I don't know why my stomach's in a tight, neurotic knot. It's my daughter, not me, who's trying to figure out where to go to college.
Time is of the essence. It's college-application season for high school seniors, and at $40 to $65 a pop, we can't afford to apply everywhere and decide later. But we don't want to limit ourselves, either, Cassie, a prospective business major, reminded me. The right--or wrong--choice will carry terrific consequences: a valuable diploma, a lucrative career, her entire worth as a human being.
The other day, Cassie and I made a whirlwind tour of five local universities, an effort to whittle down her wish list. It only added to our anxiety and confusion.
When we dragged ourselves into the family room that night, my wife, Jeanne, shook her head. "Are they all a blur?" she wondered. Cassie dumped the various college catalogs--and souvenir logo sweatshirts--on the couch and fell asleep.
We added the catalogs and brochures to the stack in front of the fireplace, atop the material from the universities we already had visited in the Bay Area and back east.
Cassie has already announced she'll apply to Harvard, because it is the epitome of higher education, and after years of telling her that she should never limit her dreams, we'll allow her that. Better that she be rejected by Harvard than for us to preempt her fondest hopes.
Berkeley's at the top of her list too, and visiting that campus whetted her appetite for Cal. The day we visited, there were protests in front of Sproul Hall. A street musician added to the cacophony by banging on a set of drums, and the campus swelled with scholarship of the highest order. Her eyes literally sparkled. She was very impressed.
UC Santa Cruz was a washout on Cassie's list: She complained that she couldn't find the campus for the trees. UC Davis remains an option, but she worried that it's too far from the exciting hustle of urban life--her antidote for too many years of suburbia.
Now we turned our attention closer to home, and selected four local universities we could visit in a day that, to one degree or another, match her criteria. I threw in a fifth campus--my own alma mater--as a nightcap on the way home.
We want a university where Cassie can be nurtured and encouraged, with personal attention and compassion and give-and-take discussion with professors. That would suggest a small, private campus with a great faculty-student ratio.
So we visited Loyola Marymount University. Here, she could benefit from a celebrated Jesuit education on a small, intimate campus--with a great hilltop view overlooking Santa Monica and the Pacific. Some of the dorms are spectacular, the students were articulate and bright and sang the campus' praises and, some of the girls whispered, it's only a short drive on Saturday night to visit Hollywood's clubs.
But gosh, the value of a UCLA diploma! So we visited Westwood and contemplated its diversity, its size, the imposing architecture of its ivory towers and the sheer weight of a UCLA sheepskin. Some of the dorms are spectacular, the students were articulate and bright and sang the campus' praises and, some of the girls whispered, it's only a short drive on Saturday night to visit Hollywood's clubs.
But UCLA isn't the only brand-name school in the city, so we drove across town to USC. Sure it's expensive, but consider the long-term value (as opposed to the long-term debt) and the networking possibilities with SC's alumni in the business world. Some of the dorms are spectacular, the students were articulate and bright and sang the campus' praises and, some of the girls whispered, it's only a short drive on Saturday night to visit Hollywood's clubs.
What if Cassie's grades and test scores don't pass muster at UCLA, or we can't afford Loyola Marymount or USC? We need a fall-back selection. Since Jeanne and I are products of Cal State Fullerton, we insisted that Cassie visit a Cal State campus where admission criteria aren't as strict, the tab is a lot cheaper and the education still has value--witness our own successes.
So on this day we visited Cal State Long Beach because of its respected business program. The campus offered an academic ambience. The landscaping and public art was impressive--and the student union even had a bowling alley. The dorms were, well, OK, the students were articulate and bright and sang the campus' praises and, some of the girls whispered, it's not that long a drive on Saturday night to visit Hollywood's clubs.
Finally, on the way home, Cassie let me take her on a personal tour of Cal State Fullerton. This had never been on her list, because it was too much a commuter campus. I showed her the very bench in the quad where her mother and I and our friends hung out. I showed her the buildings where I had spent four great years, and together we gawked at the new buildings. I grew animated, recalling the student protests after then-Gov. Ronald Reagan spoke on campus.
Cassie insisted--out of some perverted curiosity--on visiting my old fraternity house, and as she smiled and flirted in the chapter living room, surrounded by a bunch of nice-looking guys who smiled and flirted back, I saw my wife as she and I met, 28 years earlier in that very room.
I was articulate and bright and I sang the campus' praises and, I whispered, it's not that long a drive on Saturday night to visit . . . Mom and Dad.