On The Road Again…the final day and “what we learned”… 3

Our last school visit on the eleven day college tour was at the College of Charleston and after having spent a nice weekend in the city we were primed to love it and love it we did. It’s honestly the best of both worlds, a 10,000 undergrad university smack in the middle of an amazingly historical city, one hour by plane from new york and it’s warm! The campus is beautiful and one of the oldest in the nation.

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The fine arts building is gorgeous, centrally located (we found that most of the schools we visited stuck their fine arts building at the edge of campus) and the student art work was very impressive. So after a very long trip, covering 5 states and 7 different colleges I can honestly say it was a successful trip. Sophie liked all seven schools – all for different reasons and she will apply to all of them. I asked her to put the schools in order from most desired to least and she did but she said not to hold her to it as the order is subject to change. Good for her. I think there is a lot to marinate on after a long trip and to really think about everything each school has to offer. We collected tons of materials and they are in our large accordian folder for reference…

Here are a few things we learned about making a college trip successful:

1. When making your college list (for visiting) take a lot of time beforehand deciding whether or not this is a school you would seriously be interested in attending. The last thing you want to do, is drive or fly long distances, arrive and take one look around and say “no way”. The best way to do this is to ask friends who’ve visited, read up on all their stats and spend time on their website. Even then it’s not always going to work out but at least you’ll feel like you tried your best for a good fit.

2. Do research the night before attending the info session and tour to come up with some good questions to ask  – not to impress anyone, but to really find out what you need to know. Most of our questions had to do with art portfolios and the gen ed requirements for an art degree. Each school was different.

3. Food is important. One of the ways we got to know the city or town that the school was in was through it’s restaurants. My daughter would not be happy going to college in a place where she could only eat fast food or cafeteria food. If you have a child like that, you might want to consider where the school is located. I have a friend who recently toured a great school that they were really impressed with but the fact that it was “in the middle of nowhere” and they had to stop at subway for lunch was a deal breaker.

4. After the info session and tour, go back to the Admissions office and ask for the business card of your area admissions rep. This is a great way to reach out directly to the person who will be reading your child’s application and the perfect person to contact with additional questions you may have.

5. Take notes. As mentioned in another posting, most schools want the student to write a “why this school” essay. It’s so much easier to write the essay if you’ve taken notes during your tour about why you really liked it. You will most likely forget the small details months later when it comes time to write it.

6. Bring bandaids. Walking for 1.5 hours every day takes a toll.

And here are some things I learned about myself on this trip (with the help of my daughter)…

I’m terrible at taking pictures, I don’t know how to put makeup on properly, I can’t multi-task, I’m terrible at zooming in, I don’t know how to drive, I have zero sense of direction, i’m too loud in restaurants, I nag way too much about doing homework, I need better strapless bras, and I don’t walk fast enough.

Here’s a photo I took on the last day of Sophie walking way ahead of me (not because we were fighting, she just doesn’t have patience for the pace at which I walk).

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Thanks for reading along, it’s been quite the trip. Best of luck to all those parents out there who will embark on college tours soon! It actually was a really great opportunity to spend one on one time with my daughter, the last time we spent this much alone time was the week she was born. The fact that this time next year she will be getting ready to move on is so bittersweet. I’m sure this trip will get even better with age.

On The Road Again…The Weekend Off (a much needed respite!) 1

On Friday afternoon (the 8th day of our college tour) Tom arrived for a fun weekend in Charleston. Sophie’s tour of the College of Charleston is not until Monday and so we picked Charleston as the city we would stop in and take a little break before the last tour. It was a really good choice. Our dinner reservation that night at McCrady’s wasn’t until 8:45 so we had a lot of time to go out and investigate. We were staying at the northern border of the historic district, about a 15 minute walk to the center of everything (The Francis Marion Hotel, which I would not recommend) and we walked down King Street until we got to the South Battery which is the end of the peninsula and looks out at Fort Sumter. Charleston is beautiful with great shops and restaurants and filled with centuries-old homes that have been very carefully perserved and are still lived in. This city definitely has a great vibe.

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Dinner was in a building with it’s own incredible history; George Washington was served a 30 course meal there. The food was absolutely delicious even if the chef had an overabundance of love for the popped kernel of corn. This James Beard winner was completely fixated on popcorn and it showed up in almost every dish on the menu.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at The Hominy Grill which was delicious and thankfully we arrived right after it opened because within minutes there was a line around the block.

