|The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.)|
After years of living by a college campus, passing tours of engaged parents and bored teens, I have crossed the line. Over April break I became one of those parents. To minimize ennui, I let my 17-year-old son take the driver’s seat, both metaphorically and literally. We drove a thousand miles in a week. My son set the itinerary, mapped our route and split the driving. We visited only one college per day to allow for in-depth exploration. Our sample ranged from small liberal arts schools in the mountains to big, urban universities.
My favorite moment was on a tour of MIT: my son pointed up at a building and whispered, “Is that a Dalek up there?” Daleks are evil cyborgs from the British sci fi series, Dr. Who. A full size replica was indeed perched on a tower. It was hack week at MIT. Another year, the students constructed a replica of a police cruiser and installed it on the dome of the main building with a parking ticket. MIT offers a Pirate Certification if you take pistol, archery, fencing and sailing for the Phys Ed requirement. You’ve got to love geek humor.
Back when I was a graduate student at MIT, women were a small minority, but now the gender ratio is near even. Our tour guide was an attractive sorority sister from Dallas, majoring in material engineering. Diversity had improved too: there is no single majority race on campus. Daleks, however, are still under represented, but given their mission of universal conquest, that might not be a shortcoming. Without visiting, we wouldn’t have realized how much the campus atmosphere had changed. I’m using MIT as an example, but all of our campus visits produced surprises, both good and bad, and lots of helpful information. Fit is such a personal thing.
My son strongly recommends attending classes to get a flavor of both the teaching style and the student body. Some admission departments list classes prospective students can visit and others link to the course catalog and ask you to contact the professor. Your child (not you) should email professors 2 weeks in advance. My husband is always pleased to have prospective students attend his lectures at Bowdoin College. As much as I wanted to visit classes with our son, I foraged for food so he could blend in with the students and approach professors. We met up for lunch and the helpful tour/info session.
The road trip was worth it not just for college applications; it was also a good bonding experience. I still anticipate a stressful senior year ahead of us. Any tips from survivors?