Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Starting the College Journey

Off we go tomorrow to Eugene on our first college visit with Sophia on an “accepted student” basis. In a couple of weeks, we will do it all over again in Seattle.

623174373_1377270090Sophia has narrowed her choices to the University of Oregon and Seattle University, two schools with very different personalities and locales.

She is weighing all the factors that college freshmen think about it – how cool are the dorms, how cool are the guys and how far is it back home so Mom can do the laundry? She likes the idea of taking the train back to Portland from either campus.

Interestingly, the orientation at the far larger UoO runs three hours, but takes all day at Seattle U. I’m guessing that means we won’t get a tour led by Phil Knight at the new football facility in Duckdom.

Choosing a college is no laughing matter. Some kids know from childhood where they want to go and, if their parents went to the same school, chances are good they will get their wish. But it seems to me most high schoolers aren’t sure where to go, in part because they aren’t sure what to study. Now they have to do complex algebra equations to calculate whether their interest area can lead to a job that pays well enough to liquidate their student debt.

Reflecting back on my college exploration, I was probably a lot more casual about the decision than I should have been. My flat feet bizarrely ruled out my Dad’s dream of me attending the Air Force Academy. My first choice, Wheaton College near Chicago, didn’t seem all that interested. Maybe it was my comment that I hated snow. When Seattle Pacific quickly responded with a “yes” letter and offered an academic scholarship, my search was over.

I applied to Seattle Pacific, now a university but then just a mere college, without a campus visit. I never had been to Seattle or the Pacific Northwest. A number of my college classmates hated the gray, misty climate in Seattle. I loved it, but that was just luck, not strategy.

Sophia endured a lot of anxiety waiting for her acceptance letters. She is still anxious about her final choice and worries that she will get the dregs of a dorm room if she doesn’t decide soon.

Hopefully the orientation sessions will give her (and us) a clear picture of campus life and academic offerings. Maybe the sessions will even kindle some enthusiasm for the remarkable journey Sophia is about to start.

She still has a prom, finals and graduation to enjoy, but it is time to start looking past the high school yearbook to the rest of your life. College is a special time for young people with the courage to open their minds and get out of their own way,

I know walking around college campuses, even though they aren’t the ones Carole and I trod, will bring back sweet memories. If she is lucky, they will spark Sophia’s imagination.


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