Archive for October, 2011

College tour impressions: Rutgers

October 25th, 2011
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With the exception of just a handful of the States in the Union, for a student aspiring to the Ivy League-level education, the nearby state school gets designated as a “safety” choice: An institution with a much better chance of being accepted to than those super-selective top schools, but something that will only be considered for matriculation in the worst-case scenario of no other schools admitting said student. Of course, in this day and age, the state school offers by far the cheapest option among Top 200-250 schools nationwide for an in-state undergrad.

Rutgers did not figure very high on the list of matches for Becky’s interests. That was somewhat surprising in itself given that as any huge school it offers about a hundred majors, but several other states’ public schools came up as better matches. Yet, it is nearly a lock for her to get admitted to it, given her grades and test results, and I’d be a fool to ignore the fact that Rutgers is considerably more affordable than the schools she has at the top of her list.

And if you remember what I said at the start of this series, I do not believe that any school outside of the very top tier of undergraduate education offers a truly competitive advantage to its students over another institution within several dozen places on any given ranking list. Yale or Cornell vs Rutgers? Yes, quite possibly a significant competitive advantage for the Ivies. Boston College? Likely, not so much.

Which makes Rutgers a very real possible choice for us. So we had to go and try it on for size.

It is the biggest school we’ve seen, spread across five campuses along a state highway. To me, that is immediately one of the biggest drawbacks of the school, the high probability of having to use the bus system to get to some of your classes. The buses may be well-run and frequent, but there is still a big inconvenience in having to “commute” to classes while living on campus.

The smallest and most central campus is located in the center of New Brunswick and is an example of a city-integrated campus that Becky finds very attractive. It has quaint streets and houses, plenty of local entertainment within a short walk, shops and eateries around the corner. Freshmen are unlikely to be housed there, but something to look forward for upperclassmen.

There are two adjacent campuses (really, it is one campus with two names) to the south of that, still within close distance of the city center. These two look distinguished and venerable, befitting a school founded in XVIII century. One of them offers only female housing, which is a bit of a weird concept in our times. The other has some of the interest-centric housing that Becky finds quite intriguing.

Two newer and expanding campuses are located well to the north of that in the adjoining town. There, the spaces are considerably more open, and the architecture is contemporary and mostly unremarkable (with exceptions). Most of the freshmen happen to live on the northernmost (as the highway goes) campus, which means plenty of traveling on that bus system.

In fact, our campus tour was almost entirely bus-enabled. We were driven through all five campuses, with a pesky junior pointing out highlights beyond the windows. She did not have a good script to explain to us why she chose Rutgers (well, she was a New Jersey resident, duh!) and an even worse example of someone choosing Rutgers over MIT (the person apparently received a full-ride scholarship at Rutgers, which tipped her hand, I imagine, as opposed to any academic considerations), but otherwise she did a pretty good job.

We got off the bus to view a dorm “show room”, which turned out to be of a reasonable size for a double.

The info session started with a 10-minute video advertisement for the school, which was followed by a pretty long rapid-fire presentation by a recent graduate who looked somewhat older than her graduation year suggested. She threw lots of facts and numbers at us, meandered into descriptions of events that held little interest for the audience, but also pointed out a couple of important details that we did not yet notice ourselves on the school’s website. Not a complete waste of time, even though I started to feel that way half-way into her talk.

Overall, we did not see anything off-putting, and Becky found quite a few things she could put into a “plus” column. Rutgers is a no-brainer for us to apply to.

College education

My daughter, the licensed driver

October 18th, 2011

New Jersey legislature came up with a grand idea some time ago to raise the legal driving age to 18 years old. Leaving aside the discussion on the merits of that decision, we will instead note that the new law went into effect for children born after December 31st, 1994. Which means my eldest child is among the last lucky ones to get licensed at seventeen.

It could be a birthday-wrecking occasion to take the driving test on the morning of your birthday, should you somehow fail. With Becky, the positive outcome was never in doubt. And conversely, it must have been the best gift she could give herself, being able to brandish her new license all day long on her birthday.

Of course, as soon as she got home from school, she demanded the car keys, wishing to drive to the nearby Wawa for coffee or some such. Natasha told her to use the bike instead. But later in the evening, she sent Becky on her own to pick me up at the bus stop after work.

Hey, I got a new personal chauffeur! How cool is that!

Happy birthday, Becky!



College tour impressions: Swarthmore

October 14th, 2011

The second liberal arts college on our itinerary is the one that offers an engineering degree among its majors. Doesn’t that make their “liberal arts” designation invalid? Not that it matters to us, as already mentioned in the past.

