True to the right of passage, we will spend the 10 days of John’s junior year spring break touring college campuses. We have a list blending the suggestions of our private counselors, and a few that we have added. Yesterday, we toured the first university on the itinerary.
Before we left home, I broke my own golden rule for the week, which is to KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT AND LET JOHN LEAD THE PROCESS. I couldn’t help myself – I just had to get $.02 in before we began. My advice to John was not to focus on the “information” that we would receive at each of the schools, most of which is available on their websites (things like how big is the freshman class, or what is the rate of acceptance, or what is the rate of freshman retention). Rather, I encouraged him to focus on the softer realities: how does the campus “feel”? What is the “vibe”? Can you tell what the culture is like? Is it easy to get to food, or to the classrooms, from the freshman housing? What would it be like to LIVE there? And most importantly, can he see himself there? Can he picture getting up in the morning, and going through the day, and feeling good about it?
So yesterday, we attended the information session and took the tour – both standard offerings at most colleges and universities. Each lasted about an hour, and were chock full of carefully crafted rhetoric about the school’s philosophy of learning, attitudes toward the transition from living at home to living at college, and the many, many opportunities for engagement and growth available to the undergrads. It was inspiring and exciting, and I think you would have to be dead or deeply asleep not to want to be a part of all that. The admissions office is in recruitment mode during these information sessions and tours – it is their job to answer all of my questions for John in the best possible way.
At the end of the day, we sat on a bench in the beautiful campus quad, watching co-eds walk by in groups of 2 or 3 or 4, headed to class, or to the library, or to the gym or student center together. Flyers on the lampposts and bulletins fluttered in the breeze, advertising music events, lectures, sporting events, student clubs, and more. People were smiling. They didn’t all look alike. They seemed happy. John jotted notes in a small notebook from his backpack. He wrote down things he had seen, and some tid-bits the student tour guide had shared. I knew our week was off to a good start when he finished writing, and I looked over, and saw scribbled in the margin, “I can see myself here.”