Words of Advice from a Two-Time College Dropout

Graduation Cupcakes!

High school graduation parties can be cool, but what if life seems all downhill from there?

Like anyone with a working Internet connection, from time to time I find myself completing online surveys about various companies or products, whether for fun, for freebies, or in hopes that the survey will include an essay question that you can use as a soapbox to unleash a thousand-word tirade about the last time their services ticked you off and ruined your day. “That’ll show ’em!” you think to yourself as your carefully crafted vitriol is forwarded to the survey company and assimilated into the results database containing hundreds of thousands of other surveys, someday to be skimmed by a distracted HR rep who might raise an eyebrow at your poison-pen screed, if you’re lucky.

Every such survey has the obligatory section whose questions are designed for demographic pigeonholing of your results. I don’t mind revealing my ever-advancing age, blissful marital status, or conspicuously dull bloodline. My least favorite question is always, “What is the highest level of education you have completed?” It sounds simple and uncomplicated, especially if you earned a degree. Sometimes I wonder if those who attended graduate school and/or who hold multiple degrees receive a little bonus from the survey company in return, to thank them for bolstering the results with certified demographic classiness.

Mine is the humble ignominy that requires me to check “Some college”. It’s always a multiple-choice question, never a write-in field, so you can’t fall back on the standard glib answers such as “school of hard knocks” or “school of life”, joke answers such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” or “Hogwarts”, or even obscure answers such as “School of Fish”, in hopes that someone in the survey company will agree how cool a song “3 Strange Days” was. Every time I spot the bland, undecorated phrase “Some college” on a survey, I wince for a second and have to shake off the reminder of a young adulthood that wandered astray.

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Sorry Your Gift Came from a School Fundraiser


Looks dandy. Fails spectacularly.

It’s never too late to regret a Christmas gift whose inherent flaws were kept hidden at the time of unwrapping only to manifest weeks later like a time-delayed disappointment bomb.

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Loner Dad’s Long, Proud, Awkward Day on Campus

college presentations

Consider, if you will, the following case of orientation disorientation.

This past Monday my son’s college held a special all-day program for incoming freshmen to undergo orientation, hear intros to their respective schools, meet their advisors, register for their first semester’s classes, experience an actual dorm food-court meal, and endure a self-guided campus walkabout to accomplish all the other activities at various buildings, only some of which are next door to each other. I tagged along to multitask the roles of chauffeur, navigator, sidekick, and personal ombudsman whenever he needed to question or vent about something. By and large, my parts were played with utmost competence.

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Fleeting Moments on Graduation Day

Eighteen years of life, thirteen years of schooling, and countless evenings of coaching, admonishing, encouraging, lecturing, applauding, tolerating, and loving all led up to a single day that required tremendous coordination and patience to align all the pieces just right for the series finale. Though today felt about three hundred hours long, its unique centerpiece will seem fleeting when viewed in retrospect years from now.

Today was my son’s high school Graduation Day.

Graduation Day, Class of 2013

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College Dropout Prepares to Pass on the Opposite of His Legacy

This weekend’s main event was eighteen years in the making, an experience I never imagined because few parents want to daydream that far ahead in their children’s lives. Sure, we look forward to a few milestones — first steps, first words, first day of school, all the best parts of the cute years. I suppose some parents dwell on the long-term forecast and begin planning for the arrival of their grandchildren. I’ve taken more of a walk-before-they-can-run, crawl-before-they-can-walk approach when it comes to second-guessing my son’s future for him.

That being rambled on about: Saturday I drove my son up to West Lafayette for a tour of the campus of Purdue University, where he’s been accepted and is scheduled to attend this fall. Needless to say, our family is mostly thrilled (there’s always a naysayer, isn’t there?) and, having seen what’s in store for my former infant, I now feel ten years older than I did last year.

Purdue Clock Tower

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Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be College-Bound Slobs

Dramatic reenactment of the horrors we witnessed Saturday.  (photo credit: Clevergrrl via photopin cc)

Dramatic reenactment of the horrors we witnessed. (photo credit: Clevergrrl via photopin cc)

When I attended college immediately after graduating high school, I lived at home because my generous financial aid package wasn’t enough to cover living expenses. I’ve never lived in a dorm, nor did I dare to live the bachelor’s life while taking 16-18 credit-hours and working 40-45 hours per week. (The results of that bout of madness were shared in a previous entry. Long story short: those were some of my most miserable years on record.) Since I also made no friends during my stay in academia, I never had the opportunity to visit the living quarters of a real, live college student. This past Saturday, I finally had my first chance.

My son is a high school senior preparing to transform into a college freshmen as of fall 2013. This weekend we took a road trip to the city where he’ll theoretically spend the next four years learning, growing, and becoming greater than his parents. Our family mission: scope out potential apartments for him. Due to the long list of issues that living on campus would present (on which we won’t be elaborating here — suffice it to say this is our family’s decision), his only hope for avoiding a seventy-mile daily commute will be to negotiate off-campus housing. To that end, I found a lead on a pair of potential pads at shockingly competitive prices in a wide market that’s nearly sold out as a whole for the upcoming semester. My wife and I, dutiful and curious folks that we are, drove my son up there for a pair of apartment showings to ensure we wouldn’t be exporting him and his possessions into Avon Barksdale’s prized Towers from The Wire.

Like first-world anthropologists stepping tentatively into the native habitat of an otherworldly culture, we three ventured into each of the two available cribs, whose current tenants would be finishing their current leases in time for my son’s arrival in town. None of us knew what to expect and hadn’t really prepared ourselves. Judging by the conditions we tiptoed around, neither had the tenants.

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