The college grounds are simply gorgeous, worthy of a royal residence, with a long tree-lined alley running across the green meadow up to the main hall. That main building, in its colonial palatial splendor, stands out from all other structures on campus. The rest of the buildings, both academic and residential, are almost understated in appearance, predominantly contemporary in design, and most importantly harmonious in presenting a well-thought-out and agreeable pattern. Leafy pathways, green lawns and common spaces, lots of natural light inside – beyond attractive.

It should be noted that we happened to visit during the short fall break, with majority of students leaving campus for trips home. The serenity of the place surely must decrease on a normal school day.

The school is small. The smallest of all we are visiting, in fact, with only 1,500 undergraduates in total. I admit that my perspective is skewed, since I have never lived on campus in my life and cannot really imagine what it is like to spend nine months of the year living in a fairly closed community. Is two thousand people, faculty and staff included, enough a population size for a person not to feel constricted in their choice of close acquaintances? Or do you need at least five thousand to be able to make your picks? Ten? Me, I am not overly fond of crowds and strangers; a small community where everybody knows your name and you know everybody not just by sight would be perfect for me. Becky is not that different from me in that aspect, even though she goes to a huge public school nowadays. Part of what she liked the most about her comparatively small private school in London was that she got to know everybody there.

Location is a consideration, though. The campus setting is rural and, while it is not exactly in the middle of nowhere, going someplace outside campus requires a fair amount of walking along not exactly pedestrian-friendly streets. Or you can take a train into Philadelphia – the station is right at the edge of campus, the ride is 25 minutes long, the trains run about as frequently as you would expect a commuter train to run. In all probability, once the novelty of hopping on a train to Philly or taking a walk to the nearby mall wears off, Becky would spend most of her time on campus. The question of a small population morphs into “not only it is small, but you cannot readily take a break from it either”. She assured me that it would not be a problem for her. I have my reservations, but I am possibly over-analyzing it.

The guy leading the info session was a comparatively recent graduate of Swarthmore. He talked seemingly without much of a structure on a range of topics, providing us with snippets about campus life and his insights of what made the college different from others. At first, I did not think the session was very useful, not the speaker was any inspiring, but upon reflection, I realize that we did hear a number of things that allowed us to compose a rather unique opinion about the institution.

Among the ideas that I heard that stuck with me were the emphasis on collaboration between students (to the point – which I hopefully misunderstood – that individual brilliance was not worth as much praise as a collaborative effort that generated only an average outcome); a policy of not calculating any GPA or rankings across the student body (which, to me, reduces the long-view incentives for the best students to remain on top, even as it may be masking the realization for lower-rung students that they are not doing well overall); and even an absence of any grades in the first semester of the freshman year where all classes are graded Pass/Fail (which totally removes incentives for the brightest and makes the mediocre appear just as good in comparison). Suffice it to say, I am not entirely on-board with those concepts. Maybe, I am missing the fact that every student at Swarthmore is so brilliant that any attempts to incentivize their academic performance are inherently futile.

Becky, on the other hand, had not much of a problem with those. She’s just not much into competing anyway.

The campus tour was lovely. We were given a choice of a tour guide, and the girl we randomly picked was very natural and charming, who quickly won us over by talking to us, interacting rather than presenting. She took us into a student center, a library, an academic building, and then used her own dorm room to illustrate residential accommodations. Sounds a bit silly, but seeing a messy room that someone clearly lives in gave us a better impression of the living arrangements than pristinely made up “show” rooms elsewhere. Coupled with all the other tour highlights, we came away feeling that we learned quite a lot about Swarthmore.

A different college from all of the other places we’ve seen. A definite “yes” to apply, in Becky’s book.

College education

Counting license plates

October 13th, 2011

Driving around on our college tour, one of the games that we occupy ourselves with is searching for different license plates on surrounding vehicles. Up to this point, we managed to see license plates of 35 US states, plus Washington, DC, and 4 Canadian provinces.

The most exotic – for a Yankee such as myself – have been Utah, Washington (the state, not the city), Alberta, New Brunswick, and South Dakota. The truck bearing South Dakota plates came into our field of vision less than 5 miles from our home on the way back from Upstate New York. That made our long day all the more exciting.

These are the 15 states of the Union that eluded us so far: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, West Virginia, Wyoming. I have high hopes that a few more of these will reveal themselves on our remaining journeys. Though not Hawaii, probably.

