Tag Archives: college

Co-Ed Dorms–WHY??

The college visits just keep on coming around here.  Now that the admissions clock is ticking, SuzyQ has been trying to get a look at the last few contenders before she begins applying to schools.  We have visited colleges in New England, the South, and the mid-Atlantic.  It doesn’t matter where you go, though.  It seems that coed dorms are all the rage.  Some schools even allow coed dorm rooms.  And coed bathrooms!

Am I really the only one who has a problem with this??  When your teen nephews come to visit your house, do you tell them to share the room with your daughter for the weekend?  Are you an advocate of unisex locker rooms at the gym?  No?  Then why is it not only OK but “healthy” or “normal” to house college students in so-called gender-neutral residence halls?  As I was doing some research on the subject, I came across this comment attached to a post on the subject on the Modestly Yours blog:

At rice university (my school) the last floors of single sex housing were eliminated. Typically those floors were stereotyped as prudish and downright strange.
The Rice policy for housing new students is to have single sex rooms but not single sex floors. I know of one incident of a mixed room. They got parental and administrative permission to do so. It has worked well for them.
My parents were actually happier to know I was living next to a room of men. They percieved it as safer to have that type of rescource.
I love my co-ed living experience. I really think with few execptions that we now live in a co-ed world and that it is appropriate for students to learn the realities of gender interaction in college. (Emphasis mine, spelling errors hers.)

Umm..where to begin with this?  So, those who wanted to live in single-sex housing were strange and prudes for desiring some privacy and modesty.  Some parents actually believe their daughters are safer living with men in the room next door?  And apparently, residence halls–not classrooms, labs, or the dining hall– are the best place to learn about gender interaction.  Oh, how successful the brain-washing operation has been.  The kids are not confined by gender identities or concerned about keeping any part of their life private from the opposite sex.  Even the parents are so “totally cool” with their kids’ shacking up, that they will even pay for it.

Guess what else I found out in my research.  The Journal of American College Health published the results of a study on the impact of co-ed living in 2009.  I know it’s hard to believe, but the study found that students living in coed housing tend to engage more frequently in risky behaviors such as binge drinking and having multiple sexual partners.  Shocking, right?  I can hear the arguments already: “Segregating boys from girls isn’t going to stop drinking and hooking up.”  “Student are going to do those things anyway, whether they have to go across the hall or across campus.”  Basically, it’s the same as the old let-the-underage-teens-drink-at-home routine parents used to justify keg parties in their basement for their high school son and daughters.

There is a whole lot one can argue against gender neutral housing.  A big one for starters is the way it has become only fair in order to make homosexual or transgender students more comfortable.  Then there’s the vehement opposition to anything that might impose some morality on anyone.  But let’s keep things simple.  What about the plain old yuck factor??  Cap’n Handy (formerly known as Darling Husband) likes to point out that men’s restrooms are vile and disgusting places.  In an informal poll of teenage boys in my cul-de-sac I came up with absolutely no neat freaks; their rooms are all bio-hazard disaster areas.  And girls, don’t you want an guy-free area at least part of the day?  You know, when you don’t have to feel even remotely like it’s “game on?”  The same could be said for guys.

Yes, I am a prude about this.  I really do see value in segregating the sexes in college housing.  It makes a lot more sense than letting the green-police students have a dorm all to themselves (like the Earth House at Connecticut College).  And the idea that colleges will take my $50K a year and then tsk-tsk at my unfortunate, stone-age morality is down right insulting.



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Summer of the Campus Tour

Today is the last day for the school bus to circle around my cul-de-sac.  Soon, there will be children everywhere, all hours of the day and night, frolicking around the neighborhood.  Gaggles of teens will collect on the corners in the neighborhood or sit in the middle of the street after dark (seems to be their favorite past-time).  I’ll hear lots of splashing and shrieking and music blasting from the swimming pools on the other side of the fences surrounding our house.  And new sets of skid marks will appear mysteriously on the streets when morning comes after nights of teens being reckless on the “safety” of quiet neighborhood lanes.  Typical summer in the ‘burbs.

