Ok, so he's not MY baby...but close enough. Anthony is the oldest son of one of my bestest buddies in the whole wide world (April), and he also happens to be my godson. Gosh I love this kid. It simply blows me away he/we are now in the stage of life to be talking colleges for him. Eek gad. Where has the last 17 years gone?
As a high school senior with only three months to graduation, he is smack in the middle of the college selection process. Conversations over the last couple of months made me quickly realize I had no idea what went into picking the spot where you wanted to spend the next four years of your life. Of course, I can listen to his wishes and offer suggestions based on common sense, but I did not personally experience college life, as I chose to bypass higher education and jump straight into the working world. That was an easy decision for me 20 years ago as I hated school and never even considered continuing on. In fact, when I think about it now – I don’t regret my decision for a second (except for the social interactions I ‘might have’ missed). However, times are different now and a degree is almost requisite anywhere you go. College is a huge deal with so many factors tied to it.
First, figuring out if Anthony wanted to stay local and go to a junior college to start, if then – then does he go the State or the University route, how much funding did he need, and what did he want to major in? Then there are all the hoops you have to jump through to submit an application to the school(s) of your choice. How are your grades? What extracurricular activities are you involved in? Do you have letters of recommendation? Then add in the application fees. Holy cow. This past year has not only been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for Anthony, but for those around him. Especially me. I realized I should have been saving for the past 17 years to ensure he had a smooth ride. Bad ‘auntie’ I am. Had to buy those Louis Vuitton bags. Hmmmm. Wonder how much I can get for them on eBay these days?
Well thankfully, it did look like most of the stress was behind us as he had narrowed his decision down to two schools - San Francisco State and Westmont Christian college in Santa Barbara. Both semi-affordable. He had already checked out SF State and thought it would be cool to go there (I am sure simply due to the fact his favorite auntie – me - lives 10 minutes away and can spend the next four years spoiling him rotten). Of course, I would be thrilled as I would be able to spend more time with him. Since he had seen SF State, we thought it only fair we take a road trip to kick Westmont’s tires and see if they would also be worthy of my godson.
So into the car piled Anthony, April and me. Five and a half hours later we hit the lovely town of Santa Barbara, had a good lunch downtown (what up Carlito’s!) and then headed to the campus for a tour. Westmont College only holds this ‘Preview Days’ tour twice a year and we arrived to find over 50 other kids with their parents checking out the school with us. Wild. Hard for me to believe all these kids wanted to go to a small Christian college I have never heard of until recently. Why(?) I kept asking myself.
Looking at the agenda, we were in for a two day non-stop ‘rah rah’ that gave both the students and parents a sampling of college life. I will say Westmont pulled out all the stops.
We started the day with an introduction to the staff and one thing that caught my attention was a large percentage of the professors and their aides were Westmont alumni. Hmmm. That’s an interesting little tid bit. After the introductions they broke us off into small groups to take a tour around the campus. It is tucked away in the hills of Santa Barbara and the buildings were built to blend into the scenery. It is beautiful.
We came back to the main hall and were invited to have dinner with the students, so we headed over to the cafeteria and chowed down on chile rellenos, enchiladas and rice. Yummy. Westmont wanted the kids to experience living in a dorm which I thought was a great idea and gives them the opportunity to meet a lot of the existing students, so after dinner, the parents were free to hit the town while the prospective students pulled out their sleeping bags to stay the night on campus.
April and I drove downtown and found ourselves in The Endless Summer bar at the Harbor with a glass of wine in hand hoping it would help wind us down from the day. It didn’t (mostly as their wine selection was lacking in, oh what do you call it, oh yeah – good taste) so we headed back to our hotel bar where we found the environment we were looking for which included four lovely glasses of cabernet.
We took what was left in our glass to our room and spent the next couple of hours catching up on old times and making plans for new excursions. Perfect way to end our first day.
The next morning April and I grabbed a cup of coffee and a Jamba Juice and headed back up the hill to meet up with Anthony and attend an 8am class on Financial Aid. I don’t know if it was the three glasses of wine from the night before, or no solid food in my belly, but a Financial Aid class was not where I wanted to be at 8am. However, it was important and an important hour to focus on, so I sucked it up and got through it, actually learning some new things.
With a list of grants and scholarships in front of us – it was then time for Anthony to leave and attend a Communications class while we sat in on a parent panel. The panel consisted of two families who had kids at Westmont and one of the professors handling the Q&A. The parents talked about finding the finances, the ‘positive’ changes they have seen in their son/daughter (some almost immediately), and the overall experience they have had at Westmont. Of course, they were smitten with the school and were perfect to speak on Westmont’s behalf – but it did make me think this place did have a magical feel to it. I had sensed it the day before, but wouldn’t admit it as we walked around the campus.
Following the parent panel, we were scheduled to go to chapel. The college holds ‘chapel’ every Monday, Wednesday and Friday inside the gym (largest spot on campus) and schedules the classes around it to ensure the students can attend if they want. Wow. I had forgotten this was a Christian college. I have to go to chapel? Can’t I just sit outside and read for an hour? I mean, it had been a looooonnnnnngggg time since I had been to mass. I am no atheist, but I definitely do not put on my best duds every Sunday – unless of course - we are going out to dinner. What do we do? Do we sing? Do I need to buy a bible? I know, I am so stupid sometimes. I also soon found out mass is completely different than I remembered. It is ‘hip’ now, at least in my eyes.
April and I walked in and found kids dancing and singing and praising the Lord. I will admit – it was kind of groovy. We decided to head up the bleachers to get a birds’ eye view and see if we could find Anthony. It was powerful. The chapel was packed and everyone was rocking out. I was moved. I focused a bit and finally found Anthony on the other side of the gym. He looks so darn happy to be here.
After chapel we went back up to the main hall to sit in on an Admissions class. Anthony applied and has been accepted, so this was good to hear when confirmations needed to be received and if there was anything else we needed to do before he makes his decision final.
We decided to skip the rest of the afternoon – there were additional classes available for the students to attend, but Anthony had pretty much made up his mind. He didn’t need to see more. He was Westmont bound. Only thing left was to buy a lottery ticket so we had way to pay for it. We also wanted to get a jump on the drive back as both April and Anthony needed to be home Friday night as they had early morning events on Saturday. So, a quick lunch downtown and back in the car we go arriving home about six hours later. Gosh darn I am pooped.
I am so excited for the journey ahead of Anthony. While I had been rooting for SF State the entire time, I came to the realization that Westmont might be exactly what Anthony needs. It is a tight knit community of less than 1200 students and a pretty diverse group of kids from all around the country. Their faith is placed first, but the academic program is meant to challenge the students and encourage original thought and discussions. Classrooms are smaller, ranging from 5-10 students, so there Anthony will never be able to sit in the back of a room and disengage himself (he would never do this, but nice to know this isn’t even an option at Westmont).
So it looks like I will be spending quite a bit of time in Santa Barbara over the next four years. For now though, I just need to remember what my eBay password is…I have some handbags to sell.
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