If you want to feel nostalgic, go back to college. Not your college. Any college. In the last nine months, I have taken four campus tours of major universities in an effort to find the best spot for one of my nephews.
We traveled to Stanford, Dartmouth, Tulane and Michigan. These are all excellent schools (hey, he’s a smart kid), but it could have been Cheesy State or Open-To-All-U.
College, today, is a trip.
At each place, we were greeted by student guides. These kids are, and it’s amazing how true this was everywhere we went, severely over-caffeinated. They put the bubble in “bubbly.” One young woman at Stanford, freshly scrubbed and wearing flip-flops, walked backward quickly as she toured us and said the word “amazing” at least a thousand times.
This professor was amazing! This lab was amazing! This overseas program was amazing!
And, of course, she was right. Because college today is amazing – especially if the last time you lived in a dorm was 25 years ago. The rooms haven’t gotten much bigger, but they now have cable TV, Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs in the lounges, personal microwaves allowed.
I didn’t see any small chocolates on the pillows, but it wouldn’t have surprised me.
By the way, in many dorms, the guys now have rooms next to the girls. That stunned me. It stunned some of the kids on the tour as well. They couldn’t understand why there weren’t mixed-sex roommates. So much to do, so little time
Then there are the facilities. Buildings that look like corporate world headquarters. Bike paths. International houses. At Tulane, we were taken to a gym/sports complex that made me want to turn in my health club membership.
Speaking of Tulane, perhaps it’s the New Orleans influence, but its cafeteria had better food than my wedding.
Groups? You can join everything from Save the Rainforest to Barbershop Quartets.
Activities? Well. You wonder how any kid has time to study. There are so many “amazing” lectures, parties, exhibits, celebrations. In one small stretch at Stanford, it had a forum on Tibet, a dance marathon, the Kronos Quartet, a lecture by the executive producer of the “Batman” movies and a Rubik’s Cube competition.
When I remember foreign exchange programs, I recall London, Spain and maybe Brazil as choices. The schools today have 40, 50, 60 countries on the roster. One school told us you can pick a country, and it will find a school to partner with.
Pick a country? Get out the checkbook
Now it may be because I went to a small school in the Northeast, but we got excited with intramural basketball. A stereo was major technology. A Friday night concert was a big deal on campus. And when they got a soft-serve ice cream machine, well, we were pretty much done.
So you can understand how I went through these tours with my mouth open. Especially in the cafeterias. (By the way, these campuses all have coffee shops, everywhere you look, which may explain the overly perky guides.) And we haven’t even gotten to the community public service hours, the flexible year planning (Dartmouth basically lets you tell it what semesters you want to come to school) or the stock market lab that we saw on one campus (you start with a fictional $100,000; who says academia is out of touch?).
Of course, all of this will only cost you a mere $50,000 a year in most places, maybe a drizzle less or more. But what’s $200,000 for a degree when the cafeteria has make-your-own-waffles?
I had a great time on these tours. And I was sad that I wasn’t starting out in college these days and also glad. I couldn’t handle the challenge of finding time for classes.
By the way, my nephew chose Michigan. It’s a great school. And he’s not really into a cappella.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).