I’ve been blogging in the past with no real pattern. What I mean by that is I typically write about whatever is on my mind that week. I’ve decided to do something at least somewhat predictive starting now. The first weekend of the month, I will write something about my kids. Not with the intent to make this a “Daddy Blog” but the reality of having kids in the house provides too much writing material to ignore.
I wrote a post last month about my son HERE. If you read it, you will understand the rest of this post because it’s an update. I could have titled this “Adventures in College Searches” but will leave it as Part 2.
Back in October, we visited a school my son was interested in for their Physician Assistant (PA) program and while visiting discovered he could probably play soccer there, at least during the first few years while the academic program is less intense. At that time, it quickly became my son’s first choice school. And mine. Easy to say at that moment considering we hadn’t even visited other schools with PA programs yet.
A recap from my previous post: my son wants to be a PA. He is in a pre-med type program for high school seniors where he is taking college level medical classes and shadowing medical personnel. The educational path to becoming a PA is a tough one. A student can either be accepted into a PA program as a freshman and endure a rigorous five year course of study (BS/MS) or they can transfer in with a BS degree and endure a rigorous three year course of study and end up with the same BS/MS. Five years versus seven years. My son wanted the five year program, his plan “A”, which is extremely competitive. He also wanted to stay within a two to three hour drive from home which limited his choices to four colleges. His plan “B” would be a BS degree in Biology at a number of great colleges within that same geographical area. The plan “B” schools have been recruiting him heavily, one even offering a full ride academic scholarship (tuition and room and board).
So back to our first college visit, we left there very excited and at that moment, I would have bet money it would be my son’s school of choice should he be accepted. That was until we visited the next school.
Bigger is Better
On a Saturday morning in November, my son and I drove two hours to an open house at another college. It’s a very reputable school known more for their engineering programs but their medical programs have been growing and their PA program is now ranked nationally. They are Division I school with a large campus and about 15,000 undergrad students. We were overwhelmed. Dining options galore, massive clubs and intramural sports, student housing that rivaled upscale apartments, a beautiful rec center for working out, a Barnes and Noble on campus (a full size B&N with a coffee shop) and during the tour, we passed by a hall where sorority girls were playing whip-cream Twister, one of the girls looking up and jokingly asking my son if he wanted to play. Oh yes, that happened.
We ended the tour and went to the B&N for a coffee and discussed the day’s events. My son also bought a hoodie from the school. He was hooked and I honestly don’t think the whip cream played a part. We left and made the two hour drive home and started to compare college #1 to college #2 as I was quietly contemplating how we could swing the extra $14K a year college #2 could cost. Should he be accepted of course.
Once again during November, my son and I ventured off to a third school. They were having an open house for HS Seniors on a Tuesday that high schools had off in observance of Veterans Day. Sadly my wife had to work. College #3 had a different approach to open house. They started off with a very detailed presentation of their PA program. They didn’t sugarcoat the program and they let the kids know right away how difficult the odds were to be accepted into the program and more importantly, how difficult the program was once accepted. They also let us know that for transfer students, that Plan B my son had should he not get accepted as a freshman, had even worse odds: 1000 applicants for 20 seats in the program. I prayed my son got accepted in as a freshman because Plan B odds certainly did not appear to be in anyone’s favor.
After the program concluded we were to take a tour and while standing in the hallway, my son whispered something to me that impressed me. He told me that he liked this PA program the best. Not the school yet, but the program.
The campus was small, approximately 2100 students, very close knit, moderate dining choices, typical dorms and very nice apartment style living for upper classmen, beautiful classrooms, a renovated library commons, and a new rec center being built since the old one would have to be used by athletes with the college’s move to Division II sports. During our tour, we had a very nerdy kid and his mother with us and when we toured the apartments, mom asked numerous questions regarding safety, would his bedroom have a door that could lock, and knowing the floor was co-ed, wanted assurances that the four people sharing a four bedroom apartment would be of the same sex. The poor kid kept quite the entire time.
We left the apartments and toured a few more buildings, each area drawing more embarrassing questions from mom. The last building we toured was the freshmen dorm. Nice floorplan with two dorms sharing a common bathroom between the two. One dorm had two beds and the other had three with the decision of whether or not a kid gets a two bed room or a three bed room being based on how early a student got their housing deposit in. Nerdy kid’s mom was just relieved that at least for her son’s freshman year of college, the dorm floor was not co-ed. Nerdy kid finally spoke up too. He asked the tour guide “who cleans the bathroom?” I only wished this woman and her son could have been on the previous college tour with us just to see her expression as we walked by the game of whip-cream Twister. I understand her concern about girls. At this college, males only make up about twenty five percent of the population. Three girls to every guy.
A short trip to the book store for a school t-shirt and we were on our way back home. Within a few days my son received an email that said due to the large number of qualified applicants to the PA program this year, it would be to his advantage to get his application in by the middle of the month instead of the December 1st deadline stated on the department website. He did.
Quick advice to parents who have not been through this process: your child will want to buy a shirt or something from each school you visit.
We scheduled a visit to the College #4 for the Tuesday during Thanksgiving week. The whole family went this time and the visit would include a meeting with an admissions adviser, a tour of the campus, and a meeting with a faculty member. Beautiful urban campus, about 3,000 undergrad students, Division II sports, great dining choices both on campus and off, standard freshmen dorms and upgraded upperclassmen apartments, plenty of intramural sports to choose from including club soccer and indoor winter soccer on a turf field in their newly renovated and expanded rec center, beautiful classrooms and labs, and random people all saying hello to us.