Not for us, though.  SuzyQ and I are planning to hit the ground running to visit colleges this summer.  Sigh.  It makes complete sense.  If we travel around and visit now, it will be SO much easier than trying to squeeze in those trips in the fall between rehearsals and concerts and karate classes and the SAT again and heavy schoolwork.  Thus, my calendar is already filling with SuzyQ’s  appointments all over the eastern United States.

My formula is to add in some fun during each visit.  We will shop for antiques and vintage clothes and then eat BBQ in Memphis.  We’ll stay in a Bed and Breakfast in coastal South Carolina and hit the beach.  Do a little outlet shopping in Williamsburg.  Maybe squeeze a museum visit into a Washington DC trip.  Because, let’s face it: college visits are stressful.  SuzyQ is trying to picture herself on each campus and decide what it will feel like to actually live there 9 months out of the year.  I’m trying to imagine SuzyQ there and predict whether she will be happy or whether Darling Husband and I will worry ourselves into the ground 9 months out of each year while she’s there.  Not to mention trying to determine whether that particular school is worth the monster investment of money it will take to send her there.  And do the tour guides really have to point out all of the recycle bins on campus to prove how “green” and “sustainable” the school is?  And only in the bizarre worlds of college admission and financial aid is it a bad thing to come from a stable family with 2 parents (who live together and are of the opposite sex) who both attended college and are natural-born citizens.  But that’s a rant for another post.

Here’s the thing that amazes me after each campus visit: My take-away impressions are generally completely different from SuzyQ’s no matter what.  If I find the dorms quirky and charming, she thinks they’re just old.  When I think it’s cool that you can walk a few blocks to a fun street full of shops and cafes, she thinks it’s too busy.  Maybe this is a product of the teenage instinct to disagree with parents. 

So we are off and running.  One month and 4 colleges–so far.  Thank goodness for credit card reward points.  Just hoping for good weather and good BBQ.

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The Guidance Counselor Is In

image from dullhunk

Office hours: 24 hours a day.  Case load: one student.  Wow, you say.  SuzyQ must be lucky to have such personalized attention in her college search.  Well, you see…I’m the Guidance Counselor.  Tack that on to my other roles of teacher, household Chief Operating Officer, oh…and mom and wife.  So, here I am, spending hours each day learning the new ropes of college admissions.  And it is an all-new ballgame from the one I remember 25 years ago.

Did you know that there are social networks devoted exclusively to college matching and admissions?  I do– now.  I remember the PSAT and the SAT from my own college search.  These days, though, the alphabet soup has expanded considerably:  ACT, SAT II, FAFSA (used to be the FAF), CSS, NSSE, and EFC to name a few.  I knew about early decision, but I have found out that a student can also apply under early action or single-choice early action plans as well.  I’m learning which schools use the Common App and which ones are test optional. 

I don’t have an advanced degree in education, yet I have managed to untangle the statistics and terminology enough to help SuzyQ begin to assemble a list of schools.  We have visited 8 colleges and universities so far, not counting the ones we just walked around during the Christmas break.  What I want to know is, if the competition to get admitted to college is as fierce as the media would have us believe, why are so many parents and students so completely ignorant about the whole process?  After all, most kids can just drop into their guidance counselor’s office any day at school.  Parents could call or email their kid’s counselor with questions or use the school’s login password to access information on various websites restricted to school use.

Our most recent college visits have been to a conservative Catholic school, an Ivy, and a selective private college.  At each one, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at some of the questions that were asked by parents of prospective students.  At Catholic College, parents had never heard of the Common Application or that gate-keeper of financial aid, the FAFSA.  No one asked about credit given for AP classes or what kinds of services are available at the career counseling center, but there were plenty of questions about how the visitation policy in the single-sex dorms would be enforced and who would make sure their child attended Mass every Sunday.  And no one touched the big elephant-in-the-room question about why the campus buildings (all circa 1978) are so ugly that none of them are ever shown in photos of the school.