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I had eggs with hominy grits, bacon and an amazing biscuit. We cabbed to the Charleston City Market, an outdoor covered marketplace that goes on for blocks that was originially a sort of farmer’s market for city slaves to buy food from country slaves on behalf of their masters. It wasn’t your ordinary outdoor market and there were a ton of local artisans selling really interesting and creative things. I loved this lady, making baskets…

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At 11 we met up with Tommy Dew for an historical walking tour recommended by my friend Deb from Tokyo. http://www.tommydewswalkingtour.com I highly recommend him too. Originally from Richmond, VA with an amazing southern accent, he told the story of the south, specifically through the lens of Charleston and it put a completely new prospective on the war between the states. I loved it and learned a ton. If only all history could be taught while walking through it.

After the tour we had a delicous lunch at Magnolia’s. Tom said it was the best fried chicken he has EVER eaten, and he doesn’t say the word BEST very often.  We also had to get a plate of these homemade potato chips with blue cheese.

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What was on the agenda next? A much needed NAP. We had dinner reservations at 6 but had to cancel, we were just too stuffed to eat any more food. Around 7 we went to the Vendue Inn, a newly renovated boutique hotel that boasts over 300 works of art sprinkled through it. This is where I would stay if i returned. They have a really nice rooftop bar where we went for drinks. They had a fun art installation that everyone was playing with. Most people made imprints of their butt or chest but Sophie made a really sweet heart that people took photos of. We were watching from the other side to see what she was going to create.

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We woke up on Easter Sunday in the bible belt and for the most part the city was pretty quiet. Everyone must have been in church. We went to the Granary for brunch, which i didn’t realize was in “North Charleston” about a 20 minute drive from downtown Charleston but we did get to go over a pretty beautiful bridge to get there.

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After brunch, we did a little poking around the campus of the College of Charleston so Tom could get a little taste.

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Back to the hotel, Tom packed up and left for the airport and Sophie worked on some homework. Our plan this afternoon is a little shopping and dinner at Edmund’s Oast. Mad Men is on the to do list tonight and then first thing tomorrow is our very last college visit to the College of Charleston and then HOME!!!!! Living out of a small carry on for ten days is a challenge!

On The Road Again…Day 8 of The College Tour Reply

We are officially into the second week of the very long college tour but today we had a breath of fresh air. Up until now the college tours and info sessions have pretty much been the same, following the same format, the check in at admissions, the finding of a seat (sometimes being squeezed into a small room with a ton of other sardines and sometimes being more spread out). College office of admissions for the most part, all look the same and the tours follow the same sort of track around the campus (science building, gym, cafeteria, food trucks, dorm, student center…you get the picture). But today we woke up in Savannah, Georgia and took a tour of the Savannah College of Art and Design and we knew from the moment we arrived, we weren’t in Kansas (aka the “normal” college tour) anymore. From the outside, the building looked like this:

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But then we walked into what felt like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and this is where the info session was held…and they were serving breakfast too!

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I was almost giddy with excitement. This seemed like the college of dreams, where everything was shiny and new and creative and possible. And it only got better. We started the visit at the Student Center in a converted synagogue! The lights in the ceiling turned colors while we heard about all the amazing features of the building. I didn’t even include the picture of the room with skeeball, pool tables, pin ball machines, foozball, etc… because…

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There were napping pods! Like Google and Facebook have.

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and the cones of silence that drop down from the ceiling (actually i named them the cones of slilence; they are really cool speakers that only let the few students who are in that particular area watch a video while not disturbing the other kids watching a different video nearby).

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And the ceiling of the photography building looked like this:

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So you get the idea – 100% totally different and super duper awesome. Then they told us that 93% of their graduating seniors either have a job in their field or are admitted to grad school. Is this possibly true? If so, it’s positively dreamy.

We even had lunch at the student run gourmet, farm to table, delicious tea room called Gryphon http://web.scad.edu/experience/gryphon/ I loved the napkin rings just as much as the cold sesame noodles with grilled shrimp and fresh greens.

