College Visit: Home of the Hokies

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Burruss Hall

I feel that one of the most hopeful and optimistic places one can visit is a college campus. I am invariably left with respect for the bright, articulate and hard-working tour guides who fearlessly walk backwards while introducing us to the universities they love. Their pride and passion is contagious and creates a surge of optimism within me for what these young people will accomplish for themselves and for our greater world. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known as “Virginia Tech” or “Tech”, in Blacksburg, VA is no exception.

I missed out on my older son’s visit to VA Tech so I was determined to accompany my younger son to Blacksburg. It is a 4.5-5 hour drive from our home in Maryland so I wanted to make the most of the trip. After an easy but monotonous trip down Interstate 81 we arrived at the beautiful Inn at Virginia Tech. The hotel, with its exterior of  limestone “Hokie stone”, was a gracious and welcoming break from the road. After resting a bit, we were driven by the hotel concierge and Tech student to Blacksburg’s #1TripAdvisor restaurant, Cabo Fish Taco Baja Seagrill.

Cabo Fish Taco was amazing! Our friendly waitress served us the complimentary chips and their corn and tomato salsa. We then had the crab and shrimp dip appetizer with warm and crispy parmesan pita bread. I was almost full but had no problem eating my entree of lemon grilled shrimp tacos with the Cabo Fish Taco signature side of cheddar jalapeno mashed potatoes. It was so good! Cabo Fish Taco has only one other location in Charlotte, NC but I think they would be a big hit in many other college towns or Washington, DC maybe?

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As we walked back to the hotel through campus, I was stunned by the beauty of Virginia Tech’s campus. I have been touring colleges with my three kids since 2013 and Virginia Tech is truly gorgeous. My photos do not do it justice but hopefully give you some idea. We walked across the drillfield at dusk to Burruss Hall and then past the duck pond to our hotel.

20170724_104604.jpgThe next morning was spent on the official admissions tour of campus. We had both a bus tour of sites not covered by the walking tour, including Lane Stadium, and then we were led on the walking tour which ended at the impressive War Memorial Chapel, a tribute to the alumni who have died while in military service. The figures sculpted in limestone represent the values of Brotherhood, Honor, Leadership, Sacrifice, Service, Loyalty, Duty and Ut Prosism, the Latin motto of the University meaning “That I May Serve”.

20170724_105313We finished up our tour with an informative session at the College of Engineering and then were ready for lunch. At our tour guide’s recommendation, we ate at the Cellar, located conveniently off campus on Main Street. We were revived by our delicious sandwiches and iced tea, picked up by the hotel driver to get back to our car and we were on the road headed home.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Virginia Tech. The university, campus, and downtown Blacksburg are all impressive. My son came home wearing maroon and burnt orange so we may be back.

 

 

Senioritis: Not Just for Kids

Ah, senioritis, that dreaded high school affliction. High school seniors, finish line in sight, are reported to lose their motivation and focus. Once meticulous AP/IB Honors scholars are now supposedly missing assignments, deadlines, and are generally just not as engaged in their high school careers. Is student senioritis real? I am a not a teacher so I don’t know. I expect there is some truth to the stereotype, albeit overblown.

 

As I embark in the senior year college admissions process for the third time in four years, what I can tell you is that parents can contract senioritis as well. Just as a wide-eyed freshman turns into a savvy high school senior, parents also change a great deal from being first-time parents of seniors to experienced parents of college students.

 

The official kickoff for the college application process for my oldest child was his high school’s junior parents meeting held in spring of junior year. I attended with great excitement and anticipation. My baby was going to college! Armed with pen and paper, I sat near the front, listened carefully and assiduously took notes on key events and dates. As the meeting progressed, I became increasingly overwhelmed with each new slide and alarmed that my student may already be behind in the process: no College Board profile, no Naviance profile,no hard list of targeted schools. I came home in a mild panic, interrupted my son at his homework, and made him answer the College Board profile questions: Big college? Public or private college? What do you want to do for the rest of your life? In short, temporary parental insanity ensued.

