Saturday, August 16, 2014

Part 3...and the leader in the clubhouse is...

August 16, 2014

CJ knows that his Aunt Kathy went to the University of Cincinnati.  Her positive comments regarding the institution and the coop program have been very influential in his psyche.  He knows that if she was able to get a good job, UC must have been very helpful.  Sure, he has never seen her as anything but a mother to three crazy children, but he does question the intelligence of anyone willing to drive all the way from Georgia to Cincinnati just to visit us.  Just kidding, Kathy.

So the next stop on our tour was Wright State.  Named after the Wright Brothers, all you history majors out there must assume the college resides in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  You would be in the Wrong state.  The Wright State is Ohio.  More specifically Dayton, Ohio.  It is near Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

I personally did not know much about them.  So how we came to go visit is a good story.

Every Third of July our local community has a parade.  CJ and the marching band were in the parade so Beth and I attended.  Plus, the parade participants throw candy so there is always the chance of losing an eye to a Tootsie Roll and that adds a thrill factor.  Anyway, while at the parade, Beth and I ran into the father of one of CJ's classmates.  CJ and his son have been classmates all the way back to kindergarten and I have coached them several times when they were on the same soccer team.  His parents are two of the nicer people you would want to meet and it was nice to catch up with Mark.  We started talking about college visits and he mentioned some of the places his son had gone.  His son's favorite was Ohio State.  He is very interested in computers as well and Mark mentioned that his own favorite experience had been at Wright State.  He explained that the Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science had given a rather passionate speech about the school.  His son was not impressed.

Then, Beth had a conversation with CJ's drum instructor about colleges.  Joe has taken classes at several local colleges and commented how some were much easier to work with than others.  For instance, people in the financial aid department at UC took much more joy in tearing up your application that was 20 minutes late right in front of you whereas the same department at Xavier was forgiving about an application that was two days late.  "We'll just back date that for you, hon" they said.  Editorial comment:  yes, I did attend Xavier, but that has not been an option for CJ since the cost of education there is WAY higher than the local public universities.  Then Beth mentioned Wright State to Joe and he said he had heard many good things from past and present students there.  Plus, CJ had received some literature from there, so we chose to stop ignoring it.

Here is what we found out during a visit to WSU.  A school that is not as well known outside of Dayton as many of the bigger universities tries harder.  They are not small, they have around 15,000 students.  The campus is not small either.  They are a Division 1 school for athletics.  They are well-known in select circles for their research and the work they have done with local Dayton hospitals and with Wright Patterson AFB.  In Cincinnati though, not as well known.  One employee of mine thought they were a two-year institution like Cincinnati State here.  Not so.

Everyone that spoke to the big group spoke much more passionately and eloquently about their programs and the university than anyone at the other universities we had visited.  Then the Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science spoke.  Oh my goodness.  He detailed the difference between each engineering degree and computer science degree better than any literature we had pored over to this point in time.  He spoke about how every student that wanted to major in engineering was given an equal chance to succeed even if their ACT score was not reflective of the typical success story.  And he spoke about an Honors Program for those who had higher ACT scores and math skills that made CJ think he belonged.  Wowed were we.

The we went on a tour of the campus and it was nice.   The nicest dorm we had seen so far.  Brand new buildings being built.  Impressive.  Then we went on a tour of the Computer Science building.  We went to rooms for wireless development and 3-D learning and rooms with computer parts strewn about.  I thought it looked like a play room where children had not been expected to put the Legos away, but CJ said it was all state of the art computer hardware that had him salivating.

Then we spoke to someone about the cooping and internship program who had Beth weeping at how structured it is to help individual students find what's best for them.

THEN, we spoke to someone in charge of admissions for the College of Engineering and Computer Science.  Beth mentioned to this person that CJ had scored well on the math portion of his ACT and his composite score wasn't bad either.  The person asked for specifics and when CJ told her he had gotten a 34 on the math and 30 overall, her eyes got real big and she said that he would probably get a scholarship for 75% of his tuition and maybe more.  !!!!!  He was learning what it may be like to be a big fish in a small pond compared to a minnow at bigger universities like OSU and UC.  It was as if she had just offered him a piece of cheesecake with chocolate pudding on top. 

