This week we took the Dude on his first college tours. He’s been on college campuses before, during summer camps or school competitions, but never with the context of I might be spending four years here. We only visited two public universities, both on the small side of large. We didn’t want to totally overwhelm him. We started slow, only attending admissions overview sessions and the student led tours. With the number of students attending these sessions, no one we met is likely to remember the Dude, which is just as well, since he’s unlikely to remember any of them either, except for one of our tour guides. She was exceptionally attractive.
We learned a lot about academic programs, the admissions process, and all that jazz, but I learned a few other things too. Let me share them with you.
1) I am no longer in my 20′s. I have always viewed my age as somewhat amorphous. My definition of “old” changes every year. Despite acting rather grown up at a young age, I have never really felt like a grown up. Not until now. These kids are young. Really young. I am not. The comparison is quite striking.
2) Their classes are designed with them in mind, not the faculty’s interests. They don’t sit in classrooms and study post-modern poetry or Medieval art. They have seminars on Latin-based Harry Potter spells. Apparently “Expecto Patronum” means “Summon my lawyer.” Ironic, isn’t it? A soul sucking demon scared off by a lawyer?
Personally, I would kick butt in a Harry Potter seminar, and I’m old enough to buy my own Firewhiskey. I would also love to sit in a classroom and discuss why Dickens is still relevant today. It would be even better if I could do it over a bottle or two of wine. It think this is a viable business idea. My college for parents who still think they are 20 would rock.
3) They are really into Harry Potter. The student tour guides gush that their student lounges look just like Hogwarts. The administrators gush that their student lounges look just like Hogwarts. They have Quiddich teams. I wanted to see a match, however, they weren’t playing while we were there. They run around on brooms. Do you think this means they actually know how to use them? Me neither.
4) They eat a whole lot better than I did in college. Their cafeterias aren’t really cafeterias. They are like restaurant food courts. I didn’t see any Hot Chili Fritos, or ice-cream scoop-shaped mashed potatoes. They have food trucks and latte bars, and Chick Fil A. Has the freshman 15 become the freshman 30? Doesn’t look like it. They are all very fit. Must be all that Quiddich.
5) Dorm rooms are still overheated. Every window was open and had two fans; one bringing air in, one pushing air out. It was about 40 degrees outside.
6) College admissions personnel have seen it all, and we parents are all completely transparent. UVA knows our favorite word isn’t “rotunda” and UNC knows that wearing Carolina blue nail polish isn’t “on accident.” It also makes one look a little cyanotic. I don’t recommend it.
7) I love the whole “secret society” thing. I’m starting one of my own. I can’t tell you much about it, however, because it’s a secret.
8) On the whole, college students look happy, engaged, and seem pretty passionate about what they are doing. I have hope for the species. They don’t resemble the hordes of disaffected high school students that frequent the local Starbucks. Even the Dude told me yesterday that he was tired of his friend saying that everything sucked all of the time, because in actuality, it really doesn’t. I also have hope for my son.
Most of all, it reminds me that my time with the Dude is not infinite. He didn’t lock himself in a closet, swearing to never leave home, nor did he express that he couldn’t wait to leave. I suppose it’s a baby step for all of us, and this is only the beginning. We’re making a list. Only 20 universities to go. I could use some more Firewhiskey.
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph “Rotunda” by Tim Jarret © 2004 Creative Commons