Travel Miscellany

College tour impressions: Drexel

October 11th, 2011

Sometimes people check out stuff they come across in the infomercials.

Drexel was nowhere near our list of targets for Becky’s higher education. It is not big on liberal arts and humanities subjects, instead priding itself on offering strong programs in applied sciences and professional lines of study. Not at all what our undecided applicant is looking for.

It did send us quite a number of mailings, just as many other schools did. But whereas most of the other schools attempted to entice us solely with variations of rah-rah slogans such as “You deserve the best!” (meaning, of course, that they are, naturally, the best) or “Imagine yourself here!” (implying that there is hardly any reason to imagine any other destination) or “You’re such a star, we want you!” (which any reasonable sixteen-year-old would see through as meaningless flattery), Drexel supplemented their “we’ll give you VIP treatment” pitch with highlights of some pretty cool programs available at their School of Media Art and Design. Given that we wanted to check out at least one other school besides our home state university that was sitting well outside the Top 50 ranking, and coupled with its relative proximity to us, we included Drexel on our itinerary, giving it a distinction of being the only school on our list whose mailed ads to us worked to some degree.

Unfortunately for Drexel, nothing else really worked.

As much as Becky enjoys the idea of living on a campus in a large city, the amount of through traffic and noise on the streets occupied by university buildings was a bit too much. As little as she cares about architectural composition of the campus, there was too much of uninspiring industrial structures on or around campus; sprinkled with some cool-looking modern buildings, to be fair, but not to a large degree. The main university building, which used to be the entire university when it was first founded, is actually quite delightful inside and out, with a grand central atrium, arched balconies on all levels, a museum-worthy collection of artifacts and an impressive picture gallery. Since that was the first building we went into, everything else went downhill from there.

UPenn alums in my audience will undoubtedly tell me that University Town, encompassing both UPenn and Drexel, has a lot to offer in terms of diversions (and downtown Philly seems to be but a stone throw away), but we must have been on the wrong streets and did not see much of that. I have little doubt that happening areas, full of restaurants and shops, were just a couple of blocks away, but not seeing that firsthand left us with a feeling of being in a wrong part of the city.

One of Drexel’s main selling points – its strong Co-Op program of paid internships at major companies for literally all undergraduate students – is a plus (although one quickly realizes that taking the most advantage of it means getting your undergraduate degree in five years, rather than four, while paying for each of those years as if it was a standard year of study). Having to declare your major at the very beginning – albeit with some room for an “undecided” factor and an ability to change majors later in the course of studies – is a definite minus, taking away a lot of flexibility that we have come to expect in our college search. And then, besides those seemingly cool media-related programs, there are truly no major fields of study that align with Becky’s interests, and we really have to account for the possibility that she will change her mind many times during her first couple of years, which seems less convenient with Drexel’s approach of fitting into a major-focused study from the very start.

The info session was conducted by an incredibly fast-talking admissions official who managed to squeeze more informative points into a 30-minute presentation than most people do in an hour. She answered a dozen of questions from the audience during that time as well, concisely and to the point. Becky thought her too fast, but I actually enjoyed that part of our visit the most. Then, for the campus tour, we got a girl who clearly could not hold still for even a second and gave us little beyond scripted snippets of what purpose each building played and how some of the key elements of being a Drexel student worked. Boilerplate stuff. She took us into the student center (which was all right), then a gym (which was modern and dandy – probably the reason why it was included – but hardly merited a stop on the campus tour), and a “show room” at the freshmen dorm. The latter seemed ok up until the point when our tour guide ventured that while this particular room was a double, the same size room could be a triple. Since we could not imagine how a third of anything – bed, desk, wardrobe – could fit into that space, we came away depressed by the possibility.

I hope Drexel alums in my audience, if there are any, will forgive me for coming to a quick conclusion that we will not be applying. It’s not you, it’s us.

College education

College tour impressions: Cornell

October 10th, 2011

Cornell topped the list of matches for Becky’s various interests, when that research was conducted, which is not at all surprising given its founder’s motto of offering any subject of study to its students. It was our second Ivy League school to pay a visit to.

Its suburban campus sits high in the hills surrounding Lake Cayuga in the Fingerlakes region and there are some fantastic views over the area to be had from several vantage points. While downtown Ithaca is not within walking distance – it is 15 to 20 minutes away by bus – there is a happening area literally a block away from campus called Collegetown, with plenty of eateries and shops to provide off-campus diversions.

