxury of the facilities. Yikes. All so different than when we were going through the process ourselves. Good luck.

  5. It is wonderful that your daughter has you to talk through these things you are noticing on each campus

  6. I know how you feel. I remember loving two colleges my sons wanted nothing to do with. I have to keep reminding myself, it's them going not me! The trouble is I'm the one paying. In the end it is best they choose what fits them. Good luck!!

  7. Wow. That's actually really frightening. A college education gets you what?!? My eyes would have been bugging out of my head during the tour! Hmmm...lots to think about, but knowing you raised Julia to reflect, compare and analyze all situations. (You could each do a plus/delta or pros/cons to compare ... just to remind her of what you saw and heard...) My girls are only 4, but this day will come. I wonder how colleges will begin to look different thinking about 21 century learning, integrating more technology, etc. For the money, we want the BEST education to prepare our children for life! Best of luck in your decision making! :) Hang in there.

  8. So much depends on the tour guide. I'll never forget touring Harvard with our oldest, Elizabeth. We had an awful tour guide who focused on just the most mundane things. Later, we were taken on another tour by a friend's daughter, a student there. Different tour - could have ben a different college! The drinking thing is a real issue now, as are issues of sexual assault. We live in a different world, but we raise kids who reflect our own hearts and souls. They have been listening to us, all the years they have lived under our roof - and that is what they will take with them to college...which will be a joyful time of learning, of finding themselves, of returning home to share what they are always in the process of becoming: their true selves. We just have to trust that.

  9. Choosing a college--what a difficult job! Wishing you all the best!