Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Carry Me Back

I just got back from a trip to Lynchburg, VA, to visit yet another college in our ongoing search for continuing education for my 18-year-old daughter.  This time we visited Sweet Briar College, a small (fewer than 800 students) women's liberal arts college.  It was the exact opposite of everything we have been looking at so far.  It's small, it's extremely rural, and the only males are on the faculty.  Although the student body numbers about 752, the college itself is situated on the fourth largest amount of real estate of any institution of higher learning in the US.  Sweet Briar is situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and I have to admit, the setting is stunning.  We had perfect weather -- unseasonably warm, mid-60's Fahrenheit, with crystal clear blue skies -- and the school really rolled out the red carpet.

There were separate programs for students and parents.  Parents met with the university president, the dean of admissions and the director of financial aid, while the students slept in the dorms, ate on the meal plan and sampled classes.  The entire open house ran over two days.

Now Olivia has to decide some things.  Does she want a school that's rural, or one that's urban?  Does she want the cultural amenities that a city can offer, or does she want to drive 30 minutes for a pizza so that she can live in beautiful countryside?  Does she want to share classes with men?  Does she want a school where she will eventually know everyone, or does she want a larger institution?  And does she want a school that's well-known, or one that is less familiar to most people?  She doesn't know yet, and neither do I.

There are certainly advantages to both settings.  I have no sense at all of what would be a good fit for her, although I suspect she is leaning, in her heart of hearts, to an urban school.  I didn't see the spark in her at Sweet Briar that I saw in Pittsburgh and Boston.  But I could just be imagining that.  I could also see her blossoming without the distraction that having males in the equation can provide.  I just didn't get that sense of, "yeah, this is the place for me!" though, when we were in Virginia.

I will be very interested to see her final list of schools to which we are to send her SAT scores.

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