College Visits With Your Senior - Parental Guidance Suggested (Marquette University)


My son, Peter, and I visited Marquette University on September 11, 2011. Peter is a high school senior, and we are “college-shopping”. This is our first college visit. I’m excited to have this day, as I recognize that my solo time with Peter is getting short. I am disappointed but not surprised when Peter puts on his headphones as we leave our driveway at 7:45 a.m. He says, “It’s early Mom, just let me wake up. I’ll talk later.” So I leave him be for the ride. Left with only my thoughts, I think about what is ahead for Peter. I went to Business School for a legal secretarial certificate after graduating high school and am currently seeking my Bachelors Degree. I’ve made a point to tell Peter not to follow in my footsteps. I want my son to have choices and be excited about the school he chooses.

I suggested this school to Peter. I think a Catholic university might be good for Peter. We are Catholic and attend mass weekly. I believe Peter has a deep faith. He never misses mass and will go alone if necessary. I want him to be in a place where mass and religious instruction are available if he chooses. To me, faith is a huge part of life.

Following signs that say “Marquette Open House”, we enter the Alumni Memorial Union. A student in a bright green t-shirt directs Peter and I to one of six laptops that are sitting in a half circle atop high tables. She is smiling and friendly and makes you feel welcome. There are many students in these bright t-shirts, and they are all very friendly. It strikes me that they must be happy with their school to be spending their Sunday working this Admissions event.

We go to a large area where there is breakfast and coffee available for all the guests. Peter and I sit and plan our day’s visits. I see the map of buildings comprising the campus of the University and feel overwhelmed. There must be 50 buildings spanning 2 or 3 streets. My research said that the campus size is 94 acres! I’m nervous. How will he find his way around in such a big city? It’s not like he has really ventured that far from our home in Palatine. He pretty much stays in a 5-mile radius. Peter looks at it and is unfazed. He says, “I have an excellent sense of direction.”

The first stop is the Varsity Theatre on West Wisconsin Avenue. There is a city bus headed down the street as we enter Varsity Theatre that looks similar to the CTA buses we have in Chicago. We later find out that a city bus pass is part of your child’s tuition. $42,000 a year is a lot for a bus pass! I wonder where the students go on the bus, what are the favorite spots. Peter has never been on a public bus. Will this become his mode of transportation? Will he be riding the bus at all hours of the night? Is his sense of direction really that good? I calm myself down remembering he will be almost 19 years old when he goes away. He will learn to figure stuff out. But still, I will be worried.

Varsity Theatre is full of prospective students and their families. The crowd seems to be a broad representation of various cultures, similar to the large high school Peter attends. The Dean begins his presentation entitled “Marquette 101”. He gives an overview of the school, including a film with clips of Marquette students talking about how great their school is. It’s a very engaging clip. I feel positive, but also remember that this is a movie made with the intention of getting students to apply.

Our next stop is Straz Hall for the Business School presentation. Peter finds it easily using the map. Peter nudges me to make a note of a few things as the speaker talks (I’m the one with the paper and pen). I’m glad to get these nudges from Peter – it shows he is listening. I note that most graduates are offered positions prior to graduation because of the great internship program Marquette has. This is good to know in today’s depressed job climate. After another nudge, I note that there is no separate application required for the Business School. I’m sure Peter likes this because less work will be involved.

At my insistence, Peter and I head to Abbottsford Hall, a co-ed dorm. Peter doesn’t think we need a dorm tour. He says, “I’m sure it’s just like an apartment.” I may not have gone to college, but I know that dorms are not like apartments. Is my son really that naïve? A young man, also named Peter, provides us with a tour of this dorm. He is very passionate about this dorm and school. I wonder if my own Peter would be comfortable doing something like this when he is a freshman? Would he keep his room clean enough to show off? He’s so quiet around adults, but I do know he is different with his friends.

The dorm rooms are small. Peter’s room has 3 boys in it. The bedroom has a bunk and twin bed. There is a sitting area with a futon and some desks. There is a very small sink and kitchen and one bathroom with a shower. As we walk down the hall, kids shout greetings to each other. They seem genuinely friendly to each other. My Peter remains pretty quiet. I wonder what he is really thinking. Tour Guide Peter tells us that every Sunday a large group of the kids go to 4:00 mass and then to dinner. This pleases me and reminds me why I want him to go to a Catholic school. I think Peter is pleased, but again he does not say much. I am feeling a bit frustrated and wishing Peter would say something.

We ride a small, old elevator to the basement. There is a large rec area in the basement with foosball and ping-pong tables. Peter (my son) finally asks his first question “Is there a gym nearby?” We find out there are two gyms, also included in the $42,000 tuition. I wonder what “nearby” really means to these college kids. It crosses my mind that in the dark winter these streets may not appear friendly. In my research, I saw a comment about there being a lot of robberies in the same area as the university. This is a big concern to me and something that I will be reminding Peter to consider. He has to feel safe at his college of choice. Again, I’m a little nervous. I might be more afraid to let go than I thought. Have I taught him enough life skills?

We end our day at a little restaurant called Sobelman’s @ Marquette across the street from some of the university buildings. Posters for Marquette events line the walls. Peter thinks it’s probably a huge hangout, because it’s so close to campus. Today the place is filled with college students or families. We share fried cheeseballs and a cheeseburger, and they are delicious. Fried cheese is a must when you are in Wisconsin!

Peter says he liked the school but does not elaborate. I remind him this is the first college visit that he can use as a baseline for comparison when he looks at other schools. I prod him to seek more schools to visit because I want him to go to the school that HE feels best about. He agrees. I am concerned that he does not realize what an important decision he is making this year. I don’t think he realizes that if he does not feel safe and happy in college, it will affect his entire learning and life experience. I wonder if he even knows what he likes or dislikes.

He’s always held a lot inside. He will talk when he is ready. I do know he took everything in, and it’s percolating in his head. I have always told him to follow his instincts, and so far he has proven to have great instincts. He’s a young man but still needs guidance. Going away to college won’t really change that too much, at least not in the beginning. There is so much ahead for him, and I want him to grasp and enjoy all the opportunities that come his way. I think that means that I better remain on guard and watchful, and sometimes a little pushy, and always ready to give him advice and support when needed.

Works Cited

"Marquette University." Marquette University Timeline. N.p., 2011. Web. 19 Sept 2011. <http://www.marquette.edu/about/timeline.shtml>.

"U.S. News Rankings & Reviews." U.S. News & World Report LP, 2011. Web. 19 Sept 2011. <http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/marquette-university-3863/reviews>.

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