Visiting Colleges

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Here are some random things I’ve learned after our recent college tours. (We’re in the middle of visiting Skidmore, Union, Hamilton, Colgate, Syracuse, Binghamton, Kenyon, Case Western, and Oberlin. Over Spring Break, we visited Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, Elon, Davidson, and Wake Forest.)

It is so fun – and only slightly worrisome — to watch your tour guide walk backwards. They are really good at this. Only a few times did we NOT have backward-walking guides (at Syracuse and at Binghamton – we were very disappointed). Only once did we fret that our backward-walking student guide was about to walk into something. In this case, a chair. I alerted him. Disaster averted.

Many tour guides will tell you of their school’s fun traditions. Here are a few:

  • rolling the quad – in toilet paper (Wake Forest);
  • sitting on a stone bench and whomever you you sit with, you will marry; sit alone, you’ll  never marry. Guide advised us never to sit there (Syracuse);
  • neighbors bake you cookies the night before finals (Davidson).

Some guides are totally honest and tell you the stuff that really matters to them. Like Anan at Colgate showed us the best places on campus to nap. A few times since coming to Chautauqua yesterday, I’ve thought, wow, I wish I could tell Anan about this cozy nook. He’d like to nap there.

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napping at Hamilton

The admission people who do the information sessions are super nice. They are often very smart –such as our admissions director at Duke, a slightly older slimmer version of myself. She was very funny.

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me, napping at Hamilton

When we were about to depart on this college tour from Westport, New York, my brother-in-law was a bit cynical. He said, “Aw, they’re all trying to sell you their school. These college tours are marketing ploys.” Yes, I agreed. But later, I remembered something — I love marketing. Marketing is cool. Marketing is a good college major. Bring on the marketing.

They are actual students taking us around, not supermodels. Several of our guides were totally unique – with very human quirks, disabilities, neuroses, what have you. And they shared their stories with us — often, about how they chose their schools.

I love meeting these young people. They are studying so many cool things. My favorite, Antonia at Union, is like me — into social justice. I loved hearing about her volunteer work with Girls, Inc. I also liked the trimester system there.

I guess one thing that’s surprised me is that I haven’t made friends with the other parents. But a lot of the other parents look shell-shocked — either at the cost of these colleges or at their jealousy over their children getting to go away to these awesome campuses. While we parents are stuck at home (with the bill).

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a fun tradition at Syracuse — you jump and hear a reverberation

As for which one we like best so far, it’s hard to say. We like them all for different reasons. And I think Hayden can see himself on many of these campuses. (Financial aid does play a big part in the decision.)

It has made me think about my own college classroom experience. While I loved going to a gigantic school, NYU, I did not love those classes that had more than 40 people in them. I never met the teachers in those classes, or cared too much about my attendance. I liked the symposium-style classes in the English Department of 6 to 8 people (like in my Henry James or Joseph Conrad classes).

But another reality hits me when we are on these tours. And I try not to think about this for too long. In a year’s time, I will miss my son incredibly when he does, God willing, go away to school. This college-touring time is special. We are together 24/7. And we’ve been getting on each other’s nerves — but then we rebound — we laugh together or nap. Or enjoy watching our tour guides walk backwards.

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really getting into the college groove. more napping.

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the porch at Union. a nice place for a nap.

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this is a study room at Hamilton. you could definitely nap here.

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