How to Pick a College

Posted on March 18th, 2013

It’s time for that annual rite of passage – college tours. Yes, my son is now old enough to tour college campuses. This is strange to me because in my day, we didn’t tour any campuses. We just filled out an application for any college we felt would ignore our hideous math scores…oh, wait. Maybe that was just me.

Anyway, things have changed since the bad old days. For one thing, tuition is now approximately equal to the annual spending budget of Greece. And when I say “approximately,” clearly I mean tuition costs more.  So it’s important for everyone to get a feel for the campus so we don’t fork over a ginormous check only to find out that our child hates the school and wants to change.

Which may happen anyway, but at least we’ve tried to prepare.

Anyway, college campuses have changed a lot in the 400 years since I was a teenager.  For one thing, it appears to me that all campuses are required by law to have at least two Starbucks, Peets, and/or Tullys coffee houses on campus and open 24/7. Heaven forbid today’s students survive on instant coffee and sort-of-hot tap water from the bathroom like we did in the prehistoric days.

Also? Some campuses allow you to use your dining credits at Starbucks, Peets or Tullys. And that completely explains why, during every tour, the coffee houses had long lines of hyper, skinny, wide-awake people chattering nervously and the dining commons were empty.

And you don’t even want to know about the dorms. Oh, please.  First of all, when you visit what the tour guides always call “a typical dorm room,” you can tell right away that there’s nothing typical about it. For one thing, there are no clothes on the floor, no empty pizza boxes stacked to the ceiling, the halls don’t smell like unwashed feet and there were no notes from roommates saying, “I borrowed your purple t-shirt,” or “Stop borrowing my clothes, bitch.”

No, these cough typical cough rooms had perfectly made beds, posters with dancing cats spouting motivational sayings like “Study with a buddy” and color-coordinated storage chests for clothing. So basically it was like stepping into the Twilight Zone, only much, much scarier. Oh, and? Some dorms had private bathrooms.  As in, a bathroom that was shared only by the two or three people living in the room.

Now I don’t want to make you lose your lunch, but please close your eyes and picture what a private bathroom shared by three freshman boys will look like at the end of a very long freshman year. Yeah. I’m thinking those bathrooms will require a special Hazmat team for end-of-the-year cleaning.

Of course, on each tour we met other parents of future college freshmen.  You could always recognize the parents and not just because every one of us looked old and clutched our chests in horror when the tuition costs were announced. No, it’s because we parents were the only ones asking questions about everything from class size to weather. (To be fair, the weather questions were asked by a mom from Minnesota who seemed very concerned that her son might thaw out if he lived in California. And the teens were too busy to ask questions because they were checking out the butts of the college-aged students, which obviously is a very important part of selecting an institution of higher learning.)

Of course, the tour guides took all that in stride – except one who ended every sentence by trailing off with “so…yeah” and didn’t know where the science or humanities buildings were located but did know of an excellent place to chill between classes. So…yeah. We crossed that campus off the list right away.

And now I can’t wait for spring break, when we get to visit even more campuses. And by “I can’t wait,” clearly I mean, save me now from the hell known as campus tours.

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6 Responses to “How to Pick a College”

  1. Jennifer in Reno! Says:

    Love this one! I was starting to miss the older articles when you would talk about Jr. as a teenager – I relate so well with my 13 year old and I actually printed some out and re-read them the other night while having a few beers – I was cracking up! Can you do some throw back articles?

  2. Jeani Says:

    My best friend just went through this with her son and when she was describing the campus tours, all I could think about were the brochure’s and packets I saw when applying to colleges. I never set foot on the campuses and probably couldn’t point to their cities on a map but I sure knew what the landscaping looked like! Good luck!

  3. Laurie Says:

    @JenniferinReno – LOL, Junior has been on strike lately and won’t allow me to blog about him :) I’m trying to get around it, tho! I will do some throw backs…so watch out for them!

    @Jeani – IKR? it’s crazy. And yet everyone does it, the tours are full :) It’s absolutely helpful though, although I have to say at this point, if you’ve seen one library, you’ve seen them all.

  4. Carpool Goddess Says:

    Been there, survived that. Good luck with the process. If nothing else it was a really good bonding experience for us ;)

  5. et Says:

    ooohkiie.. so this is gonna be a long comment….
    AS for college tours…I did them waaayy back in the day(the 90’s gasp!) basically to see who would reject me(art student – yay interviews..)…lol Now for tuition…yes still cost an arm, leg, torso…and the other arm back then but with artsy student discount(cough cough scholarships) they were slightly more resonable..Sadly yes I went to college jjjuuust as the whole crazy uptick of tuition startd to cover the said peets, starbucks along with the fancy schmancy private baths…wth(what the heck?) we shared our bathroom(5-6 showers and 4-5 toilets) with 20+ guys….there was 1 bathroom per half floor…yes absorb that thought carefully….lol
    AND Laurie…best NOT let Jr know of the whole campus sleepovers(he may not want to return home after)…yeah did that one at Carnegie-mellon….very very ..interesting experience….lol
    BUT on a side note I think lot of colleges now have summer HS programs maybe he could try one to test drive the campus….? Hey 1-2K is better than the budget of greece….just sayn…

  6. Laurie Says:

    et – somehow you got lost in my spam filter. Sorry about that! Junior got a bunch of emails from out of state colleges to have a sleepover. He wanted to go despite the fact that most of the colleges he had no intention of ever attending :) I’m like, no, just no. One did have a weekend where the parents go and Junior goes too, but the parents stay in a hotel. I would have done that one, except the two weekends they offered it, we were out of town :(

    OOOOHHHH, one bathroom per half floor. No. Just no. I hope you have recovered from the trauma :)

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