Monitor Board of Contributors: Good food, high-tech laundry, WiFi: College is a whole new world!
Students walk into Kirkland House on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Wednesday, May 16, 2012. Mark Zuckerberg created the social networking website that came to be known as Facebook, in his Kirkland House dorm room in 2004. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Barbara Marzelli, a 50-year-old mother of two from Newbury speaks at a news conference to highlight the impact expanding Medicaid would have on women's health Tuesday, June 11, 2013 in Concord, N.H. Marzelli said she has filled the role of caregiver for her family for years without insurance and said she would be insured if Medicaid is expanded. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
We are in the process of getting my daughter into college.
Yes, “we.” We, her parents, want her to learn stuff that will get her employed. We want her to graduate without debt. We’d like her to visit occasionally, but not every weekend.
She has her own ideas of the perfect college. Through a simple algorithm involving annual snowfall and distance from home, she has determined that she does not want to stay in New England. That’s fine. Since I chose my college based on a pretty building and a particularly cute admissions guy, I am okay with that.
Based on her criteria, we headed out on a road trip to spend a week touring campuses, attending information sessions and scheduling an interview or two.
“Hello, my name is Lindsay, and I’ll be showing you around our campus today. Feel free to ask me any questions.”
No matter how big the school, the campus tour always includes the gym and a science classroom. Even if your child isn’t an athlete or future chemist, I suppose few students are going to be impressed by a room full of chairs and a white board. A row of gleaming treadmills looking out at some brochure-worthy view apparently is considered a selling point.
“Our dorms each have their own
laundry room, and students can get a text message when their laundry is done. Any questions?”
Twenty-five years ago, we had to schlep our overflowing basket of laundry uphill both ways to a laundry room that smelled like a combination of floral spring rain and fraternity basement floor. We sat on a dryer breathing in years of lint and trying to read. Or flirt. It’s a pity that today’s students may miss out on the opportunity to move someone else’s damp underwear. Tradition aside, though, will I be paying for a Laundry Communications Specialist whose salary may equal a tuition payment for my child?
“. . . and during finals they serve pizza at midnight. . . . Any questions?”
Today’s college dining facilities can hardly be called cafeterias. They’re more like specialty food courts, where a poor, starving student can access a gluten-free vegan dessert bar 24 hours a day.
“We’re going to go into our library now. Students can reserve a study room, use our writing center and check out DVDs. Any questions?”
Brave parent: “How come there aren’t any books?”
Tour guide (giving anyone over 40 a patronizing look): “Our school is a certified Learning with Technology Institute, which encourages electronic learning, not just reading stuff. Plus, the books took up too much space and we couldn’t fit the café and poetry slam stage. Any other questions?” glares at parents, daring them to speak).
Moving on . . .
“Many of our students spend a semester working on our organic farm where we provide produce for our campus and several third-world countries. Any questions?”
Today’s colleges are going green and going global. Every single school – private or public, large or small – touted its quest to be environmentally friendly and the number of world leaders it had pumped out. I am not sure what “LEED Certified” means, but it has something to do with renovating every building on campus, which seems expensive.
“Behind me is our state-of-the-art astronomy tower. We can’t go in there, but it’s really cool. Any questions?”
As a parent who isn’t a CEO or a sultan, I need to be convinced that my child will actually be able to earn a living after we have taken out a second mortgage, sold everything in the attic and learned how to make meals out of the weeds in our lawn. I’m not sure how many kids major in astronomy or how many use the rows of treadmills in the fitness center, but I hope that such things are funded by wealthy alumni and not my tuition payment.
“Our campus is 100 percent WiFi enabled – even between buildings. Any questions?”
You can be assured that whether your child is napping in some brightly painted Adirondack chair or playing Frisbee on the beautiful lawn on the brochure cover that they can easily connect to Facebook or email you to request more money.
“We’re headed back to the Admissions House now. Any questions?”
After watching six backward-walking, fast-talking, perky undergrads try to sell us their school, my daughter was able to narrow down her top choices. In the next few months we need to convince them that she is worthy and we are poor. Next year at this time we’ll hopefully be packing her stuff and tearfully dropping her off at least four hours away on a campus that gets less than a foot of snow per year.
(Melissa Jones lives in Hopkinton.)