So we were very pumped up after this visit to say the least.  Being a dad, I have tried to not let this excitement get too out of control.  I didn't want it to be like he fell in love with the first girl he had sex with.  Or that all three of us fell in love with this girl/university for the wrong reason.  That image was perhaps both nas and ty.  Sorry.

Nonetheless, we have had several conversations making sure we are now going about things the right way with this new leader in the clubhouse that came out of nowhere.  I don't want to be Tin Cup with a chance to win the Open and then hit 6 balls into the water.  Fortunately, we have a few months before it becomes time to start college applications.  A lot can happen between now and then, and it may turn out that the scholarship money isn't what this one person unofficially made it out to be.  And I do not want CJ to pick a college simply based on the tuition coverage.  We have steered him towards colleges we could afford anyway.  The most important aspect of college picking is that you feel like you can have an enjoyable college experience and come out with a degree in a field with a real career possibility. 

I can tell you first hand that a BS in Mathematics from Xavier University only succeeded in finding me a 27 year career in Retail Management.  Sure I have supported myself and my family, but I am the typical parent wanting more for his child.  God willing, this can happen.  I think He has been steering us on a path thus far, so I guess we will see where that ends.  Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 15, 2014

College picking, part 2.

August 15, 2014

When we last met, Annie Walker from Covert Affairs was eating pickles.  Oh, and we were trying to help CJ pick out a college.  Fortunately, Annie wasn't helping him with the college visits while Beth and I ate pickles because she gets shot at an awful lot.

Miami University was the next college we visited.  While a trip to Florida seems rather extreme, Beth and I are more than willing to do anything to make our son happy.   No, not really.  Not really Florida, yes really make him happy.

Miami of Ohio is in Oxford, Ohio and is about 1 hour from our home.  I worked with many of their graduates and our nephew graduated from there and has a really good job.  We had gotten something in the mail from Miami University and liked the curriculum it laid out for incoming freshmen in the field of Computer Science.  It is still part of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, put it allows you to take more classes as a freshman in a variety of computer interests to help you gauge your interests and expertise.  The tuition is a bit less than UC and OSU, so I didn't mind that aspect at all.  So we spent a day in Oxford. 

The campus is beautiful.  At one point we did start to notice that most of the buildings look very similar and to tell someone to meet you by the brick building with the white pillars out front would not be helpful.   Our tour guide was excellent even though she kept having to pull up her shirt so as to not expose her hoots.  We weren't in a group of football recruits after all.  It is a college town and would be very comfortable.  The drawbacks, however, were the lack of a coop program (they cater more to internships) and that their college is better suited to those majoring in Business or Liberal Arts.  That is not to say that you can't come out of there with a great education in engineering since I believe that is what my nephew has, but it didn't do much to sway CJ in their direction. 

So back to UC.  I was not able to tag along, but Beth and CJ were able to get an appointment to speak to someone there from admissions.  A previous phone conversation with someone in admissions was not all that pleasant, but the person they spoke with this day made them come home and say that CJ was definitely going to UC.  My questions as to why revealed that their coop program was as good as advertised and, even though the same situation existed as at OSU regarding computer science freshmen being herded through a year in engineering before being able to split off, CJ was comforted by the emphasis on mentoring and how there would always be plenty of help available in the form of tutors or learning groups.

