The First Five Colleges (Part Two)

With all the hours that I’ve been logging on special ed stuff this spring, Jonah’s college chores got pushed to the backburner. We knew that we were going to use our vacation week this summer to look at schools, but we didn’t know which week. After I figured out Ian’s camp schedule and Jonah’s cross country schedule (the team has already started training for next fall), we picked our days and Steve got the okay from his job.

We’re going to look at five colleges during that week. Any more than that and the little brother will rebel. So, we’ll start the week with a two day stay at Block Island, which is a little football of an island off the tip of the Long Island. We’ll get their via a ferry in Rhode Island. Then we’ll visit University of Rhode Island, University of Connecticut, U Mass at Amherst, Univesity of New Hampshire, and University of Vermont. In between the tours, we’ll do fun things for Ian. There’s about two to five hours of driving every day, which isn’t horrible.

I’m a little worried about dragging Ian around to all those tours in one week. He’ll love exploring the campuses, but hates listening to one person talk for extended periods of time. It takes so much energy for him to understand people that he shuts down after a while and gets impatient with all the blah blah blah.

Jonah’s high school guidance counselor told him to apply to twelve colleges, so we’ll have to tuck in the rest of the schools as day trips during the summer or over the holiday weekends in September. We’ll go without Steve, because he can’t possibly miss that much work. Over the summer, there are no weekend college tours.

I know these tours are silly. They focus on amenities. The tour guides can’t tell you anything important like the quality of the instruction and the financial burdens on students. Other parents take them far too seriously. Still, they are pretty interesting.

When we visited SUNY Binghamton, the tour began in front of the career development office — a huge, modern section of the student union. Clearly, they put a lot of money here. After-college job prospects was a huge focus of the tour. The tour guide rattled off the names of all her friends who had lined up jobs before graduation.


12 thoughts on “The First Five Colleges (Part Two)

  1. Wow, you really are hitting all the State Universities.
    If all 4 of you are going, you don’t have to have all 4 go on the tours.


  2. New Jersey really seems short of public universities for a state with that many people. I think that may explain why so many New Jersey plates are showing up around here.

    Best of luck to you in this search.


    1. NJ has an okay public university system. Rutgers is similar to Penn State but with a suckier sports program. The College of New Jersey is excellent. However, NJ public colleges are the most expensive in the country. Out-of-state tuition at SUNY Binghamton is about the same as in-state Rutgers, so there’s nothing to keep us here.

      I’m not thrilled with Rutgers. It’s too large. The faculty is under enormous pressure to publish, at the expense of teaching. They rely on adjuncts for almost all undergraduate classes, except for the senior seminars.

      Also, New Jersey is a densely packed state with a large number of middle class, college bound high school students. We’re everywhere.


  3. The tours will get a lot less interesting, because the tour guides all basically say the same thing. In fact, it will be interesting if you can detect any differences in the colleges based on the tour guide’s spiels.

    BTW, I’m not sure that the practice of cross-checking of applications against campus visitors occurs at state universities. I think it’s more of a mid-tier private college phenomenon.


  4. Agree with y81 on the “interest” checking. And at many of the states (even those using fairly holistic admissions criteria) you can get a good read on whether an applicant will get in based on scores and GPA. SUNY Binghamton’s common data set, for example (googleable), says that scores & GPA are the “most important”. I can’t speak to the financial aspects — though I do know that some schools that offer merit money offer it early, so early applications are particularly important.

    I cannot imagine a worse torture than standing through college tour guide’s spiels at colleges. I’m guessing even you and J would have to design some form of college tour bingo (since drinking games aren’t acceptable). I hope there is a suitable plan for I.

    On the other hand, I quite enjoy wandering around college campuses on my own, especially when they are in session. I was sitting in front of a building at Berkeley (springtime, beautiful, magnolia blossoms in full bloom), and got to listen in on conversations (in some class, a particular country had just utterly failed its duty in Model UN; a recently hired administrator was in the position of having to clean up a big mess — i know not what of, but it sounded juicy and political). And, I do love the students, looking so fresh and hopeful in the springtime.


  5. A college friend recently launched her two (who are only two years apart). I got to see their scrapbook of college tours. It was delightful. Mom & kids did it on their own and had a great last time living together experience.


    1. bj said,

      “Mom & kids did it on their own and had a great last time living together experience.”



  6. I just thought of a really annoying thing to do on the tours.

    “But how TALL is the climbing wall? University of Vermont’s wall is BLAH BLAH BLAH.”

    Then scribble down the answers.


  7. Good luck on the tours. I’m glad to be through all of that short of Eldest’s grad school explorations. I have to say that I don’t think universities put a lot of weight on who does the tours.

    One other prospect – can you send Jonah with other friends who are touring some campuses? We sent Eldest to visit several campuses with two other close friends and a wonderful mom who did all of the driving and logistics of the trip. Ironically, after all that, her kid in the group went with the local U!

    With regards to managing a tour while autistic for Ian. Youngest was pretty good about being dragged places as long as we had frequent WiFi breaks and a good pair of over-the-ear headphones. Hotels with pools on trips are also a “good thing”.


  8. I drove S and her friend into Boston today to do a tour. I dropped them off then took the T to the New England Historical and Genealogical Society for a few hours. 🙂 She didn’t want me at the tour, and I didn’t want to be there. The worst part was the traffic on the way home and the fact that S fell in love with the place and I don’t want her to go there. *sigh*


  9. Wendy said:

    “She didn’t want me at the tour, and I didn’t want to be there.”

    That’s wonderful for both of you!

    “The worst part was the traffic on the way home and the fact that S fell in love with the place and I don’t want her to go there. *sigh*”

    Too much like High School II?


  10. Our PhDs are both from UMass Amherst. 🙂 The Pioneer valley is *very* pretty. I’d recommend driving to Sunderland & across the river into Deerfield and driving up Sugarloaf Mountain — GORGEOUS view of the whole valley and the whole university in the distance. My boys were both born there. Great 8 years!


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