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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
College stuffs! 
30th-Jan-2012 01:06 pm
Elayna 2011
As anyone who follows me on Facebook or just read my schedule post knows, we have kicking Elayna's college search into gear! Apparently colleges start contacting you right after the PSAT. So we've had a steady flow of "check us out!" mail and e-mail from around the country.

Iiiiii do not know quite how to cope with this. I mean, I did not actually even graduate high school, due to an adolescence spent in junior loony bins and wilderness survival camps that promised my parents they were accredited and oops, no. (I found this out a month before I thought I'd be graduating. Just imagine.) I fucked off from high school straight to an ill-advised starter marriage, then Vegas, then I got pregnant, then I returned to Florida, gave birth, got my GED, and went to night school at a community college until the State of Florida cut off Elayna's health insurance and I had to go to work and no longer had the luxury of time for school. Note regarding welfare: If the state had not cut off our Medicaid when Elayna was 1, things would be immeasurably better. Fuck anyone who sniggers about welfare moms, some of us were working our asses off being single parents and trying to get a degree, and your shit is both racist and classist and fuck you. (I guess I am still angry about that.)

So that's the brief story of why I know nothing about the college application process.

grntserendipity helped us immensely on Saturday; neither Elayna nor I really knew where to start! But she helped Elayna narrow down the most important things to her: she wants to go to a small or mid-size regional school in New England. She doesn't want to be in the heart of a city. She wants it to be public-transit-accessible, with smaller residence halls (preferably living/learning communities). She does not want to go to a drinking-and-partying school. She wants a school with performing arts stuff to do. She wants small class sizes. grntserendipity also advised that we check out freshman to sophomore retention rates, four- to six-year graduation rates, and tutoring and academic advisement. EDIT: Forgot to mention, but it is, of course, very important to us that her college be very LGBT-friendly! We are looking for queer-friendly, geeky, quirky.

We also got some school recommendations from grntserendipity, sorted the letters of interest she'd already received, poked around some lists, and here's what we have.

Brandeis (will schedule visit)
Champlain (may visit in April)
Green Mountain (may visit in April)
Hampshire (visit scheduled)
Hofstra (information requested)
Lasell (visit scheduled)
Lesley (will schedule visit)
Mount Holyoke (information requested)
Salem State (visit scheduled)
Sarah Lawrence (may visit in April)
Simmons (visit scheduled)
Smith (will schedule visit)
UVM (may visit in April)
Wellesley (will schedule visit)
Wheaton (visit scheduled)
Wheelock (visit scheduled)

College visits will tell us some things, but also, y'all are a huge source of information. Can I use you? If you went to any of these schools, or any school in New England, please tell us your thoughts!

Highly relevant info: She intends to become a 6th grade English teacher. Yes, that may change once she actually hits college, but. That does mean that if your otherwise-amazing school doesn't have an education major (or at least a minor that includes state certification), it isn't a good fit for Elayna. Otherwise please see the things important to Elayna listed above! And thank you!
30th-Jan-2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
I went to Hofstra (briefly) and have attended lots of programs at Hampshire. She may also want to look at Goddard College in Vermont; maybe the low-residency model will appeal to her?
30th-Jan-2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
I'll check that out - thanks!
30th-Jan-2012 06:21 pm (UTC)
While it's Hudson Valley and not exactly NE, Bard College is (one of) my alma-maters.

30th-Jan-2012 06:27 pm (UTC)
I've heard great things about Bard College, too. One of my mother's friends taught there, and a couple of my friends' kids went there and thought it was a great college.
30th-Jan-2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
How small is small? Try Marlboro in VT if "very small" counts. It's close to Brattleboro, which has an Amtrak station that shoots into Boston.

Ah, no particular education element, though things do change once people get to school.

Edited at 2012-01-30 06:27 pm (UTC)
30th-Jan-2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
Brattleboro has an Amtrak station, but the train from there goes to NYC, not to Boston.
30th-Jan-2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
I went to Mount Holyoke, after growing up in Pocatello, Idaho. I think that was probably the best thing I ever did with my life.

Mount Holyoke is a small liberal arts college (so small classes, close contact with actual professors who are on occasion not just fabulous but famous -- there aren't any TA's) that's part of the Five College consortium that includes UMass-Amherst, Hampshire College, Amherst College, Smith College, and Mount Holyoke. You can take classes at any of them, and they are only a short (free) bus ride away.

Mount Holyoke is the oldest women's college in the country. What that meant to me was that I was no longer looked at funny because I was a girl who liked (and was very good at) math and science. Women were encouraged to succeed at anything they wanted to, and they did.

That doesn't mean there aren't any men around. About half the professors are male, men from the other colleges can attend classes there, students can attend classes at the other colleges, and there are parties and other social opportunities. I really recommend it.
30th-Jan-2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Seconding this--I went to MHC and *adored* it.
30th-Jan-2012 06:32 pm (UTC)
If you take a visit to Sarah Lawrence, and need NY suburban crash space, you are welcome to stay with us.
30th-Jan-2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks - we may take you up on that! It'd be mid-to-late April.
30th-Jan-2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
My sister went to Smith. I will ask if she has the time to write something about her experience there.
30th-Jan-2012 07:34 pm (UTC)
My sister wrote back! She has this to say about Smith:

"I'm not sure exactly what to write about my experience there, but I will say that it seems like it would fit a lot of her qualifications, most importantly the smaller residence halls idea (Smith campus is organized in to houses of anywhere from 15-about 75 people so there is some choice for community size). Smith is not really a drinking/partying school in the sense that that stuff is semi-available to those who want it (less available as a younger student though) but certainly not a huge part of the culture. I think the smallest class I ever took had seven students with other classes ranging between 15-25 (unless the were large lectures for things like intro classes) and I'm not too familiar with the performing arts stuff at Smith but I did take a few dances class there that I found to be really enjoyable (jazz, ballet, and Arab-American tribal fusion :) I also had a lot of friends who were psychology majors and education minors so I think the education department is pretty decent at least in combination with the psych dept. The most important thing I would say about someone going to Smith is that its a great place to broaden your horizons and meet some really amazing women (and people who identify with different genders) and even though it is academically rigorous and can be socially isolating at times (this was my personal experience) there is a tangible shift in quality of life the seems to occur for most people in the transition from being a younger student (1st and 2nd year) to being an older student. The college also has a rich history and some silly (but still awesome) traditions that are part of what make it such a unique and interesting place."
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30th-Jan-2012 06:40 pm (UTC)
We're actually one bus ride away from Brandeis. :) It's high on her list if only because Adam works there and she knows so many LARPers who went/go there!
30th-Jan-2012 06:43 pm (UTC)
I am so so so happy to see women's colleges on the list. It was the BEST decision I ever made to attend one. I am the strong, independent, world-minded, well-educated, glass-ceiling-breaking, irreverent upstart that I am today :) Go, Elayna! These are exciting times!
30th-Jan-2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
It sounds like grntserendipity gave you some great advice. I'd add, check out the medical facilities, *especially* mental health resources. Do they have enough psychs for the student body? How high is the barrier to accessing services? How much are services promoting, or the flip side, how much stigma is applied to mental health services? Late teens/early twenties are when a lot of psychological disorders first present, and also, the stresses of moving away and being in college can cause latent genetic tendencies to depression, etc. to manifest. (Ask me how I know)

As for specific schools, good luck! Elayna wants the exact opposite of what I wanted in a college so I'm no help to you :)
30th-Jan-2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
Excellent points!
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30th-Jan-2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
What do you expect in a town which has 56 bars in 2 square miles?

Or, at least, that's the stat we were quoted at Norwich in the early 90's.
30th-Jan-2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
Out of curiosity, which of those colleges allow you to waive the college application fee? It can add up.
30th-Jan-2012 07:11 pm (UTC)
I do not have that on my spreadsheet yet, but will add it!
30th-Jan-2012 07:08 pm (UTC)
I went to Marlboro College in Vermont and loved it. Lots of one-on-one with profs and total freedom to design an interdisciplinary degree in anything you want. Socially a bit odd because there are so few students, but really an amazing education if you want to be independent and creative. And I fell in love with the campus when I visited.
30th-Jan-2012 08:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, and for what it's worth, my potentials list had a lot of the same places hers does, but when we did visits, Marlboro stole my heart.
30th-Jan-2012 07:20 pm (UTC)
Not sure if this is helpful, but Hofstra hosts an annual conference for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Editors, which I've attended twice. Since going to one of these, I've gotten a lot of e-mails from Hofstra about various one-time programs they have going on.

Someone also mentioned Goddard, which I visited during my "where will I finish college" period and was ready to go to, but the money situation just didn't allow it. Basically, they were so under-attended, at least in 1990, that their financial aid program consisted almost entirely of loans, with very little in the way of grants. But I really did like the idea of going there until I found out the cost. And the financial situation may have changed in the 20 years since.
30th-Jan-2012 07:22 pm (UTC)
I was head of Admissions for Smith College in NYC for 5 years. I ran college fairs, conducted interviews, and knew everyone in admissions on campus. (Now I just know some of them). I probably know more than most people about how to apply, what to ask, and how to manage housing and financial aid since I became an expert, and I might still have contacts at other schools.

So to recap: I'm happy to be a resource too :)
30th-Jan-2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
Ooohyay. Will you be in town anytime soon?
30th-Jan-2012 07:22 pm (UTC)
I can't speak specifically to Mount Holyoke, Smith, or Hampshire firsthand as a full-time student based out of said schools, but I took classes at MHC and UMass thanks to the Five College Exchange and enjoyed them. The Teaching Licensure program at MHC is open to students at all five colleges; I knew people (at my school) who did the program and found it useful, though I was an Amherst '00 so my knowledge of specific classes and experience is a bit out of date.

(Likewise, H was "the boy" at Wellesley studying science education, but that was 15 years ago at this point. His sister's graduated from Wellesley more recently, though ('04) - I don't know that she can speak directly to an Education major, but she's got a more recent perspective on Wellesley campus life that might be useful?)

- Pioneer Valley transit is not Boston-level transit, but it's still pretty darned good - and "free" because the schools heavily subsidize them, so you don't have to remember to carry bus money around unless you're going pretty far afield. :)

- Though by "public transit accessible," does she mean "I can get on a bus/train and come home at will," or does she mean "In my future college town/area, there are things I will want to go to that aren't necessarily within walking distance, but the local bus will work well enough and/or the campus has a shuttle that can get me to good local transit a la the Tufts vans to Davis Square or such?"
30th-Jan-2012 07:26 pm (UTC)
The Teaching Licensure program at MHC is open to students at all five colleges


Though by "public transit accessible," does she mean "I can get on a bus/train and come home at will," or does she mean "In my future college town/area, there are things I will want to go to that aren't necessarily within walking distance, but the local bus will work well enough and/or the campus has a shuttle that can get me to good local transit a la the Tufts vans to Davis Square or such?"

The latter. I think she'd be happiest with the former as well, but she has a driving phobia (stemming directly from being hit by a car a few years ago; she's terrified of hitting someone in a moment of inattention) and would need to be able to get around town.
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