Let me take this opportunity to explain the potential need for educational assistance.  CJ is a smart kid.  He has taken the SAT and ACT and scored well enough that acceptance at any of the colleges I have mentioned would not be an issue.  He would probably even qualify for some small scholarships.  I will be more specific about that in my next post.  You'll see why.  CJ's GPA after three years of high school is around a 3.7.  Colleges don't look as closely at GPA as they used to since not every high school uses the same scale, some weigh the GPA if you take AP courses, and some don't use GPA at all.  However, most colleges do look at your class rank.  Even with a 3.7, CJ is not in the top 10% of his class.  In fact, he is probably closer to the 40 or 50th percentile.  There are only 100 kids in his class and a lot of them are brainiacs.  His closest friend is one of those students who got a 35 on his ACT, has a 4.20 GPA (on a 4.0 scale)and is waiting to see which college offers him the most money.  Many of the guys in his circle have scored between 33-36 on the ACT and have GPAs better than 3.90.  (A perfect score on the ACT is a 36 if you were wondering.  The average score to get into a good university is between 27-32.)  Therefore, CJ has never felt like an idiot, but has certainly never felt like he was an above average student.  A degree in engineering and the classes this entails is more worrisome to CJ's parents than it is to CJ so far.  He does recognize the potential need for tutors though. 

So as I leave you today, the University of Cincinnati is the front-runner.  What could possibly happen to change this?  Stay tuned. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Choosing a college, part 1.

August 14, 2014

I realize posts from me have become like a Yeti sighting (infrequent and rather hairy), but I feel the need to document our recent college visit activity. 

Beth and CJ have had a very productive summer and it seems to have lasted longer than last summer.  I know this sounds like bitter sentiment from a person who does not get summers off, but I really mean it as a positive comment.  Last summer was rather messed up and that made it seem here and gone too quickly.  This summer, Beth has gotten so many things done around the house that it seems more like time well spent.

However, it suddenly became painfully obvious that a college visit or two would be an excellent thing to get done before school starts.  CJ will be a senior in high school.  That is very difficult for Beth and I to say out loud as it was not that long ago that he was learning his ABC's and reaching for the moon saying  "I can't reach it" in a voice so obviously belonging to a little kid.  Now, when people call the house, they are not sure if it is CJ or myself who has answered the phone.

So college.  We have long thought that CJ would end up at the University of Cincinnati.  Of the Ohio colleges, their tuition is not too unreasonable, they are close to home, and they are a quality institution that offers a coop program that we consider very important.  This was the basis we were starting from.  Oh, and it has been a given all along that he was going to live on campus wherever he went.  The true college experience complete with dirty underwear and Doritos for dinner.

As it turns out, you need a lot more information than that to pick a college.  Shocking, I know.  Here are some of the things we have learned.  First, when a young person is good with computers and wants to learn enough to make them his career in college, you need to choose your field of study.  Fortunately, CJ did not decide on a major involving computers because he is good at computer games and really enjoys Facebook.  He has built his own computer and has tried to learn about coding and the things that make your computer perform functions.  I know that was pretty technical, but my knowledge begins and ends with how you turn a computer on and whether I need to right click or left click to read about how badly the Reds lost last night.

We discovered that Information Systems and Computer Science are a couple of degrees you can earn in college.  The we took a trip to Ohio State.  As it turns out, Information Systems at Ohio State is a course of study in the Liberal Arts college, and Computer Science is over at the College of Engineering.  We read a couple of brochures that tried to distinguish the two and ended up at the College of Engineering.  This began a day of tours and info sessions that not only showed us the OSU campus, but some details of coming to OSU as a computer science guy.  A computer science guy at OSU starts out taking all the same classes as the incoming freshmen whose intent is to become engineers.  And a point was made that the goal of the College of Engineering is to weed out the serious and capable from the students who really need to be studying something less difficult, like Retail Management.  It was the ole, look to your left, look to you right, out of the three of you only one will survive the program.  Okay.  Then one of the professors from the engineering program spoke for 40 minutes about the Wright Brothers and we were ready for a nap.

Since you also are ready for a map, and this post has the potential to get really long, I will break up this adventure into different posts.  I know you are on the edge of your seat and waiting to see how Annie Walker gets out of this latest pickle, but that will have to wait until my next installment.    I will tease it by saying we went to a school that calls itself the Harvard of the Midwest.