|The Bell Tower at Michigan State University|
1. Every single college she has chosen to visit is a five hour drive. Not close enough to allow for an "out and back" in one day jaunt, but a drive there, stay overnight, tour the campus and drive home experience. I've forgotten how exhausting it is to drive five hours straight at 80 mph through crowded, urban traffic and numerous road construction sites. Then there is the choice of music that gets played while driving. Yes, I like most music, but I did tire of the Cage The Elephant Station on Pandora, mainly because it didn't feature any female artists.
2. Just because two colleges are in the same state doesn't mean they are close. We planned to visit University of Kentucky and Murray State University, back-to-back as they are both in Kentucky. Then I realized the schools are 4 hours apart. The original plan was to get up really early, drive (5 hours) to UK, tour there, then drive 4 hours to Murray and stay overnight. After an early morning Murray State tour, drive (5 hours) home. I've decided that's too much driving for me. And my daughter decided she is no longer interested in either of those schools anymore, so it's all a mute point (and I am secretly relieved).
3. I've discovered those Starbucks Frappacino drinks available at gas station convenience stores are my go-to perk-me-up, keep-me-awake on-the-road elixir. Typically, I'm a Diet Coke person while driving, but these keep me going better. It must be all that added sugar and fat.
4. Certain college demographics, like student body size, are very important when considering a college. My daughter only realized that when we visited the small (really, it was tiny) school in Ohio and she realized that Mom wasn't stupid to ask her things like "how big is the school"? While I have nothing against small schools (they offer a very personalized experience and for some students, that is a perfect fit), when you are used to the Big 10 University across town, a small campus can be quite shocking.
5. Teenagers change their minds. She's already changed her potential major from Equine Studies to Pre-Veterinary. So she wants to go to Vet school and be a large animal vet. I expect there to be more changes as we go through this process. No big deal - in some ways, I'm still deciding "what I want to be when I grow up", so I can't expect my 17 year old to know exactly what she wants to do. I'm glad she is targeting larger schools that offer a wide variety of degrees and diversity.
Those are my five facts, and here are some more things I've noticed since "heading back to school" - those similar iconic elements every institution boasts:
- The large football stadium
- The statue / arch / building that everyone takes their picture in front of when visiting / starting school / graduating.
- A Bell Tower
- A large courtyard or "Quad" where coeds hang out, especially when the weather turns warm.
- Lots of green space (very appreciated) or a botanical garden / forested area.
- Plenty of traditions to wrap yourself in, as college becomes its own metropolis / world, isolated from what I'll call "the real world".
It's a great time in a person's life - a time to discover so many things, to grow, to work hard, to play hard - still not too burdened by adulthood and its responsibilities. I'm excited for my daughter as she explores what opportunities await her.