Monday, May 16, 2011

College Bound

No I'm not heading back to college for another degree. Although, I've had a few thoughts about that lately and am toying with an idea. Shhh don't tell Doug.

This is about my baby boy. He will graduate from high school soon and I wanted to share the adventures and frustrations of his college search. In his junior year, he went to a couple of college showcase nights to get a feel for many colleges across our state and the U.S. Let me tell you those recruiters are everything. My son who knew nothing of Michigan State, decided after one of these showcases that it was at the top of the list (right behind our local state university) of possible colleges to attend. Up to this point he had maintained a dedicated desire to attend our local college (where his dad and I work). We use to laugh about him living in the dorm that can be viewed from our family room window. We figured that his dad and I could post signs advertising the dinner menu in our front window for him. We'd get him home with those signs!

So in the summer between his junior and senior year we began making college visits. We thought we would be right in the game of college planning. We soon found out that we were running to catch up in the race for college selections and scholarships. The whole family headed out in July to go to East Lansing, Michigan. Doug, T-man, Mimi, and I attended high school preview orientation. It was my first ever college preview for high school students.
I was quickly sold on Michigan State. The head of academic advising was phenomenal at making you believe that this was the place to be. Everyone was friendly and helpful and things ran so smoothly. If you ever have the chance to visit the campus, I highly recommend it. It is simply gorgeous with mature trees, green grass, and a river running through the middle of campus. Sparty is not too bad either. On the academic side they offered a very nurturing college within a college program for natural science majors. When we returned home T-man immediately applied to MSU.
As the summer came to a close T-man and Doug made a few day trips to some of our other state colleges. T-man applied to several of these schools as well. After each trip, I'd ask how he liked the college. He'd say, "It's good." Do you think you'd like going to school there? "Yes." Do you have a favorite? "No."

In family discussions as Doug and I tried to get a sense of what our son was interested in studying and in turn evolving into a career, besides science. We began to steer him towards engineering. T-man has a strong math and science aptitude, is a great tinkerer, and is good at creative problem solving. With his interest in this new focus, we began looking at engineering colleges.

At this point (early October) I was done with college visits. My impatience and need for control was being held in tight reign while think enough already make a decision! Instead we headed off to the University of Illinois. I like the U of I about as much as I like the University of Florida. But I was good, so very good. I constantly reminded myself that this phase of our lives was not about me but about my baby. Off to the U of I we trekked. The nuturing feel good vibes of MSU were definitely not at the U of I and their arrogance was quite clear. Yet as we toured the engineering quad, I could see my son's eyes lighting up. It was hard not to be enamored with all the state of the art tools and research labs. Even I was getting excited. The concrete machine that stress tested concrete was amazing. He was definitely feeling pulled towards the U of I.

Not wanting to limit T-man's engineering options, Doug and T-man headed to Purdue. I didn't go on this trip, as someone has to teach those kindergartners. When T-man came home with a Purdue sweatshirt and stars in his eyes, I knew he was sold. But there was one last college to visit.

On my school holiday we headed to Southern Illinois Edwardsville to check out their engineering program. I had heard that it was a lovely campus nestled in a small town. All of that was true. SIUE pulled at my heartstrings as it reminded me of the Georgia campus where Doug and I worked for many years. Unfortunately they were a bit disorganized with their orientation and seemed unable to handle the large crowd. I was ready to leave without finishing the preview. As they did have admissions advisors available my son and I sought them out to find out what was holding up his acceptance to this school. The advisor was very helpful and looked up his file. The missing information was located in another file and they admitted him on the spot and began handing him scholarship information, explaining in detail how to apply for these school scholarships. That lifted our spirits. We spent the day getting the full tour. The engineering college was nice but lacked that wow factor of the "big" schools.

Now, Mimi loved the school and declared that she is going to go to SIUE and major in engineering. (In the summer it was USF and a major in Spanish.) Luckily we have time, lots of time. Although time seems to move quickly around here. It seems like yesterday that T-man was running around the Citadel quad with a cadet silhouetted in his shadow and I had a teary moment thinking of my four year old growing into that cadet and heading off to college.The time had arrived when T-man began receiving acceptance letters to most of the schools for which he applied. I thought we'd have a big college acceptance unveiling in December once all the college acceptance letters were received. The big schools have one big early admittance mail/e-mail day in December. Unfortunately T-man was crushed when he did not get admitted to Purdue. We were all quite shocked and it put a pallor over our anticipated reveal. It's so hard to see your child so disappointed. There was a good lesson in this rejection for T-man and his sister. Test scores are wonderful but consistently strong grades and service are big factors as well for these highly desired schools. I also reminded him that he had to have faith in the fact that there is a reason beyond what we can see for his future. He could take solace in numerous acceptance letters to a variety of colleges and universities (MSU included) as well as two scholarships offers to two of the colleges.

For me, not being able to keep this disappointment from my baby's life was painful. Unfortunately it also meant that a college selection would probably be a long time in coming. Finally Doug and I set a "signing date" of April 1st for T-Man. For most schools May 1st is the college and university acceptance deadline. He kept Doug and I guessing till the very end. We figured that it would be Illinois State or Southern Illinois Edwardsville. Up till the last moments, I still felt like giving a nudge for MSU.

Where's the school of choice? Southern Illinois Edwardsville and an academic scholarship!!

Now it's the last days of school, graduation, and celebrations. Oh yeah, and summer jobs for all of us (except Mimi) to help with college expenses.

1 comment:

marciamayo said...

Fantastic news! I know you are happy to have the decision made.