Saturday, April 23, 2022

College Tour 2022: Let's Agonize Over Admission Decisions While Touring This Small, Private Liberal Arts College


Will's narrowed down her college choices to the following:

  1. our state's large, flagship public university
  2. a small, private liberal arts college
  3. a private liberal arts historically women's college
The women's college is likely out of the running, barring the results of our financial aid appeal. I'm not sure how a college can define itself as "meeting the full documented need" of a student AND give them a Cost of Attendance number that is literally 51% of their family's not very significant take-home pay, but I guess that's why I'm not in charge of college marketing or finances.

Anyway, we're very familiar with the large, flagship public university, but we've never seen this small, liberal arts college in person before, so on the most beautiful day of April, Will and I packed up the car with peanut butter, goldfish crackers, and Welcome to Night Vale podcasts, and drove four hours northeast to the middle of Ohio.

The school's nickname is The Hill, and I did not feel any particular curiosity about this nickname any of the times that I read it on any of the thousands of pamphlets and letters and marketing materials prior to our visit. At least I had the foresight to pack my good hiking boots, though, because The Hill is not a misnomer!

I nearly burned through our family's entire data plan for the month by sending a bitchy text and a photo of stairs to Matt every time I had to stop to catch my breath.

Okay, we're at the top! On this afternoon, Will and I mostly wandered around campus and looked at the buildings--

--admired the landscaping and outdoor features--

--and noted all the elements of a small, liberal arts college vibe:

Later, she and I had separate mixers. Will went off to do stuff with other admitted students, and I enjoyed an open bar, appetizers, live music from various student groups, and schmoozing with other parents and university staff. There was a mix of parents whose kids were still deciding between various schools and parents whose kids had confirmed their admission, which was really nice. All the parents were super willing to workshop each other's kid's options, hear everyone's pro/con lists, and basically just listen to anyone who needed to talk out one of the most agonizing decisions they've ever had to make.

Miscellaneous notes from this parent mixer:
  1. There's a Mothman Museum in West Virginia, and now I really want to go there.
  2. Talking about career aspirations, I mentioned that the career that probably most suited Will's particular skill set and temperament was benign dictator of a small island nation. One guy said, "Oh, my in-laws just bought an island!", then he showed me photos. 
  3. Another parent, having asked about my other kid's career aspirations and heard my pat answer for her of "sitting on my couch and playing Minecraft, probably," told me that there are literal college scholarships for esports and one college they'd recently toured was building an entire arena thing just for esport competitions. I immediately texted Matt to start researching esports, stat!
  4. The school had these little plastic drink cups that they'd instead made dessert parfaits in, and omg I am still thinking about them.
Will's mixer was still going by the time I, myself, was tapped out, so here's me in the dark, two glasses of red wine in my tum and a red velvet cheesecake parfait stolen from the parent mixer in my hand, nervously making my way back down those same fourteen thousand flights of stairs:

And then up another flight of stairs into our comfy, wee AirBnb!

Fun fact: this time last year, I had NEVER stayed in an AirBnb. But this adorable apartment over somebody's detached garage was my fourth AirBnb ever, and it continued my good luck of turning on the TV to find it already being logged into Netflix on someone else's account. Over the next couple of nights, Will and I got super into a reality show about competitive cheerleading at the junior college level.

After climbing fourteen thousand flights of stairs back up The Hill the next day, I was BIG cranky that this was our breakfast:

I'd have climbed another fourteen flights of stairs just to get my hands on the leftovers from the previous night's parent mixer. OMG bacon-wrapped breadsticks, I miss you!

We had some speechifying, then an adorable performance by an on-campus acapella group (I texted Syd mid-performance to tell her they were covering BILLIE EILISH!!!)--

--then we went to a series of panel discussions and seminars on various aspects of the student experience and the university.

Will mocked me for taking photos of the Powerpoint slides when I wanted to remember something, but look! All the olds do it!

