My son goes off to college today. We put him on a plane to Atlanta so he could go to freshman orientation over the weekend. He has to go early because he is joining the marching band and their band camp starts in a week. In between he will be staying with my brother who lives in Atlanta.
Next Friday my wife and I will load up his belongings into our SUV and make the twelve hour drive to Atlanta so that we can move him into the dorm on the following Monday. Then we turn around and leave him on his own and head back to our empty nest.
If you have been following my intermittent posts about college hunting, you would know that my alma mater, Georgia Tech, home of the Yellow Jackets, was on his short list. He called it his safety school, and sadly it was. He applied to three more competitive schools but the roulette wheel that is the admissions process for ultra-selective schools came up double zeroes.
And while I could be accused of some sour grapes, I think he is just as well off. While he is very talented in math and science, we haven’t seen any evidence of the drive needed to succeed at schools as rigorous as some he applied to. Not that Georgia Tech is a basket-weaving summer camp. I have no doubt he will be challenged more than he expects to be. The hubris of youth is nearly unlimited.
The question I get asked most often is if I’m happy that he is going to my old stomping grounds. I am, but not for the reasons people assume. While I wear my school pride on my sleeve (and my internet alias), I was more interesting in getting him into a school that would be good for him.
The time to get a kid thinking about colleges is long before the post-PSAT mail blizzard starts filling your mailbox (and nowadays, your kid’s e-mail inbox). As you can tell by the picture, my subliminal soft-sell of GT over the years has been subtle and low key. But it has never been exclusively aimed at Tech.
From the age that he could walk, we have visited college campuses Over the years we have strolled the grounds and browsed the bookstores of places like Wake Forest, Duke, Chapel Hill, Stanford, Berkeley, Oklahoma State, Virginia and MIT among others. So when it was time to select colleges, we had lots of reference points. For awhile there I was worried that he wanted to be a Blue Devil. All he knew about Duke was that they had a good reputation and were big rivals of his dad's school. Fortunately, that phase passed.
Finding the right college is a game of matching the student with the school. And like personal relationships, there may not be One True Match, but there are fits that work better than others. My son wanted a strong engineering school in a metropolitan environment. And Georgia Tech fits that bill very well for him. For a different kid under different circumstances, I would feel very differently about shilling my school.
Parents want the best for their kids. Sending a kid off to college is the culmination of eighteen years of parenting and coaching and school trip chaperoning. After nearly two decades of daily involvement, it’s hard to let go. As we have been helping him pack, there have been a lot of tears, mostly my wife’s, but some of my own.
My son has been chomping at the bit to go off to college for at least a year now. He is embarking on a grand growth experience and has nothing but exciting times ahead. I hope he does well and has fun. And he will because he is not the one that has to head back to an empty house full of memories.