The application deadline for this school was November 1st and my son applied on time for it. The week before the visit, he had received a letter saying he was accepted to the school and would be placed in the pool of qualified candidates for the PA program. No surprise on being accepted to the school but we were happy he was being placed into the qualified pool of candidates. One different aspect of their selection program was they didn’t have an interview process. Seats were offered to students based purely on their test results, school transcripts, GPA, class ranking, recommendations, and an essay. After hearing my son speak publicly twice in the month of November, I squashed any doubts I had regarding his ability to speak in a professional manner.
We ended the tour in the building where the PA program is housed and were greeted by a faculty member who just happened to be the current chair of the program. She explained the program, answered questions, and left us with a positive feeling about the school. As we exited the building, I turned to my son and told him in an unofficial way, he just had an interview.
We headed to the bookstore so he could buy a school t-shirt and drove home. Yes, that’s three now.
During the drive home, my son received a phone call from College #3. They had accepted him into the school, placed him into the pool of qualified PA candidates and wanted to interview him for a seat in the PA program. They scheduled the interview for the third week in December. This was great news but so many weeks away.
The next morning, my son and I went hunting. A tradition during Thanksgiving week. We were up early and had hiked back into the woods while it was still dark. Late morning I received a text from my wife to call home and that it was an emergency. I called and she said the University we had visited the day before had called and said there was some confusion with an updated transcript they had received from his high school two days earlier and they weren’t having any luck contacting the school. They said it was important because during our visit there, I had stated he had scored higher on his ACT test (we had just gotten the new score the week before and I had asked the high school to update his transcripts and forward to the two schools he had applied to). Panic time. The college was trying to wrap up their selection process before the Thanksgiving shutdown so they could send out acceptance letters on December 1st. I told my wife to call them back and let them know the high school was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday and that I would email him the official test results within the hour and if that would not suffice, give him my son’s username and password to the ACT site and he could verify and print out the higher score himself. I radioed my son and said we needed to head home.
Back to that higher ACT score. In my previous post, I mentioned my son was retaking the test to try and get a higher score. His first score was high but one simple point higher made a difference of additional scholarship monies at college #2 and some Plan B schools. What I didn’t write about in that post was my son retook the test under circumstances that were less than perfect. He had a personal issue the night before both his ACT test and first sectional soccer game. Typical teenage problems arose that had my son getting almost no sleep the night before and in tears up until the moment he got out of the car that Saturday morning to take his test. I honestly felt he would bomb the test. He didn’t. He scored higher in a few of the subjects, remained the same in others, and got his one point higher score. I really wonder how well he would have done being in a better frame of mind?
One point. Turns out that one point made a difference at College #4. When my son and I got home from hunting, my wife had great news for us. She said she had called the University back and they said they were done with it and were proceeding based on all his other credentials and his one point higher ACT score. He would be offered a seat in the PA program. He did it! I didn’t want an asterisk attached to his acceptance so I immediately emailed the school and attached both of his ACT test results along with his username and password. They emailed me back within an hour, thanked me, wished us a Happy Thanksgiving, and confirmed what they had said verbally over the phone to my wife. Somehow, it just didn’t seem real yet or maybe I was just being too skeptical. My son wasn’t skeptical at all. He tweeted it on Thanksgiving Day, ending it with #thankful.
Thursday of this past week, my son received a package in the mail. It was his official offer for a seat into the Physician Assistant program at Gannon University. It also contained a substantial scholarship offer. Official and so real now. There will be no need for a Plan B.
So where are we now? We are paying the deposit with Gannon to hold his place in the program and my son is still going to follow through with the interview at college #3: Daemen College. Two very different colleges but both with PA programs ranked in the top 55 in the U.S. If my son is accepted to Daemen, he will have some tough decisions to make. My gut feel is he will be accepted. As for the other two schools, after being accepted to Gannon he didn’t even apply. Although the thought of playing Divisions III soccer was exciting to both him and us, he told us he just couldn’t picture himself at the first college after visiting the others and he wasn’t going to choose a school just for that. As for College #2, he is being realistic about the additional monies that school would cost. It will come down to Daemen and Gannon. My son is making a list with pros and cons of each school since he loved both along with their PA programs. Soccer is still important to him but he is content playing intramural or club ball. Since both schools are Division II, it would have been challenging to make the team, although something tells me he could have if he set his mind to it, and even more challenging due to the rigorous demands of the academic program he is entering. Academics comes first, his hard work is paying off, and we are extremely proud of him.
After seeing the way my son’s eyes lit up when he saw the indoor turf field at Gannon, my money says he will go with the first school that accepted him. We’ll see. We are just so blessed and thankful he is getting what he wants. He earned it.
My gut feel was right on his acceptance to Daemen College’s PA program. His interview went well and he got his acceptance letter this week. Merry Christmas. He applied to the two PA programs he liked best and was accepted to both. He has choices now. We will help him with the financial aid process at both schools so he can make a better informed decision. I have a feeling the two schools will be fairly equal on paper. As parents, it’s very tempting to intervene and influence one over the other. We are not going to do that since we honestly feel he couldn’t go wrong with either school. It really comes down to where he wants to spend the next five years and that, must be his choice.