Happy Spring to all! This is my favorite time of the year, without question. I was away all of last week looking at colleges with our second daughter and our wonderful exchange student from Austria. The three of us arrived back in Westchester to find the entire area in full bloom. As for the trip, the girls arrived back invigorated and excited about the prospects that lie ahead for them. I simply came back confused.
Let’s start with the information sessions. Luckily, I am semi-fluent in the foreign language called “college admission speak” thanks to touring a zillion places with Danielle. SATs, ACTs, APs, early decision, early action, restricted early action, the common app and other such lingo is now part of my vocabulary. Other parents were not so lucky. A few dads looked faint and one mom seemed to be hyperventilating. I am sure that those parents looking around were searching for hidden cameras convinced that this was a bad episode of “Punk’d”. The students, of course, were fine.
The college admissions officers often speak about the wonderful essay topics for that particular university. Some examples included, “What does Playdoh have to do with Plato?” “How do You Feel About Wednesday?” and “Are We Alone?”. I believe better topics may include, “What Skill Do You Have That Will Make Us Give Your Parents $50,000 a Year to Pay for School?” “How Long Do You Plan to Live at Home after Graduation?” and my personal favorite, “Regardless of Your Dreams to Change the World, Will You Still Give Your Parents Grandchildren?”.
Then there were the tours. I absolutely do not remember having outdoor coffee shops and ethnic food courts on my campus. Nor do I remember the school funding our campus parties. There were a few kegs and some paper lanterns back in the day. One student told us how he and his fellow dorm mates purposely flooded their courtyard, built a pirate ship to go into the water, built a dance floor on top of the pirate ship and then hooked up an entire wall with LED screens that coordinated with the dance music. My confusion was so apparent that the student kindly turned to me and simply said, “There were a lot of lights.” Whew.
The best part of touring these campuses is seeing the students in action. There are so many more clubs than I remember. In fact, one school had 600 clubs for 4,000 students. Those kids must be busy. We arrived at another school to find rows and rows of tables manned by students. Yeah! A craft fair! Wait, why are some of them lying on the ground? Why are others wearing grim reaper masks? Yikes, that is not candy in those bowls! It seems that daily student protest at some schools has replaced intramural sports.
One theme, though, was consistent on each campus we visited from here to California. The students share an intellectual curiosity that goes way beyond which job will be garnered after graduation. They care about bringing humanity to ever-increasing technological heights and ever-encompassing social action. I still remain a bit confused but I also remain in awe as these young people shine with a hopefulness that tells me everything will be OK. Just like the dawning of Spring.