Sunday, October 28, 2012

Boomer Prepares for College

I know what you are thinking.  Aren't you a little old for college?   Perhaps not too old, but been there, done that.  My Darling Daughter, Grace, on the other hand, is just right for college.  Now that she is a senior, "we" have begun the adventure of college selection.    

We've opted for the "apply to a bunch of schools as well as the state school and hope they give you a bunch of money" approach.  I've learned from the experienced college seekers that this approach generally results in the child getting accepted to many schools that she can't afford so she ends up at the state school anyway.  

It's not like when I went to college.  Cost was still an issue even though it was a heck of a lot less.  My solution was simply not to go to college (until social security came to the rescue).   My eldest brother's solution was to work, save money, then go to school until the money ran out.  My middle brother got a sport's scholarship.  All of us went to state schools.

Grace is both practical and a dreamer.   She wants to be a marine biologist and travel the world.  She wants to study abroad in Spain.  She wants to be a scientist in the Caribbean.  She can envision herself on a science project in the Antarctic.    She wants to become a dive master in her spare time.   And just in case that doesn't work out, International Studies is her fallback.  And to do all this, she wants to go to school in California.

So she embarked on an internet search, identifying the best schools for her goals:  UCLA-Santa Barbara, UCLA-San Diego, UCLA.    We explained to her that these schools were too expensive since she'd have to pay out-of-state tuition and that financial aid was not going to happen. It's not that we couldn't afford to send her, Hubby and I just don't think out-of-state schools are a very good value when you compare it to her two state school options (University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin).    

Beautiful Redlands University campus
After realizing merit scholarships offered her only hope, she identified all the private schools that looked like a possibility.  Those that offered the clearest path to merit aid rose to the top.   Mostly good schools, though still somewhat underrated vs. her state school options here in the snowy north.

As all this school searching is taking place, Grace is actually already attending the University of Minnesota finishing her senior high school year as a college student.  This is all very cool as she gets college credit without the cost.  Or so we thought.    Come to find out, not every school will transfer the credit because she also received high school credit.

So Grace began a letter writing effort to the Admissions Offices to find out who would/wouldn't take the credit.  And later she revised this effort with letters to the Registrar's office.  Because she is a practical gal, she made up her mind she would only consider schools that accepted at least one year of credit.  This eliminated one of her private schools.

Tour guide at University of San Diego
With our revised list in hand, we did the college trip to San Diego and Los Angeles.  I have to admit, it was fun and exciting and I wished I was the one who was eighteen and heading off on a new adventure.  And yes, I asked all the questions while Grace and Hubby listened in embarrassment.

Laguna Beach "college visit break"
In order to qualify for merit aid, you've got to have the SAT and g.p.a. numbers.  The higher, the better.  So Grace, in an effort to improve her SAT scores, retook the test.  And she made some big jumps, improving her chances.   Her top choice school changes as she thinks the chances at admission and aid change.  I think it is now USC.

So now the paperwork begins:  applications, essays, letters of recommendations.  Her goal is to have them all done by mid November.   Then we wait.   I told her it will be like Christmas every time a letter arrives from a school.   Did you get in?  Did you get any money?  Did you get enough money?

Then the decision.  She's already decided that if the money isn't enough, she'll just stay a the University of Minnesota.  We've given her a promise to pay for graduate school wherever she wants to go.   But between you and me, if she comes close on one of those private schools, I'm going to have a hard time delivering the news she can't go.   She has worked very hard on this.

So I'm going to do the noble thing.  Let Hubby take the rap and look sad.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Bill, the camping man
Last week I agreed to a couple of nights camping in a nearby State Park with my Hubby.  In our twenty years of marriage I have gone camping about five times.    He loves it.  Me?  I just don't get it.

Let me recap my experiences.

Me, blending in with my environment
Camping trip #1.  This was the most successful.  Young, single, in love.  Camping by some river.  Bullfrogs singing their bullfrog songs.  Nice campfire.    Outhouse nearby.   After camping trip #1 I thought, this isn't so bad.

Bill gets our tent site ready
Bill carts in our camping gear
Camping trip #2.  A night in the boundary waters.  Newly married.  Adventurous.  Left our cozy A-Frame and paddled into the wilderness.  Set up tent, ate dinner.  Went wandering.  Chipmunk ate my ginger snaps.  Retired for the evening.  Thunderstorm with high winds throughout the night.  Bill was fearful but didn't tell me.   I was too stupid to be afraid.  Paddled back the next day in the rain and wind.  Fun?  I think not.

Wildlife crossing road.

Hiking trail
Camping trip #3.  A summer camping trip with another family.  Family bonding.  Hiking.  Dinner on the campfire.  Smores.  August temperatures dipping into the low 40's at night.  I am not prepared.  Freeze my rear end off.  Could hardly sleep.  Fun?  I think not.

Lake Pepin shore
Frontenac State Park at night
Camping trip #4.   Camping to do a pre-check of Boundary Water camping gear. Darling Daughter and I join Hubby and his Boundary Water Buddy at a Wisconsin state park.  Nice shower/bathroom facility but a little bit of a walk.  Get the tent up.  Do the campfire, dinner thing..barely.  Rain begins and goes on and on and on.  An absolute downpour.  We hunkered in the tent and played cards.    Middle of the night still raining when I ventured out to the outhouse (closer than nice shower/bathroom facility).  Fun?  I think not.

Camping trip #5.  Our most recent two-night adventure in Frontenac State Park.  Gorgeous fall colors.  Lovely hike along the cliffs above Lake Pepin.  Temperatures cool but I was prepared.  Ate at a nearby restaurant but made a nice cozy campfire later.  Forgot the smores.  Went to bed.  Hours later, still awake listening to the non-stop sound of freight trains.   Chugga, chugga, chugga.  Even Bill, the camping enthusiast, was miserable.   Packed up the next day.  Fun?  I think not.

Cool fire.  No smores.
While I agree there are times when the only way to see what you want to see may be by camping, the rest of the time, why would you?   If you can get a nice warm, dry room, with a nice soft bed with breakfast and have that wonderful park/river/vista/hiking trail (you name it) a short drive away, why would you spend all day putting together camping supplies for a night or two outside?

I just don't get it.  Except for the smores.

Frontenac Path to site #6