 

I bought the Princeton Review and my son, husband, and I scoured its rankings on

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The book that began it all

accceptance rates, majors, and quality of life. Are the students safe, happy? Is the food good? Do they find jobs? Not content with the Princeton Review’s descriptions, I supplemented my research online with College Confidential and Niche. University A vs University B; surely the online sites have the real scoop.

 

My son put together a list of possible colleges, including the recommended reach schools, safety schools, and target schools. Comparison spreadsheets and analysis commenced. I enjoyed plugging universities into the Naviance scattergram to see if my son’s current stats yielded a green or a red dot. My husband put sticky notes on the large United States map we have in our home office and we started planning visits as our summer vacation. Our office became a college application war room.

 

As the notifications began, I was so excited for each and every college acceptance and scholarship offer. I shared my son’s nervousness as he waited to hear from his top colleges. I eagerly viewed all the online notifications and gleefully trotted to the mailbox to retrieve the big envelopes. My son attended accepted student visits at his top universities and finally made his choice.

 

Fast forward three years to my third junior parent meeting this past spring. I attended just in case there were changes in the school’s process of teacher recommendations, transcript requests, etc. No real changes were announced so I was able to sit in the back and observe the first-time parents sitting in the front taking notes and asking questions and felt relief that it wasn’t me. I came home feeling confident that our third time through this would be smooth sailing.

 

With my youngest, we are already familiar with several colleges he is considering since he has already been dragged on several college tours with his siblings. We looked up some new schools in our old Princeton Review and have begun to visit them. He has taken the SAT twice and identified colleges with comparable admissions requirements. I am very much looking forward to seeing where my youngest will go to college and I will be happy and proud of him wherever that may be. At the same time, it is nice going through the application process as a seasoned parent. There may not be the thrill of the newness of it all but there is also less stress and angst. Each child’s situation, even within a family, is different but like all endeavors the college application process gets easier with repetition.

 

Maybe both high school seniors and parents perceived to have senioritis aren’t lazy or uninvested in the future. Maybe we know we have gone through the work and experiences needed to get to this point and are confident enough to “trust the process”.  Just like the college counselors told me at that first meeting.

Wife, Mom… And Peggy!

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Richard Rodgers Theatre

As a woman named Peggy and a huge fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton the Musical, I was thrilled to share my name with one of his characters. My daughter introduced me to Hamilton when it first began, the summer of 2015, and convinced me to listen to the soundtrack after mentioning Peggy. I was excited to leave my childhood days of being called Miss Piggy for the adventures of Peggy Schuyler only to find out it is “Angelica, Eliza…And Peggy”. Angelica is the independent and charismatic sister, Eliza is the kind and loving sister, but Peggy Schuyler is the afterthought.

The Schuyler sisters, especially Peggy, spoke to me. We all have our roles to play in life: child, parent, sibling, spouse, worker, student, friend, neighbor. It can sometimes be hard to remember who we really are separate from our roles, no matter how much we love them. In that vein, I decided to name my blog “And Peggy” to remember and celebrate that part of myself that stands alone but doesn’t want to be forgotten. And also because, like everyone else out there, I love Hamilton!

My daughter strongly hinted that it would be a perfect high school graduation gift in 2016. I naively thought it would be easy to get tickets. Yeah, right! Fast forward to spring break 2017 and she and I were actually, finally, for real sitting in the Richard Rodgers Theatre to see Hamilton on Broadway!!

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Showtime!

While it must have been incredible to see Hamilton with the original cast (I love Leslie Odom, Jr.), the wait did not diminish the experience. The anticipation and excitement of the line of ticket holders waiting to get in the theater was contagious! As I walked to my seat, carrying my brand new Schuyler Sisters t-shirt and my adult beverage in a keepsake cup, I could hardly believe I was there! And when I finally heard the lyrics “my name is Alexander Hamilton” I got goosebumps. Hamilton has all the feels, as they say: love, war, betrayal, death, legacy.

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story” is my favorite line. After surviving the deaths of my parents, I am left to tell their story but who will tell mine? And what will it be? Oprah always says that everyone has a story. I may not be “young, scrappy, and hungry” but my story is not over yet. Just you wait.