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And after the info session and tour we actually got to meet with an admissions counselor who took the time to look at sophie’s art (we travel avec thumbstick). All in all, a very positive experience all around.  After lunch we got back in the car and drove 2.5 hours to Charleston, SC the very last stop on our tour. Our visit to the College of Charleston isn’t until Monday so we have the entire weekend off! and we were THRILLLED to welcome Tom! He flew in and joined up with us in time for a nice long walk around the city where we saw some amazing homes and historic statues. He arrived just in the nick of time as I had been without a right contact lens for most of the trip and was in desperate need of my denim jacket – it does get a little chilly in the south at night. I’ve learned my lesson – no matter where I travel the denim jacket comes too. Our first meal of the weekend (and there will be many to come) was at McCrady’s, James Beard winner Sean Brock’s restaurant on E. Bay Street. The man is obsessed with popcorn. It was in every dish on the menu in some way shape or form but I’m not complaining. The food was amazing, even if he shaved popcorn over my sashimi tuna. I’m so happy to have reinforcements and I’m very excited for the weekend!

Happy Pesach and Good Friday to all.

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On The Road Again…Day Seven of the College Tour 1

I feel like i’ve entered an alternate universe where all I do is travel around with Sophie to colleges in the south and attend info sessions, go on walking tours and eat way too many calories… Today we are on day 7 – and we are still talking! Thank god for small miracles. After last night’s outing to Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster shack it’s amazing I was able to convince Sophie to actually visit Florida State. I was sure she was going to say it was too (fill in the blank) for her but she didn’t and we went and thank god because it’s gorgeous and she ended up really liking it. So far, we’ve visited five schools and she is planning on applying to all five – I think that’s pretty awesome and I credit the amount of prep we did before we came – there was a LOT of thought put into the college tour list and I feel the work paid off. The FSU visit was very interesting as it was the ONLY school I’ve ever visited with 32,000 plus undergrads. The school map was the size of a city map and it is definitely intimidating and I can imagine wandering around aimlessly looking for your dorm for at least the first 3 months of school. Here’s an interesting fact… FSU has a student-run circus, one of only 2 collegiate circus’ in the country. Here’s the big top:

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The dorm room model was interesting. I have NEVER seen a toilet like this:

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The dining hall was pretty gorgeous and I loved the very southern lady welcoming us to the cafeteria “welcome to Florida State. I love you.” Yup there is a lot of love in the south!

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This was an interesting statue on campus. It’s called the “Integration Statue”. It’s a pretty powerful piece in the very center of the HUGE campus.

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And you can never forget, no matter where you are, that the real reason everyone goes to FSU is the football team – you can see this stadium from everywhere!

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Sophie and I had our first EVER Chick-Fil-A which some people on fb find impossible but I promise it’s true:

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and tonight we are loving the southern hospitality in Savannah GA after driving almost 5 hours to get here. We had dinner in this beautiful home on historic 37th street at Elizabeth’s on 37th. It was amazing.

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Tomorrow, we’ll be reporting from SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) which is interwoven into the city of Savannah. Can’t wait y’all!

On The Road Again… Day Six on The College Tour Reply

The flight from Miami to Orlando was awesome! The plane was on it’s way to London and so we were on a 777 for all of 42 minutes but it was great while it lasted – we finally were able to just throw up our carry on luggage into the over head compartment without a huge fight with the stewardess about how she was going to have to check our bags (this happened but lets keep the past in the past…).

Rollins College was next on our list and the drive from the airport to Winter Park took about 20 minutes. I had booked at the Alfond Inn (through Expedia, natch) and it was one of our most enjoyable stays! If Sophie ends up at Rollins I will be thrilled to stay here every time I visit. http://www.thealfondinn.com great rooms, amazingly cool art, delicious food and 5 minutes to campus. Rollins College is the focus of Winter Park, Florida which sets the tone for the town. The main street reminded us a lot of Greenwich Ave. It’s beautiful with great places to eat and very nice shops. Literally across the street from the dowtown is the campus and it’s equally lovely. We were greated in Admissions with coffee, water, candy, and a screen rolling our names and welcoming us to campus – slightly different than the packed sardines in admissions at the U. Our tour guide Reagan was blonde and adorable and we kept passing posters of her everywhere we went (she was running for VP in student gov). The food served here is #23 in the nation – just last week dinner was fresh lobster over linguini and the pool by the lake looks nicer than the Rye Golf Club pool:

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the freshman dorm rooms have hardwood floors (this is a first – on all my college tours with the boys I have never seen this before…)

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This is a fraternity house:

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and Sophie and I spotted 3 LV bags on the floor of a very small study room (only about 20 kids in total)…

Here’s a shot by the lake…

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so you get the picture…

VERY NICE PLACE TO GO TO COLLEGE…

after our tour was over and another info session was attended we got in the car and began the driving portion of our trip – up until now it’s been all flights. The first leg was a little over 4 hours to Tallahassee Florida. The drive was incredibly boring and very long but we made it to the state capital in time for dinner. I thought a local joint was called for and we walked the few blocks from our hotel to Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack http://www.birdsoystershack.com let’s just say Sophie was less than pleased “mom, why didn’t you tell me this place wasn’t nice? I wouldn’t have changed.”

