Laura Haley-McNeil

8/6/17, College Prep

Hello, Everyone!

Summer is flying by, but I hope you’re enjoying it! I always dread when I start dating correspondence and checks, which I rarely write anymore because electronic payments are so easy, with an August date. That isn’t fair to August. It’s a wonderful month. In our family, we have 3 birthdays and usually try to squeeze our summer vacation into that month. Of course, that was before school started in mid-August. Now, if you have school-aged children, July seems more appropriate for squeezing in that summer vacation. August can still be hot, though this summer seems cooler than past summers. Granted, August is the month that school starts. When I was in a discount store the other day, the store had filled the aisles with racks of school supplies. And now they have displays entitled “College Prep.” I never saw that when I was heading off to college, but it would’ve been helpful to get some ideas of what to pack for the dorm.

I attended a college that was very conservative. This was light years ago, but most campuses had co-ed dorms by then. I attended a college that didn’t and had very strict visiting hours. When the boys could visit the girls’ dorm, the visitation was strictly supervised by the floor monitors. I attended a little mountain college that offered bachelor and master degrees, though after I graduated, they eliminated their master’s program. They didn’t offer a doctoral program. I’m not sure if that’s changed. Because the college was in the mountains, many of the students stayed in town after they graduated, or dropped out, and tried to find work, usually with the college so they could remain in that idyllic atmosphere. There are a couple ski areas not far from the campus. Most of the locals were cowboys and there was some conflict between the townies and the students. I always lived on campus or very close to campus, so I never saw the conflict, but I heard stories.

For safety reasons, at least that was what the college told us, cooking items were prohibited in the dorm. Popcorn poppers were permitted, so as students we learned to be creative and cooked some pretty amazing meals, more like snacks, in the popcorn popper. After a while the popcorn poppers were banned because some of them had caught fire, though I never had a problem with them so I have to think that part of the problem could have been operator error. The girls’ dormitory was on the north end of campus and the boys’ was on the south end of campus. The girl’s dormitory was newer, but several years old by the time I arrived. The boys’ dormitory was probably a hundred years old, maybe not that old, but it seemed like it and probably is by now and was very beautiful. It was designed at a time when buildings were more ornate with high ceilings and French doors. The rooms were smaller, yes, I did get invited to a boys’ dormitory once, and I probably never told my mother that, and had tall narrow windows with a view of the commons. The girls’ dormitory was modern with chrome trim and windows everywhere. Having the dorms on the opposite end of the camps didn’t keep the boys and girls apart, in case that was the administration’s objective. My first meal in the girls’ dorm, I was shocked to see how many boys took their meals there. It was a couple of years later, and I’m not sure how this came about, that I had a meal in the boys’ dormitory. That was the best idea I ever had. I saw so many boys that I never saw on campus. As a liberal arts major, most of my classes here in Old Main or the music hall. I was stunned to see how many boys attended school there. I would have taken more meals in the boys’ dorm but then I moved into a campus apartment that I shared with two other girls. Because I had access to a kitchen, I took my meals there, which was probably good because the dormitory cafeterias were closed during the weekend. Because the campus was located in an isolated town, most of the students left for the weekend and few were present to take meals in the dorm, though there was a cafeteria in the student union, but those meals weren’t included in the room and board fees.

Many years later, my husband and I returned to the campus, he for the first time. He had graduated from a university that’s home to a prestigious music college. That campus is like a city. Though, vising the campus where I attended was surprising. They had built new buildings, a new library and new dormitories. The girls’ dormitory where I lived now looked dated. The apartments where I had lived were gone.

It was fun to relive some of the college moments.

Now, when I walk through the discount stores and see the college prep displays, it takes me back more years than I care to count, but I’m sure the excitement I felt then is still the same feeling college students feel today – a new venture, a new future and a world of possibilities waiting for these young people.

If you’re sending a child to college this year, the excitement level must be boundless and will give you and your child many wonderful memories.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, Everyone!