I've just survived a grueling assignment, far exceeding the danger attached to a military mission, more mind boggling than a Mensa exam, more tiresome than an iron man triathalon.
I've returned from accompanying my daughter on a college tour fact finding trip.
To her credit she sat before the computer night after night for a year, perusing all the college sites, making lists, keeping notes, posting on boards, and emailing students. To her credit she waded through the copious amounts of information concerning requirements, costs, etcetera, while her friends (and her mother) were online chatting, playing games, and surfing weird and bizarre websites.
Proudly I can say she placed academic offerings and percentage of students who found gainful employment, not serving fries, immediately after graduation on the top of her list.
This was followed very closely by the look/size/air conditioning of the dorm room.
We won't talk about where cost entered the picture.
So, armed with the directions to her top picks, we set out for a whirlwind on site personal tour of each institute of higher learning. At best we had created an almost undo-able schedule from the outset, and somehow on the trip we managed to add two more. We did a circle of the east from south to north and back, traveling six states and just under 1500 miles in three and a piece days.
Maps on her lap, steering wheel in my sweaty palms we set out, two girls on the go. Dad was home having a pity party because he wasn't included. It was simply one more variable we didn't have time to factor in. Another person adds so much more time/effort to the event. Upon our return when he discovered that we only grabbed free motel continental breakfasts, set all time records for time shoveling lunch in places that catered to the veggie crowd, and dined near midnight out of motel snack machines, he was glad to have missed the 'vacation'.
I don't do 70 MPH well, I don't like traffic, I despise tractor trailers being within two miles of me. I constantly had to wind my way through some of the Prez's infrastructure type road destruction. Thankfully I was simply oblivious to these factors for want of sanity created by the deafness of sharing the bonding experience of 'her' 'music' on the trip. There were close calls, I'm sure there are motorists still talking about 'that crazy woman who cut me off'...but we made it there and back in one piece. There and back is the operative phrase to describe all the times we found ourselves in a fit of laughter missing a turn...again.
The tours were interesting for the most part, but it was quickly apparent there must be a 'Tammy Taylor Tour Tip' book that is the Bible to colleges. Each one told us that 'other colleges do or don't do such and such but WE do'...each one...we never found one that did or didn't do the SAME deeds. I have to admit that the student tour guides can made or break your impression. When they really acted as if they loved their colleges you saw it through their eyes. I almost wanted to enroll myself. But when they frowned while they told you what a wonderful place it was, you wondered what a student tour guide gets paid.
It was easy to glean from each student what was important to them as far as campus life, i.e. partying, studying, more partying, sports, and 'the Greek life'...meaning MEGA PARTYING! Having somehow given birth to a daughter who, unlike her mother, is not a party animal, the frat house with the police line tape still wrapped around it gave her cause to pause.
She's lived in her own room with no siblings to interfere in her peaceful private life, in a room actually quite larger than the norm. The thought of sharing a walk-in closet sized space with an unknown human being has brought out the creativity in her. If, on the housing roomie matching form, she writes, "Prone to sleep walking and physical abuse of anyone within ten feet", do you think they'll find her a single room?
Information sessions were an eye opener. That's when you were no longer oohing and ahhing over the beautiful campus and were able to take in your compatriots. Most of the families were all making the same stops on their respective trips. That's when I noticed all the dockers, the Ralph Lauren Polo Shirts, the gold bangles, marble sized diamonds, and Birkenstocks. Here I sat in my 'off the clearance rack' clothes, my Pic 'n Pay sandals and my K mart watch. Is that why no one but me blinked an eye when they discussed annual tuition and costs upwards of $25,000? Is that why I was the only one clutching the financial aid forms into a perspiration soaked tube? Was this when I realized I hadn't 'put away' appropriately? Was it merely the elevation of the area causing my lightheadedness, the ringing in my ears, the empty feeling in the pit of my stomach and my wallet?
After they had extolled the virtues of attending their college, had you drooling in anticipation while mentally calculating the mortgage equity of your home, they slapped you with how difficult it was to be accepted. They spouted off SAT scores, GPA's, AP courses, SAT II's, ACT's, extracurricular activities, when all along you sat there knowing if only she could slap a basketball at half court all the SAT that mattered was how little she'd be SAT on the bench.
The bottom line is what we can give them...money and talent...and a respectable alumni to add to their success stories. The application fees alone for each college's average year is more than a quarter million dollars. When all was said and done, the Dockers and 'rocks' mattered not. It all comes down to numbers. We want the number one schools, they want the number one students. We both think we are each factor. In a perfect world, ever the twain shall meet. Realistically it's going to be a rough path.
The trip was fun, albeit hectic. True to the female form, we managed to add in some fast paced mall visits. We only lost one pair of sunglasses, a chapstick, the antenna for my CD Player, my gas cap (don't ask) and a lot of sleep. And I accidentally flushed a fake fingernail down the john at Ruby Tuesday's in North Carolina. Perhaps it'll surface someday from the Bay in a restaurant's filet of trout and someone can sue for enough money to send their prodigal child to college.
The decisions now made, the process begins. First step: To the Docker Outlet! After all, Parent's Day is but a year away!