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I thought it was fun and the oysters were really fresh.

Tomorrow, we visit Florida State University, home of the Seminoles and the largest school on our tour (about 32,000 undergrads)…

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On The Road Again – Day Four of The College Tour (and five!) 2

*The following blog is days four and five due to the inability to get internet access.

It’s Day Four, dear reader and hopefully you aren’t bored yet! Knowing that I will be blogging about our experience daily actually keeps me more alert and curious on this long college tour and so I thank you for reading along and giving me an additional purpose for paying attention and staying awake.

Today we were on the Tulane Campus for the info session and campus tour and we were lucky enough to have arranged a tour of the Art School as well. Sophie really would prefer a true liberal arts school with a nice art program than a pure art school and Tulane definitely fits that bill. We loved the school.

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In keeping with our Hollywood theme this week, we arrived on campus to find a huge crew filming the Fox television series Scream Queens with Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ariana Grande and Emma Roberts. Seriously, you just can’t make this stuff up.IMG_2496

On the art school tour we saw printmaking, photography (both digital and film), painting and drawing studios, sculpture studios and one of the coolest workshops – glass blowing. Tulane has the largest glass blowing facility on any college campus. Some of the work scattered about was just gorgeous. Imagine, getting to blow glass as a class! The thing we liked the best is that at Tulane you can double and triple major and the dual majors can be as diverse as Studio Art & Public Health (like our tour guide).

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The glass blowing facility at Tulane

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Some of the student’s glass work that reminded us of sushi!

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The sculpting studio

No visit to New Orleans would be complete without a real poboy so a stop at Domelise’s was in order. I had heard so much about this hole in the wall from my cousin Wendy who went to Tulane and it was around when she was in school. It didn’t disappoint but figuring out how to order and what to get wasn’t exactly the easiest of tasks. My tourist was showing but who cares – we got what we came for and it was really good.

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In any college tour there is going to be down time that you really can’t do anything with including time in airport gates and driving in the car. Sophie has been good about filling the time with studying lots and lots of SAT vocabulary words (and I have to admit, I’m learning several myself – who ever used the word deleterious – it means injurious to health) as well as sketching – this picture was taken while waiting for our flight to Miami. IMG_2510 IMG_2513

Tonight, courtesy of facebook and the ability to see what all of my friends are doing at any given moment, we are having dinner with the Wendel Family, amazing friends from Tokyo who now live in Napa and are spring breaking in Miami. It’s an unexpected gift that will only add to our already adventurous time on the road. See you tomorrow, reporting from THE U!

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Day Five – it’s 80 and sunny as Sophie and I start the day with breakfast outside by the fountain at the Biltmore. This is the first hotel that is actually gorgeous (and the carpet isn’t sticky) and I just want to grab sunscreen and my book and lay out by the pool but info session 3 is calling…

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The “U” campus (University of Miami) is seriously a country club. The campus wraps around a man-made lake with a streaming fountain and the outdoor pool has lounge chairs set up with students lying around (Sophie said it reminded her of the movie Accepted). The only annoying part was the crying infant throughout the info session – yes I said infant. There was a mother there with both her high school junior and her infant. Get a babysitter for god’s sake!

Our tour guide talked about how during mid-terms and finals the school offers free massages, play time with puppies and the installation of tons of hammocks across campus. Yes, all those things are true. Puppies and free massages? I’m sold.

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We were able to meet up with two ASIJ (American School in Japan) grads that were good friends with Hayden, Kenjo and Tacuma. We had lunch outside at the Rathskellar by the water and over lunch they gave us the inside scoop. They couldn’t have been nicer and it was so great to see them – all grown up and living in Miami!

