Yesterday my girls and I took a trip up to Fredericksburg, VA to visit the campus of the University of Mary Washington. It’s a small, affordable school with a good reputation, and it’s not too far from home – only an hour and a half away! The day was BEAUTIFUL – cool and sunny – the perfect collegiate Saturday.

After arriving, signing in and listening the the basic “welcome” spiel, we lined up behind one of the 12 tour guides who would glide us through the campus, pointing out vital buildings and giving us basic school info. Our guide’s name was Ford. Seriously. Ford. His parent’s picture must be in the encyclopedia next to “Urban Yuppies.”

We were all anxious to get out and see the campus, but Ford kept us corralled in one sunny spot next to some attractive construction site and babbled on and on for more than 10 minutes about what I considered to be nonsense. After 5 or 6 other tour groups marched past us, we made our way to another nondescript location where he babbled for another 10. I was almost 30 minutes into my 50 minute tour and we hadn’t made it an 1/8 of a mile yet. As more and more tour groups slid past us I gathered my girls together and we planned our escape from Ford, the poor misguided guide terminally ill with oral diarrhea.

After that we had fun! We explored the campus on our own, not really needing to know the specifics of each and every building. We sat in on an information session regarding the school’s arts and theater program, and then we went to lunch in the dining hall, which in itself was an experience.

The school had given us discount coupons for lunch, and it still cost me almost $20 for the three of us. Now it’s been quite a few years since my days at the University of Delaware, but I remember the food being a lot better. I don’t know if the dining hall was running on a weekend menu, but I found it odd. Rather than having 3 or 4 entrees to choose from that changed daily, they had 3 rooms that served different kinds of foods. One room had pizza and pasta, another was vegan/gluten free, and the third served brunch and hamburgers. Sounds great on the surface – you could visit all the rooms for the one price you paid. The problem was, the food was all bad. And if this is all the dining hall offers all week long, I’d be bored by Halloween. But the girls loved it.

After lunch they opened three of the residence halls so you could see what a typical dorm room looked like. This was our favorite  part of the day – it was fun to walk through the halls and visit the different dorm rooms so my daughter could see what she’d be getting herself into. They were small – and some of the older buildings didn’t even have AC. And we were surprised at how messy some of the rooms were considering you were inviting total strangers into your place to poke about. Unlike my days in college, two dorm rooms would share a common bathroom built between them. I had the fun privilege of hauling my ass down the hall to use the bathroom or the shower.

My daughter liked the school and ranked it an 8. As soon as we got home, she was online researching every college in our state. Before our visit yesterday, I was the one doing all the research and planning our visits. Now that she’s actually walked on a campus and has seen what her life could be like a year from now, she’s a little more excited. I just hope we can swing it financially.

She’s going to need a lot of help from loans and scholarships – those will most likely decide where she goes, rather than which school she prefers. I wouldn’t mind if she stayed at home and took some classes at the community college right down the road – got her feet wet academically and then went to a college. But, there’s something about that Freshman experience – that first time being away from home and on your own. It’s something you only get to do once and I’m not sure I want her to miss that.

But she doesn’t even know what she wants to major in yet. I knew what I wanted to do by the time I was in 10th grade – hell in 5th grade even. She knows that she has to choose a viable major – something she can earn a living at after college. She’ll have lots of loans to pay back, and I don’t want her working in a pet store with an degree in English.

I still think college is a rip off.

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