All of my children were on spring break last week. Now, if your child is a high school junior, as is my oldest, there is only one thing to do on spring break: visit as many colleges as you can.
Much has been written about the frenzy that consumes a family as a child approaches the college years, and an important aspect of this frenzy is the campus tour. Because how else is a sixteen year old going to narrow the field to the ten or twelve colleges to which she’ll apply?
So last week we took our high school junior on a whirlwind tour of six schools in four days. She sampled from the buffet selection of very large universities (24,000 undergrads) to small colleges (population 2,000), public and private institutions, urban and remote campuses. She met with admissions advisors, toured residence halls, lunched with current students, and even attended class (Psychology 101 – how basic to the freshman college experience can you get?), her father or me dutifully trailing along.
It’s unclear still what my own college candidate took away from the campus tour experience, but here are the 3 things that I learned:
1. Over-achievement is the new black. These cheerful young student guides have not only mastered walking backwards while side-stepping rain puddles and avoiding loose pathway bricks, but they are double, sometimes triple majors. They DJ at the campus radio station, belong to several student clubs (and are planning to start one of their own because all you need is four students with a common interest to get seed money to establish a club), participate in intramural sports, take regular advantage of the fitness center, and work on special projects for their professors (with whom they are on a first name basis). These kids have done more in their freshman year than I’ve done in my adult lifetime. If these are the future leaders of this country I’m encouraged!
2. The high school students on the tour WILL NOT ASK A SINGLE QUESTION. They do not even appear to be paying attention as they traipse behind the guide, trying to stay at the back of the pack. The parents, on the other hand, will repeatedly embarrass their children with the most inane questions. At one school we visited, when our guide asked “Are there any questions before we start?”, a mother shot up her arm, waving an envelope, and shouted “I need to find a mailbox!” She then turned to her daughter and asked loudly “Did I embarrass you?”, and following her daughter’s loud silence said, to no-one in particular, “I think I embarrassed her.” None of the other parents was bold enough to offer her reassurance, so fearful were we that we would be the next to mortify our offspring, because we knew our mere presence was embarrassment enough.
3. Every school library boasts a Harry Potter room. I don’t know what this means, not having read the series nor seen the rooms, but I imagine even the most modern library buildings have a Gothic styled room with dim lighting, study carrels, and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. And don’t worry if the campus library doesn’t have the particular book you need because it’s part of an inter-galactic system that will find the book among a collection of 200 million volumes and beam it to you in just two days. The library is also a great place to borrow movies (Bridesmaids!) for free.