Mom’s weekend, A quintessential college experience

Quintessential: a perfect example

 My first choice for college was Duke in North Carolina.  My dad was from South Carolina so I had traveled the South extensively as a child.  I knew as soon as I saw Duke’s gorgeous campus as a kid I wanted to go there. When I started my college search in earnest in high school, my parents told me that they couldn’t afford the tuition at a school of the caliber of Duke and travel back and forth from Wyoming made any East Coast school cost prohibitive.  I never applied to Duke.  Instead I set my sites closer to home.

 I attended a small private Presbyterian college in Nebraska, called Hastings College. My primary reasons for going to Hastings were: 1. I didn’t want to go to the University of Wyoming where most of my friends were going, 2. My sister, 3 years my senior, was already at Hastings and was having the time of her life traveling all over the world during interim session (the month of January between fall and spring semesters), 3. My parents could afford both the tuition and the travel though in the end I had a substantial scholarship award, and 3. Ted Menke, a tall, handsome, blonde- haired, blue-eyed senior had led my tour group.  At 18, I was boy-crazy and the thought of an entire new world of good-looking guys in a location outside of Wyoming was a huge motivator.  My sister and I still laugh raucously about what a superb ambassador for Hastings, Ted was. In my case, he had graduated by the time I got there.

Chapel at Hastings College, Nebraska. When I was in school, we had mandatory chapel every Friday.


I was not disappointed with my Hastings experience though I would never send my kids all the way from Idaho to Nebraska to have a small college experience.  There are many fine small colleges in the Northwest.  I bring up how I chose my college because choosing a college is one of the largest financial decisions a family will ever make.  If I am perfectly honest at 18, expense and quality of education weren’t even considerations for me.  I wanted to go somewhere I could have a good time, make new friends and learn about the world.  Somehow when my son Scott started looking for colleges, I forgot how frivolous I had been.

Scott began his college search in earnest the beginning of his junior year. We did what the high school counselors recommended.  Scott wanted to go to school in the West, if possible on the coast.  We toured schools in Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado. Based on these tours, he narrowed his search down to five. The top being a stretch to get into but worth dreaming for, the fifth being a sure thing with others in-between.  My son’s dream school was Santa Clara University, a private Jesuit School in California with a gorgeous campus.  His sure thing was the University of Idaho.  He got into all the schools with scholarships. The last school we heard from and the one  he waited anxiously on every day  was Santa Clara.   He received $10,000 a year to Santa Clara.  After reviewing the costs of Santa Clara, we had to tell Scott we simply couldn’t afford it.   We are a physician family and have substantial resources. However, Pete (my husband) didn’t start practicing until he was in his early forties.  By the time Scott was headed to college, Pete was 65 and we still have a daughter to send to school who was 12.  Santa Clara would have cost us $60,000 a year on top of the scholarship.  We had saved for Scott’s college education and had $65,000 in Scott’s  529 college savings account designed to cover the cost of an in-state education at that time.  The costs of Santa Clara would have used all the savings the first year.

Given the costs of education, my husband, Pete set up an elaborate excel sheet so we could compare all the offers.  The best offer was from University of Puget Sound where Scott got $20,000 a year. We thought we could afford the extra cost for Puget Sound though it would have meant more money than we had saved.  But once we told Scott we couldn’t afford Santa Clara, he had no interest in the other schools.  On decision day, Scott was traveling for a business conference. I called to ask him which school I should accept. He said the University of Idaho. I was hoping for Puget Sound.  I was a little sick inside because I had wanted him to go out-of-state. Let’s face it, Idaho is not a cultural mecca.

Scott’s first semester at the University of Idaho did not go well.  He had a strange roommate in the Honor’s dorm.  When he tried to change, the resident assistant told him the only way he could get a different room was if someone would trade with him.  Lots of people were willing to room with Scott but no one was willing to move in with the undesirable roommate. In addition, Scott is a vegetarian and the food situation in the cafeteria was getting desperate.  He sent me pictures from the Cafeteria where there was a big sign that said, “Vegetarian” and then underneath the food was labeled  “chicken wings.”  Pete and I both went up for Dad’s weekend in the fall because we felt we needed to provide support just to keep Scott in school.  We traveled with another family.  We all went bowling.  I will be forever thankful to one of the men in our group.  He said to Scott, “This is your life.  You need to take the necessary steps to make this work for you.”

The next thing I know Scott had joined a fraternity (Phi Kappa Tau), moved out of the dorms and into the frat house.  At the time,  I thought this was like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

This past weekend, I visited Scott at the University of Idaho for my 4th and final Mom’s weekend.  I started the blog today with the intention of writing about attending Mr. Idaho, a beauty pageant  to raise funds for charity (very fun), the Turtle Derby where the sorority houses train turtles to run out of a circle (captivating in a strange way), and the lacrosse game (another loss but a rousing good time).  But upon reflection, the real story is not how I spent my weekend (truly fabulous) but how much Scott has grown and matured at the University of Idaho.  Despite my misgivings and several stumbles along the way, the U of I has provided Scott with a quintessential college experience.

For example, being in a fraternity  has proven to be a great opportunity for him. The fraternity gave him an instant group of friends.  In addition, they have a cook so his vegetarian needs are addressed if he leans on the cook.  I would be lying if I didn’t say it is hard to be the only vegetarian in a congregate living situation.

Scott has also served as treasurer of his fraternity and is now the President.  He has paid bills, collected funds from reluctant payees, developed budgets, managed staff, and had to figure out how to motivate young men who have many diverse interests. The fraternity has paid for him to attend a number of national meetings where he has made new friends and had the opportunity for additional leadership training

Scott has a Graue Scholarship from the University of Idaho.  The Graues are business students who must maintain a 3.5 grade point.  They receive tuition assistance as well as a funded annual field trip. Scott has travelled to California to meet business leaders as well as major companies in Portland and Seattle such as Nike and Starbucks.

Last fall, he utilized the U of I international program to spend a semester in Spain at the same cost as attending school in Moscow with the additional cost of round-trip transportation.  We went to visit him as a family over Thanksgiving.  All of us got the benefit of that experience.

In summary, he has travelled in this country and abroad.  He has had opportunities to lead and learn beyond the classroom.  He has done all of this without taking out any loans. The funded 529 plan has paid for all his costs including his books. He is, of course, our son so we are proud of him.  But he is not a-typical of the University of Idaho student.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about the Naval Officers we visited in Florida who are recent graduates of the University of Idaho. These two young men are not from Idaho. They went to U of I because that is where the Navy assigned them.  But they graduated able to compete with new officers from all over the country including Ivy league schools.

Upon reflection, the University of Idaho has been good for Scott and I think in turn Scott and his friends have been good for the University of Idaho. None of us can predict the future, but looking back  Scott’s college outcomes have been much better than I expected when I pushed “yes” to the University of Idaho on decision day.

Scott and I had a great time on our last Mom’s Weekend at the University of Idaho, 2016

3 thoughts on “Mom’s weekend, A quintessential college experience

  1. Julie, so enjoy reading your blog. You were always a great writer, I remember from our Hastings days. Pat


    1. Pat, thanks so much for reading my blog and for your positive feedback. I am always happy when people read what I write. It is one of the gifts of social media, the immediacy of publication and response.


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