Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The College Search

I'm in Georgetown now, staying in Matthew's Mom (Janice)'s exquisite, book-line home a block away from the Dunbarton Oaks gardens. What a gift of a place to stay while I visit Joshua!

I spent my last morning in NYC going with Eileen to get a flu shot. Eileen insisted (and I thought she was getting one, too), so we left early from her place on the 23rd St. cross-town bus (her favorite steed...) to reach the NYC Dept. of Public Health on 26th and 8th Avenue.

It was quite a trip seeing America from the under belly up. As the offspring of doctors, I'd never visited the public health world of American society -- which is ironic given how much work I'd done over the years on public health through Save the Children in Nepal and a handful of other countries around Asia.

So, without much forethought, I was in line, with a hundred other souls from all parts of the globe living in Manhattan. I recognized a couple of young Tibetan/Nepali women, plenty of Hispanics, a bevy of Chinese, a few Indians, some Russian and, possibly, Polish and other European immigrants, as well as Black Americans and a handful of othe native English speakers. Although the whole process took nearly four hours, the shot was free and all the public health services staff were individually kind, warm and attentive. In this world, that's saying alot.

On Thursday I came by AMTRAK down to DC to meet up w/ Joshua who is in his first year among the Jesuits. (As I say, 'when in doubt, send your kids to the Jesuits').

For me, as others, it's equal parts amazing and painful to see our offspring grow up. I'm too much a sentimentalist to let go of these beloved youth easily. Altho there is definitely a sense of parental pride in their growing independence, their character, and their heroism in finding their places in the larger world.

We did it once, too, but we weren't the parents in the story at that time.

I can offer a few vignettes and insights from our tour. Ezra and I visited Williams, Vassar, Bard, Sarah Lawrence and NYU. For us, Bard and NYU were the stand-outs (partially b/c we got to meet Magic Johnson at Bard, where his son was looking around while the Prez of NYU stopped by our tour and gave us a few of his insights on what this process is all about...).
ENaturally, Amherst and Williams are both brilliant academies for the mind, altho a bit isolated from la vrai world compared to an NYU, Columbia or Georgetown.

Ezra is also looking seriously at St. John's (The great books school in Annapolis or Taos), as well as a totally outside the box place, Deep Springs College in the desert of southern California, a two year intellectual monastic ranch for a couple dozen outstanding young men. Ezra wants a 'game-changer' school which will help him move the world in the direction we all need to go in the coming century. One can't fault his logic or question his moral ambition...

In truth, Georgetown works for Joshua as he was ready for a real city and DC is a purrrfect size city in the States. Altho Josh is now talking about a South Asia Dept. which Georgetown doesn't have, so I've told him, if he does well, he could think about a transfer to Columbia (who wouldn't want to go to Columbia?) after two years since they have a strong South Asian Dept.

But, also, these schools are all ridiculously difficult to get into these days. I call them the 'Impossibles' and the 'Near Impossibles'. Some take only 8-10% of their applicants, whereas none take more than 20%, so it's best to play the field and try to get interviews since our kidz are likely to impress most admissions folks if they can get their toes in the door.

Fortuitously, Ez had 15 mins. w/ the Bard admissions director . We loved Bard for its academic rigor, intellecual stimulus, attention to the individual student and manifold charms. It's a special place, sans doubt.

Yet, it's a tender process emotionally when it's your own child as opposed to our selves. As parents, our hearts are on our sleeves as our kids have to go through this demanding, time-consuming and exposed college search and application process.

Ouch! doesn't do it justice.

We just need to be kind to ourselves, and children, in order to find the college or university where they would really enjoy being a student. There are scores and scores of great schools around the States. We shouldn't get too attached to only one or two school ideas; instead leave oneself open for new possibilities. America is gifted with great and noble academic institutions.

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