Took a tour of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC with my son last week and we were pretty impressed. Lots of program options, three campuses within public transport distance, mountaintop location, renowned work coop program, encouragement to explore and cross disciplines. The only NCAA Division II college in Canada, with a swim team my son could make (according to current team records). And as a dual citizen there’s that only $5800.oo per year tuition price tag that seems to be a shockingly good bargain. But it’s a big school, and my instinct is that’s not a good thing for this particular young man. Undergrad classes of hundreds of students, impossibility of real connection with professors, just like I experienced in my undergrad years at Dalhousie U. The big campus favors the extrovert, the Type A, the confident, go-getting, early-blooming risk-taker, and of course we need those, and power to them for distinguishing themselves in this big world. But some people need a more nurturing environment, a community where you have a good chance of running into the same people now and then, becoming known, making connections in a natural way and in the course of special events for that purpose. Introverts have the right to have their needs met, too, to have help discovering their strengths and gaining new ones, to be mentored and encouraged. All those stresses of suddenly being away from family, friends, work colleagues, familiar places, plus new academic challenges and the leap into greater independence. Lots to digest, and you gotta have friends and wise people around to help, even to break in at times to the spiral of the introvert’s tendency to over think and turn inward further. Yeah, they’re deep, but they can sometimes get too far under.
So much good information available to inform oneself about U.S. universities–from lots of different angles–from stats to reviews to scores to alternative and unusual viewpoints. Not so much available on Canadian universities–at least I haven’t been able to track much down. Just MacLean’s Magazine rankings, and that system has its flaws. I’m looking at small colleges (there are some excellent big ones–U of Toronto, McGill, but see above). Two that come up often are Acadia U, where I did my teaching degree, and Mount Allison U., where two of my siblings studied. Pretty far away, but close to my parents and two siblings, which could be nice for all. It would be good to find out what those two and other similar small Canadian colleges are doing these days.
Meanwhile, we’ve also booked a tour at Whitman College in Walla Walla, the renowned private school that continually appears in our fantastic colleges books–Cool Colleges, Colleges That Change Lives, 140 Best Colleges, and lots more. But tuition is almost ten times that at SFU, and over seven times that of our local state university. The argument being that that’s what a really excellent education costs, and that a good liberal art education gives a person what they really need to think well, communicate well, have depth and breadth of understanding that equips them for whatever next steps they choose. And grad schools and the best HR folks know that and snap up those grads. Also, that if you’re the kind of student Whitman wants, they’ll pitch in big bucks in the way of scholarships and aid, so the average indebtedness might not be much over what a public college grad might incur. Anyway, it’s in our state, and should give us an idea of what these types of places are like. So we’re trying to be open minded.
One thing that struck me about our student tour guide was that she was very somber. Not just serious and grounded, which I appreciate when trying to gather accurate information, but almost sad. Not something about which I could ask, but I wondered if she was lonely at her big school.