It’s 6:46 am.  I’m supposed to be in Texas right now.  With my seventeen-year-old son, Andrew. Visiting UT Austin, a college that he has been accepted into and that he kind of maybe sort of definitely wants to consider attending next fall. (Hook ‘em Horns!) In addition to a 9 am tour of the campus that we won’t be part of two hours and fourteen minutes from now, we also won’t be on the tour tomorrow of the Moody School of Communication.  We had booked a cool hotel in the heart of downtown Austin, made dinner reservations at trendy and delicious BBQ joints, and planned on taking in some SXSW events. Cancelled, cancelled, cancelled.

Or, as a well-known professor at that college would say, (not) alright alright alright.

We opted out as a precaution, not only for ourselves, but also for others, as fears of the coronavirus spread exponentially over the past week, just as the coronavirus itself will soon do.

As colleges across the nation cancel classes for enrolled students as well as tours and accepted student days for incoming and prospective freshman, I started to wonder if we could select a college for Andrew without actually visiting any of them.  Now that over 100 colleges and universities across the country have moved classes completely online, what distinguishes one school from the other?  In a world where everyone is attending college in their pj’s from their bedrooms, doesn’t Harvard end up resembling, say, the University of Phoenix?

Perhaps this pandemic will prove to be The Great Educational Equalizer.

The game has changed, people, and it’s time to play along.  Won’t you join me? Let’s virtually pick a college for each of our children. 

  1.  Do you want an urban or rural locale?  In order to determine this, look out the window of your home/apartment.  Is it urban? Is it rural? Suburban? You have your answer. 
  2. A small or large campus? Depends on how big your bedroom is and whether you count your backyard as part of the quad. Also, what size is your computer?  Another determining factor will be the scale of your quarantine.  
  3. Do you want a rah-rah school with a big football stadium or a small, tight-knit community where everyone calls their professor by their first name? Um, like Mom and Dad?  
  4. How’s the food?  If you like shelf-stable milk, canned green beans, and boxed mac n cheese, then this school’s for you!
  5. How far away from home am I comfortable going?  Like, all the way to the basement?  
  6. Are you independent enough to get yourself to class on time?  This one is tough. Subtract two minutes for teeth-brushing since no one can smell your breath through Zoom.  How long does it take you to roll out of bed? Fifteen seconds? But this also begs the existential question: if you attend college in a different time zone than the one you live in, what time is it, really?
  7. How’s the weather there? The good news about this one is that it’s the same general answer no matter where you “go” to college.  The weather is generally unstable and getting warmer every day, even at the University of Maine.
  8. And lastly, does your school offer any term abroad programs?  Abroad?  What’s that?

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog post, entitled How to Make Delicious, 30-Minute Meals with Random Pantry Items Bought Under Duress!