Sunday, August 19, 2012

Touring Colleges...

I am loathe to call my trip to California a vacation, but I guess when one spends an entire day with her life-long best friend doing absolutely nothing but enjoying each other AND one reads a fun book, a vacation has been had.  Plus spending time with my mommy and daddy which always refuels my spirit!

However, we were also on a mission:  5 colleges in 6 days.  Fortunately, my daddy took Teen Boy to two of them.  Unfortunately, because of that I have learned very little about them except that Stanford went from I'll stop because I'm in the area to TOP CHOICE.

We all ventured to California Institute of Technology together.  They do know how to put on a program... first up, a lecture with some of the people that are responsible for putting Curiosity on Mars.  To be honest, whoop de doop, we went to Mars again.  What did we learn the last time?  I don't even know.  BUT after attending this lecture (which sounds more boring and less interactive than it really was), I'm like WE LANDED ON MARS AGAIN!  HOW COOL IS THAT!  And I'm that excited even though I didn't answer any questions correctly and get candy thrown at me.  These geeks were totally knowledgeable AND personable!  The presentation (better word) was followed by a tour of campus.  Yes, somehow we got into a group with a young woman that repeated herself often, took us on a short cut that led us down dumpster alley and failed to finish on time.  (But I did get to see the turtles in turtle pond.  Cause that's what is going to sell me on a campus.)  Daddy and I left early because I didn't want to miss the financial aid session and you could tell when our group finally finished because into the room came a bunch of folks I recognized like 10 minutes late.  The boys ventured off to a session that was about research.  I think.  It occurs to me now that they never said anything about it.  The thing CAL TECH did best though was PROVIDE WATER!  It was like 85 degrees by 9 in the morning and they had buckets of ice and bottles of water at each presentation location.  THANK YOU!  Yes, that is the kind of thing that makes a mom/grandmom/granddad support a school.  Green?  No.  Good PR?  YES.  We had a bonus appointment scheduled with last year's women's swim team captain who told us all about the swim program and allowed Teen Boy to swim in their pool.  The best part about it, is I learned at the financial aid session that if we are working with a Coach on campus, it is like getting a BONUS letter of recommendation.  A leg up, if you will.  We'll take it!

After a couple days of break for Mom and me, we were off to USC (for those of you that have forgotten, we're in California, so this would be the University of California, not South Carolina) for an afternoon of sessions and tours.  Less impressive for the grown-ups, but I watched it move up the list for Teen Boy.  So here's the breakdown not in any particular order: 
  1. The Admissions Office must get the profits from the drink machines located 60 minutes into a 90 minute walking tour because I was never so happy to swipe my credit card for overpriced drinks in my LIFE!  Come ON people!  90 minute walking tour should be condensed... your campus isn't that big and some of the generic stuff could be said with a 10 minute slide show!  BUT if you are convinced that a 90 minute walking tour is essential to convincing prospective students to come, SUPPLY THEM WITH WATER WHEN IT IS 90+ degrees! 
  2. If you are going to talk about your very cool off site laboratory on Catalina Island, know where it is!  It is not 5 miles from campus (as explained by our tour guide although in theory he could have been meaning the boat to get there is about 5 miles from campus which is also incorrect.)  Nor is it 50 miles off shore, as we were informed by the admissions counselor in the Admissions Session.  As my mother sang over and over in my ear, it is "26 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waitin for me".  It doesn't exactly make you feel good that this is the person deciding if you get to come to USC.  Know your information.
  3. Having a session breakout by college was a great idea.  The engineering folks were great at making a large campus have a small feel, which is just what my boy is looking for.  Kudos to them!
Our final tour was of Harvey Mudd way out on the east side of LA.  Pretty little town, Pomona, as you drive in.  And it is part of the Claremont Schools which are 7 different colleges that are kind of rolled together into one.  Honestly, I thought the dead bird in the middle of the sidewalk with the thousands of ants parading to and from was gross, but the guys rolled on by it with hardly a glance.  I thought the old sofas and chairs sitting outside one of the dorms in their courtyard area was super icky, but the guys convinced me that they were getting rid of them.  And I thought it was unfair that no one would make time for the extra boy that we brought with us from COLORADO especially since we arrived an hour early.  But again, I was silenced.  So the one on one interview went really great and since the admissions girl (and I am calling her a girl on purpose because she presented herself as such and not as a grown up that enters the room, introduces herself to the adults and then speaks with the students) is friends with the only person we've known to go there, Teen Boy is sure to be remembered.  But unfortunately, after the tour, Teen Boy and his friend both decided that this school was a dump (nope, not getting rid of the gross old furniture and you too could live there!).  Yes, it is old, but so are the other schools we've seen.  The guys didn't even want to drive around and look at the other Claremont schools... they were one-tracked minded on lunch.  So apparently I was right although no one ever fessed up to that.  Perhaps, if we'd gotten to see the robots in action in the robot lab (and if we didn't hear the girl say she'd be better prepared for the afternoon tour) or perhaps if the old icky furniture that was outdoors was going in the garbage, they would have felt differently. 

I did college tours with College Boy, but only 3.  The first was to get our feet wet as he knew he didn't want to go there, but it was convenient to do a tour and for me to learn how college has changed in 20 plus years.  The second he fell in love with.  The third he fell more in love with until he broke up with his potential major and then he went back to #2.  And that is where he is.  Happy.

This was a whole new ball game.  And Teen Boy has been like this from the start, so why would I expect anything else.  This fall is going to be a wild ride of college applications... wish us luck!

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