As I posted in my highlights for February post, in addition to the busy-ness of home life and homeschool, we are also in full swing with the process of helping our oldest make a decision regarding where she’ll spend the next several years once she leaves our home. You can see our first college visit here. Dad hit the road with her this month (envision Martin Lawrence with Raven Symone in “College Road Trip”)–two universities, two markedly different experiences, two consequently different impressions.
The first stop:
Visiting Texas Womens’ University was more of a parent-driven activity than anything encouraged by the oldest, and that bit of background seemed to shape the day. If it is any indication of her lack of interest, these pictures were captured by my husband on his cell phone; the oldest took none with her camera.
We really liked the size of this campus. Although the oldest envisions herself at a larger state school (though not too large), we see the potential for large state school-related distractions, and would prefer a more intimate environment. She also had no interest in attending a single-sex university, so it is good, at least for her, that TWU is now opening its doors to males. Though male enrollment is small, it is a step in the right direction for our daughter’s perceived needs. The campus is also very near Dallas, where there are a number of outside cultural events related to her interests. Last, but certainly not least, this campus is the most cost-effective for us of all the places that she’s shown interest in thus far. It is not far from home, and the tuition, etc., are very affordable. This was perhaps the point where we were willing to push her to at least take a look, pointing out to her that her brother is not far behind her, so we have to make decisions that benefit all parties involved.
The biggest disappointment was that TWU did not sell the program that interests her well at all.
First, the program head had a scheduling conflict, and consequently, students were there to represent her particular school. Though there was some value in this, and students can definitely offer a perspective, there was no one to speak to the program at a high level–approach to learning, philosophy behind the what and why of courses required, availability of internships and how they happen, etc. I loved the fact that this level of conversation was so critical to our daughter; where did this mature young lady come from? 😉
My husband was also not pleased by the limited housing offered to students–a big consideration for me, at least, as I’ve experienced the horror of having to find apartments, inconsiderate roommates, etc. when housing was no longer available. My husband also felt that there was no ideal “perfect” housing for a student’s needs (internet access, safety in the evening versus traffic through the university, etc.)
Our daughter returned home a bit more in like, but definitely not in love, with this campus.
Not long after, she made her second trip in as many weeks.
I’ll answer the obvious question first, with all the candor that is me: “Why is a black girl from Texas even considering Iowa State University?” I’m glad you asked! 😉
In the fall of 2010, the oldest attended a local college fair. For obvious reasons, the lines to see representatives of UT (in these parts that’s Texas, not Tennessee) and Texas A&M were long. Other schools were helpful, but not necessarily engaged in a conversation that “sold” their school, so to speak. The ISU rep impressed the oldest, and she was increasingly intrigued when we shared that my middle sister completed work for her Doctorate there–largely at the University’s expense. Indeed, the rep spoke of a number of scholarship opportunities that could possibly be available to the oldest, and went out of his way to follow up on all of her questions. They have subsequently “courted” the oldest with a barrage of e-mails, post cards, etc. from then until now. In short, they spoke all of our language. BUT, this is also our cold-natured girl who walks around the house with a bathrobe on top of day clothes–in July. Our immediate reservation was that Iowa in the winter would be entirely too cold for her. She was insistent that she could handle it, so we bought her the warmest category jacket Land’s End sold, insulated all-weather boots, and packed her off for a trip up to Ames in the midst of a snowstorm.
From my husband’s perspective, this was a very different experience from dragging the horse to water at TWU; she LOVED it.
(Notice the immediate difference in quantity and quality of pictures!)
Perhaps this is the case with all larger, state schools, but this place knew a thing or two about how to recruit a potential candidate. We were called days before her visit to be sure that we were coming; they knew her intended major, who would be there, and all the amenities were laid out. She spoke with everyone, from a resident advisor, to the admissions director, to the department head for her intended major, and of course, to other students. The facilities were exceptional. I feared momentarily that she’d had a brief love affair with the snow–rare in these parts–but she returned home sharing a number of advantages of their program:
1) it is one of the top rated in the country for her field
2) internships–domestic or overseas–are required as a part of graduation completion
3) housing is guaranteed for all four years (again, more peace of mind for me than for her)
4) strong support system in terms of mandatory meetings with various advisors
5) there is a dance program in addition to her field of study
(Incidentally, TWU had several of these benefits, too, but you had to work much harder to find these things out).
Our first concern was the level of diversity. When my sister attended this same school years ago, our niece remembered vividly going to church and having someone ask to feel her skin. In fact, neither of them left the area with fond memories. Before we as a family of girls embraced our natural hair, finding a salon once our daughter left home was a huge concern. Thankfully, the Lord has ordered our steps such that she won’t have to worry about that quite as much. The University is more diverse than I would have thought, but there is still the reality that Iowa isn’t exactly what one would consider a melting pot.
The weather poses some obvious concerns as well, as I stated earlier, for our cold-natured daughter. I’m still not convinced that she’d survive 4 winters of 26 degrees as a high–very different than 1 day. However, she feels as if she can make it, and each time I’ve questioned how realistic is this opportunity for her, her response has been, “Well, Mom, you just have to layer and bundle up.” I simply don’t want our money bundled up in beauracracy if she decides this wasn’t as she thought after the first close encounter with months of winter.
Closely associated with the weather concern is the transportation issue. Our vision was that our daughter would probably take what is now our second car to school with her. She’s in no hurry to drive in Texas heat; how in the world will she navigate in Iowa snow? She quickly caught wind of the shuttle system that is widely available throughout the campus and around town (Ames is a big college town), and has stated numerous times that the shuttle is a viable option to her having to drive around in conditions that are not comfortable for her.
She obviously enjoyed the tour. So as of right now, it is a definite possibility. She has one more trip to take in late April. I look forward to the “come to Jesus” we’ll have this summer regarding her fantasies versus our realities. Start praying, friends.