Sunday, November 17, 2013

College Visits Part 2: Big Fish, Little Fish

In my post a few days ago, I mentioned that my teenage daughter and I had just visited two colleges. But, I only talked about one. Here's the rest of the story.

After spending Saturday of our long weekend at the University of Kentucky, we took a day off. (Well, only if you consider raking a massive amount of leaves, shopping until dropping, and then spending three hours on AP World History a day off.) Our long weekend was drawing to a close, but we made one more little roadtrip.

A couple of years ago, my girlfriend was biking when she discovered Otterbein University's expansive equine center. On our next visit, she took us there, but my daughter was still in middle school — college wasn't even on the radar yet.

Now ... gulp ... it is.

So Monday morning, prior to lunch in Columbus, the airport and our trip back to New England, we headed over to Otterbein.

First stop (of course): the equestrian center. It really is impressive. Beautifully equipped facilities and a most welcoming staff. My daughter made it a point to meet each and every horse and inspect all of the saddles in the tack room. Luckily, we also ran into a current student whose competition credentials put stars in my own eventer's eyes.

Next, we drove a couple of miles to the main campus. The school is in a small, historic suburb and has a lovely little academic center. In fact, after touring around UK, it seemed especially little. You could essentially roll out of bed in one of the residence halls and be at your first class within five minutes. 

Otterbein had an immediate advantage over UK. All the students in Lexington (and half the state, it seemed) were partying at the football stadium. But the Otterbein students had classes the day we were there, so we saw the campus in action. We stopped in Admissions and scored an impromptu and private tour with a lovely junior. We even got to see a dorm room.

"Wow, it's big," said my daughter.

"Yeah, big," agreed her mother out loud. Inside I was thinking, "Big. Big like a prison cell. How many cinderblocks did they kill to make this room?" I'd been spoiled my own years at school — a big house the first two, a brand new (cinderblock-free) dorm the last. But, I bit my tongue. In the dorm room and in about ... oh ... a hundred other locations.

We visited Otterbein's dining hall (with just 3,000 students, there's only one plus a few take-out places). It smelled good and all of the kids seemed healthy and adequately nourished. Our guide, who was from Maryland originally, said that everything was okay, except the seafood. She waits until she goes home for it. Having grown up on the coast of Massachusetts, my daughter will probably be picky that way too.

In addition to its prestige as an equestrian college, Otterbein has a renowned theatre arts program. Although she's naturally shy (and would never entertain entertaining, herself), this was a positive draw for my daughter. A couple of her closest friends are singers and actors at high school. (As a drama major and coming from a long line of thespians, I was happy to know that she could at least go to shows if not be in them.) 

But, that's not important.

This isn't about me, I remembered, deliberately and often. Throughout, I was careful to keep my opinions to myself. Observations were okay, though. So, I pointed out the differences between what we'd seen Saturday and what we saw Monday. No judgement. I suggested things she should ask herself. No judgement. With these first visits, the biggest question for her to ponder was "Do I want to be a big fish in a little pond? Or a little fish in a big one?"

Two good schools. Two excellent equestrian centers. Two solid options. 

Two down. About twenty to go.

If you enjoyed this post, order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at

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