||A parent's perspective on the college search
RELEASED: November 5, 2009
This column is reprinted from the Richmond Register and presents an entertaining mother's-eye-view of her son's look at prospective colleges—one of which is Centre.
By Marie Mitchell, Richmond Register columnist
RICHMOND, KY— Whew! I’m exhausted. My brain hurts. I’ve dedicated countless hours to figuring out the best way to get rid of Mitchell, our high school senior. Not that I’m anxious for him to leave. But it’s almost time for him to move out and move on. His siblings are already negotiating for his bigger bedroom. That’s a little premature since he hasn’t settled on his future home yet. We’ve been pouring over college letters, brochures and Web sites in earnest, looking for the perfect fit for next fall.
That’s easier said than done. Mitchell’s not sure about a career path. He’s narrowed his choices to creative writing, film studies and music — specifically guitar. Trying to find one relatively small liberal arts college offering a suitable trifecta in all these areas has been a little tricky. We can’t dilly or dally in making a decision because colleges won’t wait forever to award their limited supply of scholarship money. Do you hear the clock ticking? I do. Quite clearly.
We started our search by checking Kentucky colleges and universities — ones farther than commuting distance, but close enough for occasional visits. There were financial reasons as well. Mitchell has earned money toward tuition and fees for every “A” he’s made in high school, plus bonus points for being a Governor’s Scholar last summer. It’s comforting to see the cost of college reduced by thousands of dollars already. Maybe we won’t be living on rice and beans for the next four years after all.
My husband, Mason, and I have our favorite Kentucky schools, but we’ve remained neutral for fear we’ll influence Mitchell the opposite way. After all, what do Mom and Dad, with their multiple degrees, know about choosing the right college? Granted, things have changed a lot since our college days. Thankfully, we aren’t inundated with catalogs from every institution interested in Mitchell. You only need so many door stops and I don’t have time for daily visits to the recycling center. Some correspondence still is sent through snail mail, but most of the recruiting information is available online. So we’ve been reviewing Web sites — taking impressive virtual tours, listening to student testimonials and, of course, checking financial aid potential. You can even schedule overnight visits. Very impressive.
So many choices, so little time to narrow our list and visit some campuses to ensure the schools not only look good in print and pictures, but also feel right to him. The only scouting trip Mitchell’s made so far has been to Centre College in Danville, one of Mason’s alma maters. I was out of town and missed that tour. Centre has a lot to offer, but Mitchell wasn’t ready to commit just yet. Still, the campus visit gave him a baseline for comparison. That’s progress. The ticking clock is not pounding as loudly in my head.
Our next stop was Lexington. Not UK or Transy, but Heritage Hall where a college fair was conducted. We got to travel as far as Yale in New Haven, Conn., and Lake Forest in Illinois by stopping by tables set up in the exhibition hall. There were slick brochures and fact sheets, but also real human beings to answer specific questions. Very helpful. But that event also put a half-dozen out-of-state colleges on Mitchell’s radar. Oops. We checked MapQuest. These possibilities are beyond brief road trips. Some require plane tickets. A few are so far north that students cheer for hockey teams and play winter sports. Then there’s Miami’s sandy campus and ocean view which has a certain appeal — especially if Kentucky has another severe winter.
I guess we’ll be burning up the highways and airways for the next few weeks — on our scavenger hunt to find the practically perfect school. And, as anxious as I am for closure, I’m proud of Mitchell for looking so seriously at his options, and considering all possibilities before making a decision. That bodes well for future life choices — buying cars and houses, selecting a life partner and choosing his parents’ future assisted living home.
The clock is still ticking and it will probably be a race to the finish line in a busy senior year. But it’s his life, his choice. Let’s see if he reaches the right destination. If not, he can always transfer to another school or come home. I can’t promise Mitchell his old room back, though. His brother and sisters had an easier time with their decision of who will be moving in there next fall.
This column appeared in the Richmond Register on Oct. 23, 2009.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
For news archives go to http://www.centre.edu/web/news/newsarchive.html.
600 W. Walnut Street
Danville, KY 40422