Thursday, October 2, 2014

College Night

They are so young, so very very very young.  Their eyes are bright and their questions are earnest, if not always as well researched as they might be.  There's an enthusiasm with the process, the bookmarks and the brochures and the keychains and the pencils are only a part of it.  Sitting on the other side of the table, we represent The Future.

It's exciting ... and exhausting.

The doors opened at 6:30, and in they streamed.  Cornell University was next to Cornell College over on the left side of the exposition floor.  We stole a chair from ASU's table right behind us, because we were three alumni of a certain age and he was a younger, paid representative.  Standing and talking for two hours takes its toll; we needed periodic rests.

Thousands of students from the greater Tucson area attend this annual event.  I've represented my alma mater since 2006.  The University sends me a packet of bookmarks and glossy brochures and fact sheets which I display, tastefully, on the folding tables TUSD provides.  The students range from 8th graders getting a head start to seniors wondering if we offer a major in cosmetology.  It's a diverse crowd, representative of all I love about the desert Southwest and the people who live here.

There are children of children of children of alumni who stop by to make their presence known.  Alums drop by, reluctant children in tow.  I get it; neither of my kids would apply, either.  Sigh.....

Some come very well prepared, with specific questions about the availability of professors and the class size and living in Upstate New York.  My answer is always the same to that last one - you have four years of your life to live anywhere you choose.  You'll probably not end up living in rural New York for the rest of your life, but for four years, why not try the country?

Even if they don't buy the rationale, it makes them smile.

Athletes who've been contacted by coaches come to wonder what's next.  Those are special applicants, ones who will almost certainly be accepted if they meet the academic requirements.  Test scores, grades, behavior ... all of that is factored in, even for the chosen few.

"Should I get B's in Advanced Placement courses or A's in Honors Courses?" is answered, snidely but honestly, "You should get A's in AP courses."  I love it when the listener stands up straighter and smiles; I feel somewhat abashed when they shrivel into themselves. 

The latter are usually accompanied by talkative parents, adults who try to answer my questions before their student can open her mouth. I'm not much easier on those people.  I look at the students and rephrase the question to their surprised faces as I encourage them to take responsibility for their own futures. 

I can hear my own children sighing as they read this.  There she goes again, making everything a teachable moment. 

They're right.  I look at the College Night as the start of a grand adventure, the first toe dipped in the water of Being a Grown Up.  That comes with certain expectations as far as I am concerned, and as long as I'm on the Future side of the table I think that I have an obligation to make those expectations known.  How else will they know what the real world expects of them?

I'm smiling at the surprise on their faces, I'm laughing with them as we acknowledge that Mom won't be by your side at registration or during sorority rush, so you might as well practice on me, where the stakes aren't very high at all.  We don't take names or resumes.  We are providers of information.  The portal to those with the real power is on the bookmarks we were thrusting into outstretched hands.  Our table is the baby pool of life; I'm just trying to help them keep their heads above water.


  1. I didn't even attend college night with our daughter. I think she went with some high school friends. It was a place I avoided as my own students would be attending and I didn't want to be seen hanging around. I always gave a few extra credit points if they went and reported back.

    1. We occupy so many roles... by the time my daughter's turn rolled around we breezed in, breezed out, and went to Denny's for a snack.

  2. I am such a great fan of your blog. Your thoughts about life, family, personal growth and sorrow speak in a clear voice.

    1. Well, thank you, whoever you are <3 What a lovely way to meet you .


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