Monday, July 08, 2013


College orientation--for the parents--seems to vary greatly from school to school. After asking around I have heard everything from a parent who did not even know she was invited to orientation (her son's doing) to parents who go, stay in the dorm, attend a sample class, play quarter bounce with their underage kids and try to pledge a sorority. (All of that last one is true but the sorority).

Somewhere between these extremes lies my own experience now with two very different schools.

The Art Institute had a day of activity for the parents that mostly consisted of telling us how fabulous our artistic children are and that we were NOT crazy for paying for them to attend art school during the end of a depression. You can appreciate this is not an easy task for them but they were impressive and at one point I think they got the whole room to shout "The world needs more art not more lawyers" or some such nonsense that I actually believed for a second. 

That was last summer. 

This summer it was time for Grace to attend an overnight student/parent orientation at Valparaiso and we were invited.

I have to admit right here, I am not a fan of orientations. Anyones. Mine or my kids. Kindergarten through college. Don't like em. (And I actually ran the kindergarten one for a couple years).

Too much talking not enough information. Too many nervous parents spilling their fear all over me. Ick. Stop. I barely have it together myself without you raising things to worry about I never even considered!

But we go.

And there is ALWAYS "that woman" sitting behind me. I think she has followed me from Kindergarten orientation to college orientation. I mean this metaphorically, not literally. It is not the same exact woman but someone of her ilk.

You know the one. She is the one who will ask a question that is really a way to brag about her kid. She will frequently ask about the gifted program--when do they get tested? Does it extend into middle school? 

In kindergarten she said, "My son already reads 'Harry Potter' books. What will he do all day?" 


The teacher was not new and blithely answered, "We have a lot of children who read Harry Potter books and beyond. And we have many who do not know their ABCs. I teach them all." We almost applauded her.

At Valpo, "that woman" sat behind me (by the way this is always a woman, I don't know why, but the dads don't ask this stuff) who wanted to know if her daughter's AP credits would count and how that worked. She asked THREE specific questions related to her daughter's AP classes and something called IB (this is apparently an Indiana thing, not a stomach disorder) and this was in a lecture of over a hundred people. Apparently, she thought it was a private counseling session and we were spectators.

I mentioned "that woman" at a neighborhood grad party recently. Everyone laughed because everyone has heard these "questions". One of the dads (who ironically has a brilliant child he COULD brag about but never does) said that at the "What to expect when your kid goes to college" seminar "that woman" asked the following: "My son never studies and has terrible organizational skills but he always gets all A's. How will he do in college?"

The lecturer should have just said, "Shut up." 

Instead, he gamely tried to answer. I think it would be fun if he called her out on it and said, "Is this a real question or did you just want the chance to tell us your kid gets all A's without studying?"

Anyhoo, despite the questions from "that woman" the orientation was quite nice. We learned a few things and as is our norm, we skipped out early. This is our MO since we attended our first Lamaze class. The teacher went through the basics of childbirth (some details left me with my head between my knees) and then announced we would have a break. After the break, she said, the men will go in one room and the women will go in another and we will talk about our feelings. 
Jeff and I exchanged horrified glances, and without saying a word, left as soon as the instructor excused us for our break.

So after sitting through orientation lectures on Friday from 9 til 3 (and 5 more hours scheduled!) we skipped out and went back to the hotel.

This gave me the chance to have a mini-nervous breakdown about the fact that my daughter is leaving in the fall. Jeff helpfully suggested that getting a jump on my grief might make it easier in the fall, but I kind of doubt it.

So that's how orientation went for us. Grace got to meet her roommate for the first time, I got to get in an early cry, and we all got to hear about "that woman's" daughter who, if I understand it right, has enough credits going into college to skip to grad school.

As for how this compares to our own college orientation programs...well just like the whole process, I don't really remember my parents there at all. Were they even invited? One friend said she drove herself there. I think I might have too. I don't remember much about it except I thought everyone there was an arrogant ass and I had made a huge mistake choosing that school and cried myself to sleep in South Quad. Six weeks later I met the group of friends I still see annually. 

If you are attending a college orientation this summer I hope you have fun and be sure to say hi to "that woman" as she will surely sit behind you too.


  1. Too funny, Judy. I can just hear that woman prattling on about her kids. I don't remember attending any orientation ever to anything. I was a do it yourself kid, who threw herself into each new adventure and sorted it out as I stumbled along merrily the old fashioned way.

    1. We were all do-it-yourself I think! And we all turned out just fine. Mostly! Part of it was bigger families. I am one of four and we were the "small" family on the block. How about you?