The University Tour

(Originally posted Oct. 14, 2015)

There are many famous tours in the world. There is the Tour de France, the PGA Tour, and Anna Wintour. But none is so intimidating to a parent, not even that Prada-clad devil, as the dreaded university tour. Yet that is exactly where I found myself, in the company of my daughter, early Monday morning.

To begin with, why does the campus tour start so early on a Monday? We don’t live in the same town as the private university, so in order to arrive prior to the 9 am start we had to leave before the sun had completely risen. There is nothing quite as disheartening as leaving pre-dawn on a crisp autumn morning for a trip that, if successful, will end up costing more than $60,000 a year.

Personally, I believe the entire experience is designed to be disorienting…the start is early, the professors jovial, the meeting room warm and inviting, and the campus walking tour is carefully laid out with Instagram-like exactness (though without the sepia filters) to show everything in the best light and angle while avoiding the eye-sores that all universities possess: alumni relations hitting you up for money.

“Donate? What? I’m not even a student here yet…oh, your $27 billion endowment is the beach weakling and keeps getting sand kicked in its face by the Ivy Leagues? Oh, alright. Can I at least get through the campus tour first?”

Since this visit was to a private university (meaning: funded by tax dollars through federal student loans rather than as a line item in the budget), some of the other families on the tour were exactly what you would expect to see. It would have been easy to mistake most of the girls for attendees to a Clairol convention (Light Golden Blonde, R9HH). And the guys, well…khakis pants, white oxfords and blue blazers never really go out of style, do they?

The visit got me thinking – why do we have university tours? A university tour is about as realistic portrayal of college life as a first date is to marriage. That is, unless you are a Duggar; then the first date is when you propose.

Notice the similarities: accepting an invitation to a mutually agreeable time and place; dressing up in clothes that make you look your best; a nervous meeting between two people who don’t know each other; being on your best behavior the entire time; spending hours doing something you probably don’t actually enjoy, and; at the end, leave wondering if you will hear from them again.

Was it a success? We survived. But I wonder if they’ll call.