College days

Luke at Clough Commons, Georgia Tech, July 17, 2015.
Luke at Clough Commons, Georgia Tech, July 17, 2015.

My son, Luke,  first saw a college campus, I’m guessing, at about 6 years old. Maybe younger. It was — I’m guessing again — maybe just a walk-through at the University of Cincinnati, maybe on the way to a basketball game.

I know, when he was about 7, when I was covering spring training in Arizona, he and his mom came out and I gave them an insider’s tour of Arizona State. Showed them Grady Gammage Auditorium. We strolled down Palm Walk. I’m sure he was impressed.

Since then, we’ve made drive-throughs, walk-throughs or official visits to …

  • Auburn+
  • Air Force Academy
  • Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo+
  • Cal-Berkeley+
  • Clemson+
  • College of Mines+
  • Colorado
  • Davidson
  • Duke
  • Emory
  • Georgia+
  • Illinois+
  • North Carolina+
  • North Carolina State+
  • Purdue+
  • South Carolina+
  • Stanford
  • Texas+
  • Tulane+
  • Virginia Tech+

Then you add on my alma mater and Mary Jo’s …

  • Arizona State
  • Cincinnati

On Friday, we made our last official college visit, 25 miles south, to the Georgia Institute of Technology in downtown Atlanta.

  • Georgia Tech+
    +=official visits
This is a thing on Tech's campus. I'll call this Tech Tower. No idea what it really is.
This is a thing on Tech’s campus. I’ll call this Tech Tower. No idea what it really is.

That makes it 23 campuses we’ve visited. (Friday was really the third time Luke’s been on an “official” visit to Tech, and we’ve been on campus a number of other times, for ballgames, for the Rolling Stones and just to walk around.)

We may stop by Tech again in the next few months, or maybe another school we’ve seen, just to jog our memories. But Friday was, after more than a decade of looking around, it.

We’re done. Luke is done. Nothing left but the deciding. (And the applications and the essays and the fees before that, of course.)

This is where I sigh.

There are few places that I like more than college campuses. Mary Jo and Luke make fun of me for how geeked up I get on these trips. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a campus that I couldn’t find something to like.

Sure, just being on a campus brings back good memories of Tempe. Some of them I can even share with Luke.

But, more than that, colleges just reek of youth and fun and, more than anything, possibilities. I envy people who live and work in that atmosphere. If I had to do it over again, I’d try to stick around longer. And, heck, I did the five-year plan as it was.

Now, with these campus visits behind us, we move on. Tech is, and has been for all of Luke’s college-aware life, No. 1 on his list. First he liked Buzz, and then he liked Tech because it wasn’t the school every other kid was talking about (that’s UGA in these parts), and then he liked it because he knew “smart” people went there, and then he did an architecture camp there, and an engineering one, and by now he’s just talked himself into it.

It’s a good school. It’s a great school, really, in many, many ways. The campus is nicer than you would imagine, too, a tight 400 acres in the middle of Atlanta with tons of trees and some nice-sized lawns and cool architecture, both old and new.

Luke has done a really good job, with a major assist to Mary Jo, of putting himself in position to get to Tech. He has the grades. The extracurriculars. All that.

But getting into college is a lot more complicated these days than it was when I was filling out applications by hand and mailing them out. Getting into a college like Tech is nothing short of just, plain difficult. We’ve heard many, many stories of kids with 4.0s and awesome test scores who didn’t get in. It happens. Nothing — nothing — is automatic.

Tech this year accepted only 33 percent of the kids who applied, which is down from 62 percent just six years ago. (Fewer are accepted now because so many more apply, thanks to Tech using the common app.) Only about 11 percent who applied ended up enrolling.

With Buzz as a wee guy.
With Buzz as a wee guy.

So, yeah, it’s tough.

(OK. Maybe not at ASU, where the acceptance rate is around 80 percent. Don’t knock the Sun Devils for being all-inclusive.)

Still, Luke has done his part, scholastically, as long as he doesn’t screw up his senior year. And we’ve done ours, as a family, to check out the alternatives, just in case; slogging through a monsoon in New Orleans, a sizzling couple of days in Austin and a few freezing ones in Champaign-Urbana and in Blacksburg, Va.

We’ve listened to almost two dozen spiels from hardened admissions officers and over-caffeinated tour guides. (400 student clubs! It gets quieter as you go up!) We’ve hung out in student centers and walked through labs and classrooms. Mary Jo has taken copious notes. I’ve made sure the food and the cafeterias are OK.

It has been an awesome process. Luke will apply to maybe six or eight schools in the next month or two. We’ll start hearing back from some by the end of the year. We’ll hear from Tech on January 10, 2016.

After that … it’s wide open. The possibilities are there.

I’m pretty geeked up for that, too.

Our campus tours

This isn’t all of them. But you get the idea. Click on any of them for a larger view, and if you’re on a desktop, you can roll over the tiles below for a caption.

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