No two adjacent buildings on campus look similar in architectural pedigree, and at first I found that visual somewhat disconcerting, but very quickly came around to thinking it all fit together quite well. The campus itself is huge and even though it is rather well-defined in its main boundaries, its major arteries are open to the through traffic, which I find somewhat less than optimal for a non-city setting.

Unlike at other institutions, at Cornell we started with the tour and not the info session. Our tour guide was a hyperactive girl whose delivery at first felt too in-your-face for me to enjoy. But again, I came around to liking her a lot towards the end of the tour. Despite her occasional over-the-top cheerleading tendencies, the girl gave us tons of useful information, constantly cracked us up with undoubtedly scripted but delivered with gusto jokes, and not for a second lost our attention. She also did something that we have not experienced on any other tours. In the middle of it, she took the entire group into a classroom, sat us down and declared it a Q&A session. For the next half an hour or so, she rather expertly dealt with a lot of different questions. Even when she opted for what felt like canned answers to common inquiries, that was one of the most useful experiences we’ve had in our journeys so far.

We only went into one other building – the campus chapel – which was a less than obvious stop on a tour of an unaffiliated school. Since the chapel is used by all different religious organizations on campus, its Catholic design notwithstanding, the purpose of showcasing it was mostly in expressing how all of the different faiths coexisted at the institution.

Because we were not shown much in terms of facilities, we had to take our tour guide’s word that they were top-notch. Not unlike what we had to do at Yale.

Towards the end of the tour, as she was talking about athletic pursuits available at Cornell, she happened to mention an ice-skating student club. That itself almost sealed Cornell’s status as one of our definite targets. Very few colleges in the nation have ice skating as a recognized on-campus activity; at most, it would be an individual off-campus pursuit for Becky.

Then we went to the official info session and it nearly succeeded in negating our heretofore positive impressions. It was led by a cheery woman whose style of presentation made her seem almost fake in her exuberance. Working off a PowerPoint presentation, she kept making unfunny puns that fell flat with the audience, and then entirely lost me when she went into a lengthy monologue that could be summarized as “Why you may consider not to apply to Cornell”. I saw a few people in the audience exchange bewildered glances with other members of their parties, just as Becky and I expressed our own puzzlement to each other, and Becky later said that she felt it was rather intimidating to hear an administrator focus on telling the audience that the college was so selective, the prospective applicants should be doing themselves a favor and looking elsewhere.

With the exception of some details of financial aid available at Cornell (need-blind, just as at all other Ivies, and explained in detail in the brochure that we picked up before the session), the presenter failed to tell us anything that we had not heard already from our excellent tour guide. She did roll out a quartet of current students to go through some topics and field a few questions, and those four kids provided the best moments of the session with their composure, well-spokenness and thoughtfulness.

We finished our visit with lunch at the full-service hotel that sits in the middle of the campus. Not that it would figure in the decision process, but it was definitely a different kind of experience to watch the flow of campus life from the restaurant window.

Despite the mostly horrible info session, Cornell is clearly near the top of our list. As an Ivy League college should be.

College education

College tour impressions: University of Rochester

October 9th, 2011

Not all colleges on our touring itinerary were selected because they matched up exceedingly well with Becky’s interests. Several were selected for reasons that could be summarily expressed as “why not”. U of R was one of such selections. We heard a couple of good things about it from acquaintances, and we were making the trip to a college in Upstate New York anyway (which will be the subject of the next post), so instead of driving four-plus hours each way for just one college, we figured we could add a couple of hours to the overall journey to visit a place that was not originally on our list.

Neither Becky nor I can say that we came away especially impressed, but similar to our earlier trip to BC, we did not find anything especially off-putting either.

The campus is of the suburban self-contained variety, not unlike that of BC. Downtown Rochester is said to be 15-20 minutes away by bus, but there is not much in the way of obvious off-campus points of interest in the immediate vicinity. The architecture of the main campus is very homogeneous, of “colonial” red-brick variety, reasonably charming and uniform. Not an eye-sore, but certainly not eye-catching either.

The info session was fairly forgettable, led by a nice lady who tended to give a long-winded answers to the simplest of questions, insisting on providing specific examples of “this student did that, that student did this” that after a while started to look entirely made up. We were asked to pick our tour guide from among a half-dozen students who showed up at the end of the info session, and we chose the kid who appeared the liveliest of all during the brief introductions. He turned out to be personable and talkative – as all tour guides undoubtedly are – but he volunteered not much information along the way, concentrating almost exclusively on telling us which building served which purpose. He did take us into a student center, a couple of libraries, the athletic center and also down to the tunnels that connect academic and administrative buildings, so we got a pretty good feel of the college.

