In approximately 11th grade, your child will begin thinking about which college he or she would like to attend. In most cases, the college he or she really wants will be as FAR AWAY FROM MOM AND DAD AS POSSIBLE.
In our case, in order to get New York State funding, our children pretty much had to attend college in New York State, which at least made the pre-college tours manageable.
Oldest Child (Cordelia)
Cordelia was easy. She was awarded a very substantial scholarship to a great college right in our own hometown, and we only had to drop her off for a weekend there so she could have a mini-dorm experience. That was bad enough – the school was IN THE CITY, and we are SUBURBANITES. But she survived.
Our experience with Cordelia made it somewhat easier when the next kid began considering schools. So we took a weekend trip to view some of her choices.
I loved SUNY-Geneseo – great little campus away from everything (literally), the students I saw all appeared to take their studies seriously, and it was the only school we looked at that required an essay from the parents as to why their child should be invited to attend. It seemed to be a parent’s dream college. All I heard from my kid when we left there was, “There’s nothing to do there” (read, “no party places.”)
From there, we drove to SUNY-Albany. At that time, SUNY-Albany (I believe) was rated in a survey of college students as one of “the party schools” in the country. The dorms were situated in two very high towers (can you say 9/11?), and even the “model” dorm room we were shown totally sucked. Thank God, my kid didn’t like that school any more than we did.
So, did she choose either of those schools we had visited? Of course not – she chose another college, which just happened to be in a town with lots of partying possibilities.
(Good thing, Mom and Dad were only 3 hours away – far enough that we didn’t know what really went on there, but close enough to handle The Emergency Call [after a night of partying, of course]).
Admittedly, the college she chose did have excellent programs, which led to a four-year degree and a decent job right out of school, so in hindsight it wasn’t the worst possible choice.
Youngest Child – Are We Done Yet?
The most memorable pre-college trip was with my youngest daughter. This was a child who had never been away from home and never indicated that she wanted to be far from the fold. So, when she kept insisting on colleges at the other end of the state, I finally told Dad, “Ok, I’ll take her. Once she sees how far from home it is, she’ll change her mind.”
We based ourselves in Poughkeepsie and drove from there to the various schools we were interested in. Cordelia went with us.
We all loved Vassar College – charming little college town, historic old buildings. And a gateway guard with a true sense of humor. I asked where we should park, and he said “right over there.” “Right over there” required parallel parking, which I’ve never been good at. By the time I maneuvered into the spot, we had quite a crowd gathered, all of whom were trying not to laugh. It was only after our tour that I found out there was an actual parking lot just past the building in front of which I had parallel parked!
Unfortunately, Vassar also has a humungous tuition cost – way out of our league. But I did buy a really nice coffee mug.
Our next visit was to SUNY-Purchase. Now, I had been there 20 years or so before when my husband had a job interview in the area. At that time, I was quite impressed with the fairly new campus out in farmland and the areas where construction was obviously about to start. 20 years later, I was quite impressed that the “about to start” construction apparently never did start and the campus had not changed a bit, except to become pretty run-down.
Although the school is known for an excellent music program, after tripping over a few broken pavement stones, my daughter decided she was not interested.
(Note: Our visit to SUNY Purchase was in 2007 – according to the link, above, construction was done in 2013.)
On to the next stop – Sarah Lawrence College. We only went there because Cordelia and I had both wanted to attend for its writing program and wanted to see what the campus was like (and to dream). Loved the school, hated the traffic.
After our tour, our route back to Poughkeepsie required that we merge onto a busy parkway and then immediately get into the far left lane to merge onto a busy expressway to take us back to our hotel. Sounded easy enough when I Mapquested it.
But we hit rush hour.
When we got to the approach to the parkway, I realized traffic in the far left lane was backed up for miles in the other direction, and I had to be able to get in and merge to the left immediately. Couldn’t get to the end of the line without going the wrong way for miles.
That old Toyota Camry commercial ran through my head (“Punch it, Margaret!”). I said to myself: I can do this!
Got onto the parkway with no problem (not much traffic in the first 2 lanes – everyone was in that far left lane). Merging became an issue. I kept pace with traffic, with my left signal blinking – surely someone would let me in (See the Buffalo, NY plates, everyone? Obviously, I’m not used to this road.)
There appeared to be a break behind a lady driving an SUV. I attempted to merge – she slowed down to block me. Now there was a space in front of her. I speeded up – she speeded up to block me. I would have thought she was just not paying attention, were it not for the smirk on her face as she clearly looked over at my smaller vehicle.
The on ramp to the expressway was coming up fast. Either I got into that far left lane, or we were heading towards New York City! I could see the sign ahead on the right announcing the approach to the Tappan Zee Bridge (“I would turn back if I were you!”). Ok, maybe that last was just my panicked brain talking, but I sure didn’t want to find out what was on the far side of the Tappan Zee, at least not today.
The crosshairs for the split appeared, and I was still trying to merge. The lady in the SUV was still playing games. I screamed, “God damn it, LET ME IN!” She laughed and continued to keep pace.
Finally, at the very last possible moment, the driver of the old beater car behind the SUV took pity on me and let me in. Whew!
For those of you who are now sure that Cordelia’s Mom is a lunatic (I know my kids thought so at the time), had I not been able to merge, I would, in fact, l have simply driven across the bridge and then merely turned around and headed back, hopefully with an easier merge in the other direction. (And hopefully not being pursued by flying monkeys.)
So, did this child attend any of the schools we had looked at? Of course not. She got the same scholarship to the same school in our hometown that Cordelia had attended. Funny how funding can make the college decision so much easier!
And – We’re Done!
No one ever said that raising kids would be easy. But it certainly is an experience! And I definitely am glad that I am on the far side of that experience.