College Tour 2.0

Since last blogging, I have missed two holiday blogging opportunities:  St. Patrick’s Day and Easter.  Poor track record, even for a recovering “holiday” blogger.  This post, however, is written in honor of MCV’s birthday (rather like a holiday) as she is my most ardent supporter.  My creative self has been hibernating, taking a long snooze, just like spring in Ohio.  I was worried when we left on College Quest 2013 that the tulips I’d carefully planted in the fall would bloom while we were away.  But no, it snowed in Ohio while we were gone and the blooms have yet to open.  That crackhead of a groundhog Phil needs to go to rehab ….

This tour, taken the week before Easter, was different on many fronts than College Quest 201 [click and read for earlier references].  The schools were not the same, there were four of us on the road, and, in contrast to the stifling summer heat of the Eastern Seaboard, at least one snow flake fell on on each tour.   Thing 2 was the intended victim this time.  That Thing 3  got to participate was a bonus eye-opener, a happy twofer.  Also, there was a sport in the mix, and interviews with coaches and assistant coaches.  There was a list of schools in which Thing 2 could potentially play on a team and a list of schools in which he most definitely could not.  Plans A & B.  We hit six schools:  urban, rural, suburban; ginormous, minute, and middling; defined campus v. no campus; safety, target, stretch, and pie-in-the-sky.

As an aside, there are a few things I am interested in as a parent besides the education.  Call them cultural touchstones, benchmarks of the collegiate experience.  For example: the ratio of hookah bars and tattoo joints to pizza parlors and Paneras.  I was, frankly, scandalized when visiting the home of the Bearcats.  What to do on a Friday night in that part of Cincinnati?  Nothing good, from what I could see.  Also, the quality of the bookstore merchandise.  Since exactly none of my children will ever attend Swarthmore, I feel okay awarding them the award for Worst Book Store Ever.   A good college bookstore showcases creativity, marketing, and design.  The gold standard for me was finding last fall the Duke nail file with university’s emblematic writing printed on it that came in its own plastic sleeve.  A useful item, the price point was spot on!

In any event, we headed East and spent the first night on the edge of the prestigious Ivy in Philly (like in 2010, no names but lots of hints).  Home to the Heisman Trophy (who knew?) this looked like the Ivy to go to if you wanted to have fun (unless you were in Engineering or Business, in which case, reconsider your priorities).  A finishing school, to be sure, but a great one, assuming you can get in.  The cheesesteaks were amazing as was lunch at the quaint White Dog Cafe (baked mac-n-cheese with bacon?  where can I register?).  The lure of the campus quad in the middle of a large city made this a standout for Thing 2.

The next stop was Camp O’Leary in Connecticut where we we overstayed our welcome for five days,  Thing 1 joining us for the weekend.  The hostess with the mostess, Mrs. O’L pulled out all the stops after a day in NYC – picanha & caipirinhas!    I can navigate Madrid and Paris but NYC intimidates me.  But not Mrs. O’L.  She is what, five feet tall?  And yet she commands a loaded Expedition in lower Manhattan like a Patton rallied his troops in the Battle of the Bulge.    On Saturday morning we headed to downtown Manhattan for the first of the sports interviews and a tour of the area.  Initially, I was skeptical about the whole lack of a quad/”city as your college oyster” idea but after a tour of the buildings and a pit shop at Dean and Deluca, I am all in as a parent!  More fun for me!  That this school tailors nicely to Thing 2’s interests is a plus – but it is not for shrinking Violets.

We also saw two other schools that met Thing 2’s interests – one urban, one suburban – but neither one was he too hip on, mainly due to location.  The kids seemed normal, however, which was a plus for me.  One even sent him a hand signed thank you post card and a follow up letter.  Kudos!

Then it was back to Pennsylvania.  Our first tiny liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere was darling. Darling.  The bed and breakfast lodging was superb.  The tour guide was amiable, the sports Division One.  The town was appropriately maintained, charming, and full of character (no Paneras, one hookah bar, one tattoo parlor, pizza available).  We saw several college aged couples that looked like they actually were out on a date (i.e.  having a nice meal together) before hooking up.  The only alarm bell that sounded for me:  the number of enrolled girls on campus wearing Tory Burch flats (remember: it snowed that day).  Tory Burch flats are my nice shoes, not my run over to class shoes.  I don’t even grocery shop in my Tory Burch flats, they are that special.  I could only imagine the expectations of my future daughter-in-law …  In the final analysis, even Thing 3 thought perhaps  it would be too small for her (not enough restaurants – what is there to do?).  Sigh.  Maybe she will change her mind (but not her footwear).

Finally, it was on to  Mr. Understanding’s alma mater.    The school spirit was palpable.  WE ARE …. The tour guides Julia and Annie, the only female guides of the whole trip, received the highest marks, making a megalopolis of a school seem small and intimate.  These lionesses were articulate, well-spoken, and knowledgeable.  Neither one was from Pennsylvania. We even saw a couple get engaged at the  Shrine, a proposal which was far more creative than Mr. Understanding’s.  Finally, as if an omen, there were nail files in 5 different patterns!!!

Not much has changed in three years but a few, slight changes to the experience were noted.  (For a hilarious look at the application and admittance process by  high school senior, Suzy Lee Weiss, click on her name.  If you don’t think it’s funny, you are taking yourself too seriously).  This time, instead of promoting religious fatuousness, several tours hyped up their free etiquette and dining lessons, a welcome addition to the services provided in exchange for exorbitant tuition.  Laundry machines send texts when your load is finished.  Three of the six schools showed the dorm room (the furniture is the same all across America).  The boot camp vs. finishing school delineation still applies.

In the irony of all ironies, my mother, the Radish, commented this week that perhaps Thing 2 should go to UCSB, the very school she successfully dissuaded me from attending as she thought it too “vanilla” for me.  I almost thought it was a Caviezel as it is Caviezel season.  But I think she was serious.  Yeah, not going to happen.  I am going to sit back and keep my mouth shut as tight as I can (a true challenge) and leave it in the good hands of Man Upstairs.  Thing 1 said it best when she advised her brother to “find his peeps”.  Whether they growl, snarl, quack, sting, bark, chirp or drop like rotten fruit, Thing 2 will find his own tribe, like his big sister before him.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “College Tour 2.0

  1. MCV was Here

    I love a good holiday blog!

    • Nittany Kitten

      You know which school this Nittany Kitten would choose! I must now purchase the nail file and add it too my collection of charms, mugs, chip n dip platters, flags, masks and stand up cardboard figures … The HUB bookstore rocks!

  2. Nice to see that you are writing again. Keep it up! I have been meaning to write and let you know that a friend of mine grew up with the Caviezel’s! Jim had a crush on her, but she thought he was nerdy.

  3. Martita

    Hi M-K. Mary Jo is getting a website so you can be her number one client again! She’s here with me and has some BEAUTIFUL new jewels that you NEED to have! Missing you. Wish you were here!

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