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After lunch, it was a quick Uber to the airport in time for our next flight to Orlando where we will be driving to Winter Park, Fl to visit Rollins tomorrow. As I type this, the day isn’t over but we have yet to see anyone famous – our streak might be ending…and we haven’t had anything delicious to eat either but there is always hope! See you tomorrow – reporting from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fl.

Relationship status with teenage daughter: going to bed on a good note – mini fights had today: at least 7 but all good now.

On The Road Again – Day Three of The College Tour Reply

If you go on a long college tour you’ll inevitably hit a Sunday – a day where colleges (at least the one’s I’ve researched) don’t have tours. If that’s the case, try and plan it so the day off happens to be in a place you want to spend time. For the first free Sunday (our tour is long and so we get two!) I chose New Orleans. New Orleans might be my second favorite city in America (NY is #1 natch). That being said, Sunday morning might not have been the best time to walk through the French Quarter on the way to breakfast. The smell and the street remnants were overwhelming and not in a good way. We started the day with eggs benedict poboys and a horse drawn carriage ride around the quarter. Afterwards, we walked the long aisles of the French Market and by the end Sophie needed Motrin and wanted to go back to the hotel (maybe don’t try to pack too much into one morning?)  I sometimes forget that not everyone is insanely crazy about seeing every corner of every city like I am.  While she napped, I spent some time perusing the Tulane Admissions site, preparing for our tour tomorrow. One thing that struck me right away was this: The Admissions Staff had blogged about their top 15 places to eat in New Orleans and they were SPOT ON. Now this is the kind of school for me and my offspring! http://tuadmissionjeff.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-fifteen-best-restaurants-in-new.html After Sophie’s much needed respite, we went to Domenica for a late Italian lunch. While sitting at our table I happened to notice an extremely cute Dad walk by holding his baby but didn’t think anything of it. Midway through our pasta course, Sophie turned her head and almost choked on her Rigatoni. When she was finally able to put two words together she told me that the one famous person on the entire planet that she wanted to meet was sitting at the table behind us: Christian Bale. Yup, the handsome Dad. Seriously, I had no idea. We spent the rest of the meal debating whether or not she should approach him. He was with his wife and kids (and nanny) and she didn’t want to bother him BUT COME ON – it was Batman!. In the end, she was brave enough to go up to him, apologizing for disturbing him and asked for a picture. He said no – he was with his family. Fair enough. After lunch, I wanted to show Sophie that New Orleans was more than just a LOT of drunk people stumbling around the French Quarter so we hopped on the St. Charles Street Car, paid our $1.25 fare in exact change and took it to the end, winding our way through the Garden district with the incredible southern architecture and the myriad trees filled with hanging mardi gras beads. We passed Tulane and Loyola and got a feel for the college neighborhood. We rode it to the end and then got off and took it all the way back to the quarter. By this time it was late afternoon and the streets had been cleaned and for the most part, the smell of alcohol had wafted away. There were still many people stumbling around who had had too many Hurricanes but it was definitely a better time to be out and about. One thing Sophie was amazed by was the city’s total love and support of the arts. Everywhere we walked there were galleries and street artists, bands and dancers. A city where an artist could definitely find inspiration.

IMG_2447An interesting sidenote: The front desk rang up and said there was a package downstairs for me. I asked him twice if he was sure it was for me. Yes, definitely Lisa Jardine. Sophie and I went down to find a fedexed freezer box of chocolate covered strawberries from… Expedia. With a hand-written note thanking me on their 4 year anniversary for being one of their best customers. I have to say I wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing. Travel much? When I told Tom he said those were some very expensive strawberries.IMG_9136

Dinner was at our favorite this trip: Le Petit Grocery. The turtle bolognese (snapping turtle to be exact) with a whole fried egg on top was ridiculous and the famous butterscotch pudding was definitely famous for a good reason.