There were a couple of things that we learned that fall into the “definite plus” category in our differentiation formula, such as non-existent everyone-has-to-take-these core requirements beyond a writing seminar, or the ability to take the fifth year of studies free of charge for additional electives if you satisfied your degree within four years, or interest-centric dormitories. The only item in the “definite minus” category was the 5-hour-plus drive to get there, thus far the farthest distance on our itinerary.

One thing that we did at Rochester is we signed Becky up for an interview with an admissions officer. Not all colleges recommend or even offer such opportunity. We could have had a similar interview at Yale, but not on a Saturday when our visit occurred, and by the time we decided that making a separate additional trip to New Haven mid-week was a worthwhile exercise, their entire Fall schedule had been filled up. (A huge blunder on our part in this whole process, I think.) But Rochester was offering such interviews on Saturdays as well, and if we are already there, why not take advantage of it.

Becky came out of that interview (she was one-on-one with the counselor, I was waiting in a lounge) a big believer in having them. She really enjoyed the opportunity to personally emphasize her strengths to someone who will play a role in the admission decisions. Cynical person that I am, I have little faith in the fairness of the admission process overall, and I am not sure how much the notes scribbled down by the counselor after roughly 25 minutes of talking with a given kid would make a difference in the decision made to accept or refuse that particular applicant, but I don’t see how having the opportunity to showcase yourself even to a single admission officer can be a negative thing. Unless you come across as an idiot or as a bore. Which Becky can’t even if she tried. She felt that she she convinced the counselor that she was a stand-out candidate.

As the result, we came away with an impression that Becky had an excellent chance of being accepted to U of R. So, even though it is probably sharing the bottom place with BC of all the colleges we’ve seen so far, we will likely make it one of our “safety” choices.

College education

College tour impressions: Boston University

October 4th, 2011

The sequence of different-type-of-campus visits continued on our call to Boston U.

Unlike our previous stops, BU’s campus sits smack in the middle of a major city, strung along a public transportation-served artery for over a mile and a half, with the riverside as its northern boundary. “Beautiful” does not enter the conversation to describe the campus at all, even though there are some impressive buildings and the promenade along the river bank is quite pretty. But most of the structures belonging to the institution fall into two basic categories: Rows of well-maintained brownstones or outwardly-unremarkable, except for pretenses of grandiosity, industrial-age edifices.

But the unmistakable “student town” vibe pervading the area more than compensates for the perceived lack of pleasing vistas. There are plenty of places to go to, be it for a cup coffee or some form of entertainment or a simple walk. The city center is but a few minutes away by tram. And still, predominance of people of college age everywhere you look tells you that it is all occupied by a university, even if you are so inattentive as to miss seven hundred signs that announce the name of the school on every nook and corner.

Becky finds this type of setting extremely appealing.

BU is the biggest school we’ve seen so far in terms of enrollment and in terms of available programs and majors. Not surprisingly, it covers all of the areas of interest for Becky and even offers dual-degree programs that could combine those areas of interest. It is also the first one on our circuit that does not make promises of covering the gap between total tuition and fees and the incoming student’s family ability to pay. They offer a variety of merit-based and selective scholarships, but beyond that it’s all about attempting to qualify for government grants and ending up getting student loans or second mortgages.

The information session was lively, led by a BU alumnus who now worked as an admission officer at the university. She covered all of the major topics at a brisk pace, with plenty of cheerleading for the school, and managed to answer the many questions in such manner that for the first time in my short history of attendances of such events the audience seemed to run out of questions with time to spare. One current student was present to help her out with some of the more student life-specific topics, and he did all right, although he mentioned his not very common major so many times during his remarks that it felt a bit OCD.

What I especially liked is the way a number of students – “admission ambassadors” – made themselves available to chat about college life with visitors who were waiting for the info session to start. The kids were all personable and animated and definitely helped both the high-schoolers and their parents to warm up to the upcoming presentation. I would not put too much emphasis on anything we could gain from that chat, but I can definitely see how a one-on-one personal touch makes you feel more welcome at a large institution.

Becky did not particularly like our tour guide on account of her deadpan delivery of corny jokes. As is my habit, I tried to defend the girl, reasoning that she was playing down to the lowest common denominator in a large group of people and quite succeeding at that. Becky’s standards for humor were much higher than that, though.