This school has one of the most beautiful campuses I've ever seen. Will noted that it doesn't have any "wild" spots, like the creeks and pond and tiny woods that pepper our large, flagship public university, but this university does have a biological reserve at the edge of campus that we didn't visit, nor did we walk over to the hippie commune residence with its chickens, large garden, and composting toilets. Apparently upperclassmen can live there, and if Will goes to this university I will not be surprised one day to learn that she wants to be one of them.

Our guided tour took us past the library, where I went inside to ask a librarian to assess the suitability of their browsing fiction collection for my avid reader:

He pointed out the display of New York Times bestsellers behind him, and said that they have a large fiction collection in their Humanities stacks. A catalog search told me, however, that Will would be heavily relying on interlibrary loan for her pulp fantasy novels if she stuck solely with the university library, so I added investigating the local public library to my to-do list.

It's a family rule that we text Syd a photo of every cat we see:

As part of the day's agenda, we also checked out a standard dorm and dorm room (Will was horrified and declared it "dismal," but I assured her that all freshman dorms everywhere look about the same. Please don't tell her about the bougie dorms at the fancy schools with price tags to match!), and ate lunch in one of the university cafeterias. The food was tasty, but dang, the meals plans are EXPENSIVE! They're charging kids $6.75 for breakfast, $7.75 for lunch, and $8.75 for dinner. Like, my pasta with alfredo sauce and roasted vegetables, roll, soda, and brownie were delicious, but I don't know that they were over seven bucks delicious, you know? I get that kids are basically eating in a restaurant three meals a day, but I guess I didn't think they'd literally be charged restaurant prices, sigh.

After our official business had ended for the day, Will and I took some time to just exist on the campus, just to feel what it would feel like. This was made a lot easier by the absolutely marvelous day, and the existence of dozens of delightful adirondack chairs peppered invitingly around the lawns:

After finishing my book and people watching to my heart's content, including examining each passing student's face for signs of discontent--they all seemed happy enough!--Will and I took ourselves on a walking tour of the town.

We found daffodils--

--the usual range of independent breweries we've come to expect from living in our own little college town--

--and aha! The library!

It's in walking distance from campus, and based on my online catalog search for "Tamora Pierce," would have enough pulp fantasy to keep Will happy between study times.

Here's another cool thing about this town: if you get into your car and drive west into a super fancy housing development, you'll find this wonder of the world stuck back in the back of it:

And you can WALK on it!

It makes me sick to think of how many other equally wondrous mounds were absolutely plowed under to make other housing developments or strip malls or just fields of corn or whatever. Tangent, but I got my local public library to buy a book that collects info about all kinds of local Native American mounds that are hidden on private property in the backs of fields and in stands of forests, etc., all kinds of super sketchy places that you can sneak to, or rather look up on Google Earth, ahem. The author believes that the mounds are the burial sites of angel-human hybrids, but whatever.

My fitbit was SO proud of how many steps I'd climbed by the time I was back in our tiny AirBnb with disappointing take-out pizza, a hard cider, that weirdly enthralling cheerleading documentary (well, shit--I just looked up our favorite cheerleader from that show, the super inspiring underdog from humble beginnings working hard to make his dream come true, and... yeah, his official sentencing hasn't come up yet, but he should probably stay in prison), another library book, and my stolen red velvet cheesecake parfait:

I think Will would be really happy here! The problem is, I also think she'd be really happy at the large, public flagship school or the historically women's college that we can't afford. And every time I think of a con for one of the schools, I accidentally match it with a pro almost immediately, and the opposite also holds true. 

The fact is that the kid is really coming down to the wire here: Decision Day nationally is May 1. I already can't think of anything else to research about these schools--seriously, yesterday I even looked up the geographical breakdown of each school's population, to see how many non-local kids Will could potentially meet, and the variety of languages offered just in case Will wants to branch out from French. Other than the women's college, the cost for each is under budget (or at least it will be if the stock market would stop tanking her 529, please and thank you!), and otherwise, they're so different that it's almost impossible to compare them.

You guys, I think we may have to get out the dartboard and the blindfold!

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