A trip to the future by way of Memory Lane

On a positive note... By Anne Blankenship

Senior year in high school is a whirlwind time for both the student and parents. Plans for the student’s future come into sharper focus. There are financial aid forms to complete, scholarships applications to submit, meetings to attend and graduation parties to plan.

College visits are also a big part of senior year. My senior son has visited three different schools in his search for just the right college experience. He’s traveled with his voice teacher to two of the universities and I had the pleasure of spending the day with my son at my alma mater.

Earlier this month, we jumped in the car for the 90-minute trek to Cedar Falls. We had a full schedule of meetings set up at the University of Northern Iowa. Back in 1978, I made a similar visit to the school and fell in love with the campus. So, 40 years later, I was hoping my son would get the same feeling about the school.

We got there a little early, so we drove around the campus and I pointed out where I had lived each year of my college career. We circled past the Strayer-Wood Theater where I spent many happy hours working backstage on plays and house managing countless shows. We drove past the College Hill, which has changed greatly through the years. We even saw my first apartment just off campus on Olive Street. I’m kind of surprised it was still there.

We ended up at Gilchrest Hall a few minutes before our first appointment. We sat in the lobby with other parents and potential college students. On a TV screen near the front door was a message welcoming the Future Panthers and rotated through the list of that day’s visiting students. Proud mom of course had to get a photo of Daniel’s name as it flashed past, much to his embarrassment. But three other moms came up right after me, so I felt vindicated.

We trekked across campus to our first department meeting at Russell Hall music building. I immediately remembered what I liked least about the campus — when the brisk north winds blustered between the buildings.

I also remembered what I liked most about the school — the size and the proximity to just about everything a student could need.

We ran into a Webster City friend in the lobby of the music building and she helped us find our way to the first meeting. I think my son was glad to see a friendly, familiar face.

The day also included a visit with an admissions counselor who walked a roomful of students and parents through the process for applying to the school. She talked about life on campus and the various majors available.

We enjoyed a lunch in one of the dining centers which were vastly different than when I went to school there. Gone were the “lunch lady” lines of mystery food. Instead, diners could visit the burger station or the wok station, a fresh veggie and salad bar, sub sandwiches, sliders and much more. The best part of the dining plans at the school — unlimited food. They were not limited to 3 meals a day or 15 meals a week. They could visit the dining center as often as they wished. Moms of teenager boys will appreciate the significance of this.

I enjoyed our day at UNI and I think my son liked the school, too. He said of the three schools he has visited, it’s his second choice. I still hold out hope that he might decide to go to the school his mom attended. Time will tell. Wherever he chooses to go, I know that he will create memories of his own as he prepares to take on the world.

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