The tour took us inside a student center and a library, the latter showcasing the alumni, including a glass case with a bunch of Oscars and Emmys in it. We were also shown, unlike anywhere else, a dorm room, which entirely failed to impress me. I appreciate the honest approach of not baiting me with some luxury accommodations that will not be available to my kid possibly ever, but a small room that can barely fit two high single beds with built-in desks hardly inspires any appreciation from my side. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Near the end of our tour, as we were walking past residential brownstones, some smart-ass from an upper floor shouted at our group, “You’re all making a mistake!” We got a good chuckle out of it.

On balance, Becky really liked what the school offers in terms of programs as well as its urban feel. BU moved towards the top of her list, likely with an earlier than elsewhere application in order to gain consideration for those scholarships.

College education

College tour impressions: Boston College

October 3rd, 2011
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Why would a secular Jew consider a Jesuit Catholic education for his child?

By luck or accident, the first few college visits all brought us to different kinds of campus. We started with one well integrated into a moderate-size town. We then went to a largely self-contained campus of mostly rural characteristics, bordering a small but reasonably lively village strip. Then, Boston College offered us a largely self-contained campus in a large-city residential suburban area.

The campus is good-looking enough, with impressive Neo-Gothic main buildings surrounded by mostly serviceable modern architectural pieces. Our tour took us inside half a dozen buildings – the only such tour so far – and the interior spaces all looked renovated and well-equipped.

But there is practically nothing except residential streets directly outside of the campus perimeter. There is a huge pond with running paths around it on one side and a sizable cemetery on the other side, but we spied only one tiny stores-and-restaurants strip, six or seven establishments in total, in the near vicinity. Boston city center is about 5 miles away, which means 40-50 minutes on public transport one-way. Although people speaking to us uniformly emphasized “all that Boston can offer you”, I know from our own experience of living on the outskirts of London that those lengthy trips to and from the city center get rather annoying real fast and eventually become a decisive factor in not going anywhere. I would not be surprised if the majority of students rarely venture outside of campus.

The info session on campus distinguished itself with something I quite enjoyed. There was a standard admission officer pontificating on important topics as everywhere else, but instead of having just one current student on hand to have an occasional question lobbed to, BC rolled out a whole panel of five students, who spent about half an hour answering questions center-stage about their college experiences. It was rather entertaining, as the kids clearly nailed the prepared parts of their scripts, but fumbled around a bit when required to think on their feet. One parent asked a brilliant loaded question, “I assume all of you sat through a similar session when you were high-schoolers yourselves and then-students told you about BC; what was your biggest surprise when you actually got to campus as freshmen?” – and not one of the five kids was able to come up with a coherent answer, not even with glossy-ad-ready “You know, I think it all turned out exactly as I had imagined”.

I don’t think it was extraordinarily illuminating or can be used as the basis of any conclusions, but that performance did bring a bit of additional human feel into the session.

Our tour guide was a perky sophomore who did really well to showcase the shiny bits of the school. Becky was not impressed with her lack of knowledge of when the Jewish New Year was, and while I attempted to point out that a Catholic Midwesterner may not possess that bit of knowledge, she would not accept that as an excuse.

Which brings me back to the question I posed at the beginning of this post.

I identify myself as belonging to the world Jewry, but I am nowhere near religious or even observant. I do not particularly care to force any set of beliefs onto my children, and I will not look kindly on anyone else trying to force their sets of beliefs onto my kids. But from what I know, Jesuit education is not at all about converting students into canonical faith. Rather, it is firstly about giving those students a universally well-rounded education. I can get behind that credo.

There are plenty of non-Catholics attending BC every year (although I accept that they are in minority), there are purportedly many non-Catholic religious and cultural organizations on campus (including Hillel, which is very close to Becky’s heart), the academic requirements do not include attending a daily Mass (although there is a Theology requirement, which I understand can be satisfied any number of ways that focus on philosophy and history rather than on intimate knowledge of sacred texts). BC offers somewhat fewer programs and majors than the colleges we visited before, but still all of the major areas of interest for our undecided/undeclared applicant are represented, which is why it scored pretty high on the matching exercise that Natasha and Becky did some time ago. As much as religious affiliation is a cringe-inducing factor for me, I can’t see myself disqualifying a good institution for that single reason.

Alas, Becky concluded that she did not see anything fantastic on balance, the school showed her “nothing bad”, that’s all. I guess that means that we’ll make a game-time decision whether to apply or not depending on how many we want to limit ourselves to in the end.

College education