IMG_9129 FullSizeRender 2Still on speaking terms with Sophie and still looking forward to tomorrow (although both those are subject to change)…

On The Road Again – Day Two of the College Tour 1

IMG_2441Day Two started with the info session at GW. One of the assistant directors of admissions ran the session and I have to admit I was so in awe of what he was wearing it was hard to focus on what he was saying. He was so totally cool and dapper from his bow tie to his extremely short pants with no socks and loafers. This is my third child to go on college tours and this was by far the most dapper of admissions officers. Extra style points for sure. After the info session we went on a very cold walking tour of GW along with a gozillion other prospects. We had already fallen in love with the school the day before so it was preaching to the choir but I have to admit to being fascinated by the new science and engineering hall that has such smart classrooms that motion sensors not only turn on the lights but adjust the heat and a/c depending on how many people are in the room. That is just super cool. But since we were there for art, Sophie would never be turning the heat on in that building. I liked this wall at GW – covered in flyers advertising fun of all sorts…

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A little strange situation on our flight from Washington to New Orleans. The stewardess spent about 20 minutes moving people around the cabin to “evenly distribute the weight”. This wasn’t an 8 seater…For someone who has to medicate to fly it wasn’t the best thing to witness prior to takeoff. Thankfully she must have done her job right and we landed about 2.5 hours later in New Orleans, in a different time zone and about 30 degrees warmer. I opted for the economy rental car. This is quite possibly the smallest car I’ve ever driven in:

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The hotel I booked on Expedia in the French Quarter looked good enough. Yeah, that didn’t really work out that well. Between the heavy smell of weed and the carpet that is too sticky to walk on without shoes, it’s not my best choice. Note to anyone visiting NOLA do not book The Hotel St; Marie. Dinner was at a VERY highly recommended restaurant in the Garden District called Shaya – just recently opened, Israeli food. It lived up to its reputation but probably better visited with more than 2 people as it’s all about sharing. We over ordered and I left slightly in pain.

IMG_2442But not too much in pain that we didn’t stop here…

FullSizeRenderOur walk home to our hotel through the French Quarter, crossing Bourbon Street was just as you’d expect on a Saturday night in NOLA. Sophie took it all in stride saying “it sort of reminds me of Tokyo.” Well said. Tomorrow finds us with a day off to roam free! Laissez les bon temps roulez!

On The Road Again – Day One – The Corcoran School of Art (now merged with GW) Reply

Welcome to Washington!

Welcome to Washington!

Day One off to a good start – left NYC in the pouring rain and arrived a bumpy hour later in Washington DC. Within ten minutes in the rental car, the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial came into view and the GW campus appeared minutes later. Close to airport. Check. We left our bags at our hotel (George Washington Inn, chosen for it’s proximity to campus which is very close) and walked to the main campus for lunch. The GW campus has the best of both worlds: a real campus in the middle of a cool happening city. The gates, the quad, the old buildings are all exactly as you would expect them on a traditional campus but turn a corner and the lunch options and shopping opps are unlimited. We waited in one sushi restaurant that was packed to the gills and I’m sure I heard at least 3 different languages being spoken. After lunch it was time for our first tour of the day; the Corcoran School of Art. The Corcoran was founded in 1890 but with only 200 students (in the entire school) it was having a problem with money. In August, GW acquired them and is in the process of transitioning/merging these two schools. From what Sophie and I saw, it’s going to be a challenge. We will take the GW Foggy Bottom tour tomorrow. Mid-way through the tour, Sophie noticed that several of the parent/student pairs had dashed out the exit doors… “I feel like I’m in Willy Wonka mom and we’re about to win the chocolate factory,” Sophie very accurately commented. Dinner tonight was at The Tabard Inn, one of the oldest Inns in DC. It was a recommendation from my great friend Esther Cohen – historically awesome. It must have been a hot spot during prohibition.

First Bonus of the Day: I found some blooming Cherry Blossoms!

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Second Bonus of the day: a quick after dinner photo opp at the Lincoln Memorial.

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Unexpected yet very appreciated bonus of the day: We bumped into a very bearded Jon Hamm who said hi.

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On The Road Again – It’s College Tour Season Reply

welcometocampusSpring Break – Junior year of High School is the official kick-off to the college tour season. And even though each kid is different; my first son wanted “California or Bust” the second son was all about playing football and my current junior is a girl who wants to study art, the college tour road show is for the most part a ritual that has seen few changes.

Step One: Sometime around the beginning of the new year, spend time with your student trying to come up with a working list of colleges to visit. Depending on your student, this could be a very short conversation or one that drags on for weeks. Because honestly, sixteen year old kids hardly know what they want for lunch let alone where they want to spend four years going to college. But let’s assume you are able to jot down 5-7 schools that are within reason (this would be the parent’s reason because  a list of the top 5 party schools in the United States might not be your idea of a real college list), this is the beginning of your college tour plan. I used the website batchgeo.com to map the schools on my daughter’s list. This is a very good way to visualize where the schools are located in relation to one another. Immediately, it became obvious that there were outliers that we weren’t going to be able to visit on our tour.

