Oh the things you learn on college tours. About yourself, about your kid, about the world. Yes, we're back from a road trip up "nawth" to check out three colleges that couldn't be more different. One, a technically oriented school in downtown Philadelphia, another, a cozy, small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere, PA (OK, an hour from Philly, but in truth, the middle of nowhere), the third, a major research university in an upstate NY city in the snow belt.
Full disclosure. I can't afford full tuition for any of these schools. It's going to be all about financial aid, loans and merit scholarships. Mex is only required by our divorce decree to pay for 1/2 the tuition of a GA State University -- roughly $2,167.00, and with our state's "HOPE" scholarship program, any kid who graduates with a B+ average and maintains it in college, gets to go to a state university tuition free. So with a HOPE under his belt, Mex and I would only be splitting the cost of room and board. It would be like winning the lottery. So yes, Grumble is applying to 2 GA state schools -- one enthusiastically, the other, a rah-rah football campus with huge classes, with grim resignation. We just have to. It would be insane not to.
Logic would compel me to limit him to state schools only, but I'm a northern girl, and Jewish to boot, and this is Georgia -- land of football, beer, fraternities and mediocrity in education. So I just feel it's my duty to try to expose him the same options I offered my older son, pre-divorce. It might not be realistic, but it's a justice issue for me. Unfortunately Mex is not earning what he used to, and that is putting it kindly. We'll do the best we can, we'll try to cover our bases.
But heck, I'm not your average dumb ass Mom, I'm a former college admissions rep -- I know this game and how it's played. I know it will require massive financial aid, loans, contacts and miracles and finessing relationships to pull this off. I am riveted on whatever it takes to make my kid a "special case," and with a little coaching from Margalit, I'll do everything in my power, even it means being the Mom from hell, to advocate for a bright-enough but not super-star white kid w/o resources. It's not going to be easy, but our road trip was part of the learning curve -- a "wake up call" on what I need to do. I only hope I haven't raised expectations too high. We talked about this a lot during the car time...there was lots of car time. I think he knows the bitter truth.
My Truth: I don't care if Grumble doesn't apply to any of the schools we visited this week. Aside from spending some quantity time with the boy cousins in suburban Philadelphia, my only agenda was to expose Grumble to three outstanding schools that he liked and that are all different. I wanted him to build up a vocabulary of colleges, to see things beyond his adopted city Atlanta and the GA State system where he will also have to apply.
The car time was great. The actual driving (limited to me because of rental car regs) was horrible, but the opportunity to have 5 hours alone with my kid in a car with XM Radio was golden. We will never forget listening to comedy channels, Grateful Dead channels, and 70's Rock, scrounging around Syracuse looking for vittles and stumbling on real Italian family cuisine -- which you simply cannot find in the south because there's no critical mass of Catholics. (no pun intended) That Italian meal in Syracuse was expensive because every plate was meant for sharing, but two entrees a shared sfogliatelle and a double espresso later, we were in heaven, remembering all the things we miss about the north because we now live in the south.
OK, so here are some of the things I learned about marketing (my profession) a $50,000+ product called college: This is Marketing 101 with the full court press. They want you to feel like a small toad, who is begging for admission. They talk to you in the fanciest place on campus. They love bomb you with t-shirts, passes to the food court, and exposure to the peppiest, happiest, most successful students they have to be tour guides. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware!
Keep your eyes open. At that urban Philadelphia campus I couldn't help but notice the proliferation of emergency "call boxes" around the campus. An urbanite myself, I wasn't freaked out about it, but ultimateIy discerned that this was a major "talking point" to be massaged by the Admissions Staff and the adorable tour guides.
Tour Guides: They ARE ALL ADORABLE. They pick the coolest, most successful, charming, ethnically diverse kids to do this job. You will love them. Your kid will love them. I'm a marketer...I would do this too.
Surprising Fact: Colleges publish the Crime Report in their newpapers, because they HAVE TO. The Jeane Cleary Campus Security Act makes it a law. Since 1992, all colleges have been required by to compile annual statistics about crime on their campuses and to provide them to their students and staff members. Even the cute little college in the middle of nowhere had a crime blotter in the campus newspaper. Shit happens.
And so my dear Mid-Century Moms, I'm reporting in from the road of life. College is upon us. We're doing the best we can down here. What's your story?