irish i may

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

College Road Trips

This weekend our beloved Founder, Rob took our oldest, Mia, back to her college, Salve Regina in Newport RI after a weekend visit.    It was a little sad,dropping her off, he thought, to which you will respond, "Why, OF COURSE it was!"  But then, you have not had to live with this girl for the past year. We are actually thankful that we can now be sorry to see her go.

Aside from the typical travails of teenagedom  I truly did not realize that the college search process was going to be such a psychological trial.   We entered a period of detente at some point last fall in which we simply did not speak of the ever closer-looming decision which was going to impact the rest of her life because if I asked even a neutral question about it I was risking a verbal goring.  I made few suggestions about where she ought to apply, but a couple of her chosen schools I had discouraged outright.  In the end, I just let her do whatever she dang well wanted

When the dust settled she had narrowed down her choice to three schools that had accepted her: Ithaca College, Mt. St. Mary's University and Salve Regina University.

Last Spring, on Palm Sunday, I took her to visit Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmittsburg, Maryland.  The Mount is a small school with a lot to recommend it.  It has warm and friendly community, an excellent and orthodox campus ministry, a long history, good academic reputation, and a picturesque location.  She didn't like it.

Her reasons were mostly legitimate.  She wants to study art.  The art department has two faculty members and tiny little studio spaces.   They graduate maybe seven or eight art students a year.  The campus is well outside of "town", such as Emmittsburg is, there is no public transportation and nowhere to walk except the woods.   I felt agreed that the Mount was just not the place for her. 

 That left Salve and Ithaca .  She has heard some discouraging web-reviews about Salve Regina (no bar scene, boring campus life).   Rob and I had not heard much good about Ithaca ("Cornell to wed, Ithaca to bed", welcome to high school part 2).  What we now had, as we had had since the application process began, was a bad case of competing perceptions. What we considered BAD about Ithaca, she considered GOOD.  To summarize what I mean, here is an actual conversation he had with a work collegue who attended Ithaca:

"So what did you think of Ithaca?"
"Oh, man, I loved it.  It was a non-stop party for four years!"

Words to warm a father's heart.

Of course she sensed this  and insisted that we ought to let her choose her own college.  One of her reasons was, "After all, I applied where you wanted me to apply."

What? What???

I will admit that we pressed her somewhat to apply to Mt. St. Mary's.  The application was free, we knew that the Mount had money to offer students, we have  known kids who enjoyed it there, and on top of all those good things it has a strong Catholic identity. What is bad about that? Otherwise, she chose all of them, (however haphazardly, in my opinion).

If you have ever read Harville Hendricks, the marriage therapist,  he writes about how the primary task in relationships is to understand and accept that the other person as other.  That is that they have their own ideas, perceptions and thoughts, and no matter how long you live with someone or how much they love you or you love them, this will never change.  I will always have my own perceptions while the other (Mia) has hers.  She perceived that she was being pressured into a certain college. I perceived that she was being draw toward Ithaca because it was more prestigious than Salve around her high school and, or course,  because she wanted to party.

We never expected her to attend one of the semi-monastic types of Catholic colleges, but Ithaca seemed like it was approaching the Pro-leagues in the Party School Association.  My brother spent a couple of years at a big Florida university like that.  He called it afterward, "Caligula U".  Would she have had the depth and commitment to retain her faith within a totally hostile atmosphere?  Might Ithaca be that atmosphere?

Thank God, we will never know.  Ithaca just didn't come through with the cash like Salve did.Now we are grateful, so grateful, that she seems to have landed in a good place. They have an excellent art program, good academics, a professional and caring administration and this view:
Not bad.


  1. Thank you for following my blog and welcome to the world of blogging. I just started myself not that long ago and have found it to be so much fun. I enjoyed reading this post. We are just entering that stage with our daughter planning on heading off to college in September. It should be interesting and challenging at the same time. Thanks for sharing. ~Alana~

  2. Betty!
    Welcome to the world of blogging! Love to hear your side of things. You are one of my most treasured friends. Love you.