Thursday, August 20, 2009

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: College Visits

If you have a teen, who is a Junior in high school, then you are thinking about college. 

 As a homeschooler, not only do you get to be the parent and the teacher, but magically, when your student gets to be high school age, you also get to be the guidance counselor too. About a year ago, almost to date, I wrote Not Back to School: A Dancer With Many Hats in a Thankless and Undervalued Job in The Eclectic Telegraph. It addressed this idea of counseling from one perspective, and though humor can get you through Junior year, your day timer will do a far better job. 

 Junior year, I told my student, is probably the most important year there is, and that is thanks to the schooled kids. Senior year has practically become irrelevant because students are expected to take college entrance tests in their Junior year that assess topics that many years ago would have been addressed Senior year. I am talking about the higher maths and more complicated Sciences and literature. Also, many college applications are available as early as August 1, the summer between Junior and Senior year. So this means, you hit the road to visit the lucky institutions that made it to your students "top 10" list to determine which one will receive $140,000.00(all costs: $35,000 per year) of your money, spread over four years, $175,000.00, over five if you have a budding Engineer student. 

 This can be a fun outing if you let it. While junior may be stressing, you can be the tourist. That's what I did when we were in Philadelphia over the summer. One of the key questions you, as the ever-wise mentor needs to ask your student is "Can you live in this city for four years?" While the tour of the campus is informative, the tour of the surrounding digs is far more important, unless you have one that plans to hang at the library on campus for the duration. 

 Whether junior recognizes it or not, sifting through a list of colleges can have some order if you the mentor can be stealth about it. Generally, after academics, location is important. You want your student to think about the idea of small town or a big city. 

 The list we were working with over the summer had schools in small towns and big cities. None in between. So feeling pretty sure a big city was not going to fly with The Kid, we headed to Philadelphia to visit two of the schools on our list Drexel University and Rutgers School of Engineering in New Jersey. Also, I have never seen Independence Hall, so that was also on our to-do list as well. 

 Impressing the idea on The Kid that Freshman are generally not allowed to have cars on campus, we decided to travel in the mode he would need to if he went to the big city for school. This of course in Philly means the subway. The subway system in most cities is generally pretty easy, though to a kid who prefers daylight to cave dwelling, the subway is a gloomy scary place with really weird people lurking about. 

 On the Subway line was Drexel, The Kid's destination, Independence Hall, my destination and the Hard Rock Cafe - The Kid collects the traditional tee shirts from Hard Rock. Has them from all over the world now. 

 The tour of Drexel was like many of the other college tours we have taken. It is an old campus in the middle of a giant city. When you are in the campus buildings you really have no idea you are practically in the middle of one of America's oldest and most historic cities. Not to mention Penn State is right up the street, so Drexel remains on the list of "schools to apply to". 

The Kid got to drive our rented vehicle from Philadelphia to New Brunswick. Sort of a mean trick I suppose to get The Kid to drive in big city traffic, but a practical one. If you are going to live in a big city, you need to be able to deal with one. He did beautifully. 

 The Rutgers Campus is spread over three areas, with the Engineering and Science geeks cloistered in one beautiful area. Rutgers is a huge school, and the facilities are intimidating, but it looks like some serious work could be done on this campus. One plus is that the campus is bike friendly and the icing on the cake, Amtrak rolls into and out of town regularly - a straight 3 day shot home! 

 So The Kid surprised me, big cities are OK, as are small towns, with big colleges. Our list of 10. We're working on the applications, as I write this. That is why I haven't updated these blog pages in a while. See ya soon!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Okie Noodling - Kid Rolls Eyes

Well we thought we would go to Grenada to meet friends, but that didn't happen. Between taking the SAT and ACT and the Kid's job, hitting the road has been a no-go. Months ago we gave up on cable and satellite TV and got the HD converter box. We have a total of 14 channels, mostly PBS stuff. This small amusement lets us "travel". Sometimes we'll encounter Rick Steves, sometimes Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow traveling in Spain but the other night was the prize of all prizes Okie Noodling.

I was fascinated, The Kid went to bed.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

If Only We Were Books - What a Story We Could Tell

A book registered on BookCrossing is ready for adventure.

I like to read travel magazines, every now and then I find a really good bit of advice. Did you know that Cipro is becoming resistant to T.D. in Southeast Asia and that Zithromax (or a Z-Pac) is a better choice for the duffel to that destination?

Stuck at home because of a slumping stock market and crazy schedules, it seems easier to read about traveling these days. I am in the middle of reading An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude by Ann Vanderhoof recommended by some friends who like to travel the way The Kid and I do. Until recently I've never really thought about the books I leave behind for others to read. Friends who are going to Grenada at the end of January are intentionally taking books that are suitable for the Grenada Library in St. Georges. The library there was devastated by hurricane(s). They are also donating all kinds of goodies to local schools. We asked American Airlines to drop the charge for extra baggage, so book schlepping wouldn't be totally painful, but they couldn't. Times are tough for everyone I suppose.

Aside from intrepid travelers who leave books behind, there is one group - I think is still around and doing good in bringing books to the Caribbean is Boaters for Books.

But back to thinking about the books one leaves behind, it seems there was an entrepreneur
a few years back who thought about this too. He started a fun website called BookCrossing where you assign a number to a book and give it away. From the BookCrossing FAQ:

I'm looking at your site here, and I can't believe what I'm reading. Do you actually want me to give away my books?
Ummm, yes. Trust us on this one. Registering your books with, then giving them to a friend, a charity, or otherwise releasing them "into the wild" and following their progress and travels, is infinitely more fulfilling than the small satisfaction you'll get by looking at your books in your bookcase every day.

As Austin Powers would say, "It's karma, baybee!"
When you give the book away, it's "released". In releasing a book, you make an entry (journal the book) at BookCrossing indicating that it's been released. When someone "captures" or finds a book with a BookCrossing label and number, they add an entry at BookCrossing. The bookcrosser who released the book - in this case that's you - receives an email telling them it has been found and from then on, everyone in the chain who held/read the book will receive an email every time somebody journals the book. Each person will also be able to see the book's journey you just look at it on your bookshelf at the website. (Please note email address and journals are sent in the form of a PM (personal message) directly from the BookCrossing site.)

Seems like a lot of fun and an interesting journey - if you're a book.