Next we took a look at Ivy University.  It seems to me that anyone who has a kid even remotely considering applying to an Ivy League school would have their act pretty much together regarding admissions stuff.  Not so.  A parent asked if legacy (children of alumni) applicants get special preference.  If you have to ask that question and you think you will get the real scoop from an admissions officer, you should just move along.  Similarly, the parent who had no idea what “super scoring” your SAT scores meant clearly has not done enough homework to swim with the Ivy U. sharks.  With an acceptance rate of about 8%, these school demand a lot more preparation than that.

Last stop, Selective College.  Just when I think, “Here is a group of visitors who have their act together,” one of the parents drops the Diversity Bomb.  She asks what the school is doing about diversity.  Now, you would have to live under a rock to be unfamiliar with the fact that every college in the country is trying to increase its diversity.  What does she expect to hear from the admissions folks besides, “We’re proud of the gains we have made, but we still have work to do”?  Another pet peeve: people who get into their own private conversations while on the tour, ignore the tour guide, and then ask a question that she just addressed 2 minutes ago.  If you traveled all the way from California to the mid-Atlantic states, isn’t it worth your time to PAY ATTENTION??

And another thing…Why are parents the only ones asking the questions in all of these information sessions and tours?  Helicopter parenting is alive and well.  Mostly the prospective students shuffled around like zombies while Mom and Dad pumped the tour guides for info.  And I thought my homeschooled kids were supposed to be the anti-social ones.  I wonder–at what point do kids suddenly wake up and feel capable of handling their own business?  I’m pretty sure they expect their parents to get their dorm room set up.  Do they also figure Mom and Dad will register them for all their classes, line up their work-study job, and get them into a fraternity, too?  I remember feeling nervous (OK, maybe a little scared) after my parents got me unpacked and then drove away, but I don’t recall feeling helpless.

Well, I need to get back to work to figure out if attending online high school means the student is considered homeschooled for admission purposes and whether the Post 9/11 GI Bill will be de-funded before SuzyQ finishes college.  So many questions; so little time.

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Helicopter Parents. Oh, Please.

When I first read this article about colleges providing extensive orientation for parents of incoming freshmen, my reaction was, “Are you kidding me??!!”  It’s no wonder the cost of college has gone up so much.  Here’s a taste:

But these are not simple “meet the dean” receptions held the day before school starts. These are elaborate two- and three-day events, often held on midsummer weekdays, requiring parents to take time off from work and pay $70 or $80 in addition to lodging, food and travel expenses. They are packed with workshops, tours and speeches on subjects ranging from letting go to campus safety. Reed College in Portland, Ore., even invites parents to read “The Odyssey” and attend a lecture and discussion similar to what their children will experience in a freshman humanities course.

First of all, I plodded through The Odyssey as a college freshman, and I have no intention of reading it again.  Not even to empathize with my kids.

But more to the point, “letting go”??  Is it really the responsibility of the college or university to counsel parents on how to deal with letting go?  I guess in this age of parents calling up their child’s professor or dean to argue grades or make excuses for why their kid keeps skipping class, schools are doing their best to nip this “hovering” in the bud.  This seems a little over the top to me, though.  I could see maybe an hour-long discussion of health and safety issues along with typical homesick behaviors to expect.  Multiple days of this is just enabling.

According to the article, “lots of parents think the orientations are the greatest thing since “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  I don’t know about you, but those books scared the crap out of me.  They were great for 2 things: reminding me of every possible thing that could go wrong with my child and reinforcing the fact that apparently every parenting decision I ever made was wrong.  I finally gave up on that series of books in favor of child-rearing guides more in line with my own parenting instincts.

And that’s really the point.  Rather than handing over every last cent I have after paying tuition and fees so that I can get one expert’s opinion on what my child will experience and how I can deal with it, I hope to trust my instincts.  I’ve been anticipating this since the start of high school.  I still have 2 years to go before my first child leaves the nest (see my earlier post here.), so you can be sure I’ll be doing my own reading and asking about what to expect.  And then, I’ll go with my gut.


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