Step Two: Prioritize. You can’t visit every school your child wants to see – it’s too expensive, time consuming and to be honest, after your 6th or 7th campus, it can become mindnumbing and they will all start blurring into one another. Once you have your priority list you must first, before you book a flight or reserve a rental car, make an appointment for the college tour/information session. Most schools have both and they are booked together, usually first thing in the morning or after lunch. Combined they take about 2 0 2.5 hours to complete. These sessions fill up, especially during spring break so book these first. You can always cancel later. When choosing your tour and info session check first to see that the college is in session because it is spring break and not just for high school students. Sometimes, one of the schools will be on break and it can’t be avoided. Schools still give tours even when school is not in session. Seeing kids on campus is a big part of the information you will need to make your decision.

Step Three: Arrange transportation and book hotels. I start on the school’s website and look on the admissions page for suggested area hotels. Almost always they provide a varied list of choices including discounts (if you mention you are visiting the school you get a better rate). I also ask anyone who has a kid currently attending that school as parents always have the inside scoop (especially when the school is located in the middle of nowhere as many of them are). Transportation is really the killer piece in the entire process. Depending on your student’s list and how far away the schools are from one another. This year, my daughter’s list includes schools in five states making it impossible to simply drive from one to another. A combination of one way flights and rental cars was required to get us from school A to school G.

Step Four: Try and add in a few things to see, do or eat for yourself. Yes, this college tour is all about your kid and it’s their tour – you are just there because they are too young to rent the car – but it’s a lot of work, pressure and stress to make sure everything comes off without a hitch so make sure there is something in it for you. For me, this means researching the best local places to eat and I make reservations way beforehand. We don’t spend any time wandering around looking for a place when we are hangry and it also gives me something to look forward to.

Step Five: Packing. This is an important piece as you will most likely be on the road for some time and you don’t want to be dragging around a huge piece of luggage (or two). Pack a carry-on size suitcase and make sure you bring comfortable shoes, tide-to go, a raincoat, an extra sweater or sweatshirt and a bathing suit (some hotels have pools and a swim might be the perfect thing to let off some steam).

Step Six: Get to the tours on the early side and make sure you always sign in. It’s very important that the colleges see that you made the time and effort to come and visit their school. If there is a school not on your list but it’s in the vicinity, stop in, pick up literature and sign your name. You never know when you’ll need another school to add to the application list and even if you didn’t go on the tour, they still see that you were there. While on the tour, try not to be “that parent”. The one that asks all the questions and usurps the guide’s time and energy. This is your child’s tour and you will be a total embarrasment to them. Most likely every question you have will either be asked by someone else or you can find it online or in the literature you will be inundated with. Do use your phone to take photos (when you arrive on campus take a photo with the name of the school first so you know to which school those photos belong) and take notes if you feel you need to. Again, everything you need to know can be found online or in their brochures. There isn’t a question you are likely to have that they haven’t been asked 10,000 times before.

Step Seven: Encourage your child to really take a good look at the kids, the dorm rooms, the quad, the dining all and see if they can picture themselves there. A good fit is the MOST important piece of this puzzle. There are so many fabulous schools in the United States but not all of them will be fabulous for your child. The priority should be first and foremost that they are happy where they land. Happy students make good students. Unhappy students just want to come home.

Step Eight: Downtime is important. Non-stop college touring takes a lot out of a student and her mother – don’t spend every second rehashing everything you saw and felt. Take the time to marinate the information overload. Let your kid put on their headphones in the car and listen to their music. Rent a movie in the hotel room. Listen to podcasts or books while driving.

Step Nine: At the end of each tour, it’s a good idea to make a few notes regarding what your daughter or son thought about the school – things they will be able to recall months later when it’s application time. Most schools have a supplemental essay on the application that asks, Why Us? Wouldn’t it be nice to whip out your list and have 5 great reasons why them instead of searching their website like everyone else? That time taking personal notes will pay dividends later.

Step Ten: Try and enjoy the one on one time with your child. The fact that you are on this college tour means that in a little over a year they will be moving away from home. And in my experience, sometimes they move very far away and don’t come home often. Treasure the time you have together and make some memories.

Happy Hunting!