My daughter has chosen a college. Let me rephrase that: My daughter has finally chosen a college!
And yet … here we are. She has chosen a college, but the path to that college remains unclear. It seems it is all we parents of high school seniors are talking about right now. Will colleges open on campus in September? Will our kids experience moving in on a hot late summer day, meeting their roommates, getting lost on the way to class, and embarking upon the awkwardness of ice breakers, or will they still be sitting morosely in our homes, trying to be a college student online, getting more depressed and ornery by the day? If our kids aren’t in college, what will they be doing? How much will it cost? How long will it last? What is going to happen??
This is also the #1 question I get in my inbox each morning when I walk eight steps to go to “work” each day in the corner of my bedroom 14.7 miles away from Loomis Chaffee. Given that I work at Loomis, am married to a Loomis graduate, have a Loomis alumna home from college two months early, and two current Loomis students Zooming every day and seemingly every night, the line between the personal and professional isn’t just blurred — it’s nonexistent. Every day I’m immersed in this question, either as an enrollment manager or as a parent. Genuine admission: I worry about what will happen between now and September as both an enrollment manager and as a parent. That’s not to mention the uber-worry about COVID-19, about the economic impact on our country, about my friends who work in the healthcare industry, about the health of my parents, and about the rest of the world. I worry about my admissions team and how they are adapting to being isolated, and about the toll that caring for children at home while trying to work is having on them. I worry about the financial impact on our families who do not have the resources to easily weather this storm and about how our students at home are managing with distance learning. I worry about my advisees, my daughters who can only take SO MUCH of their parents (no, we do not do Saturday game nights), and about my husband being surrounded by four females 24/7. (He did not take kindly to my suggestion that adopting a dog might cheer us all up. Can’t blame me for trying.)
So, there is worry in my house, like there is in every house these days, and I fully recognize that my worries pale in comparison to those facing much more significant crises, whether related to health, safety, finances, or family.
However, there are two things I do not worry about.
I do not worry about the college my daughter chose. Although I did not have a specific school in mind for her (see “Where You Go Shapes Who You Are”), I did want her to be at a school that would both push her and support her, which her college will. As a four-year experience, on-campus or off-, I am confident that she will continue to find her best self in service of the common good. It is an institution that has weathered previous storms, and the school leadership seems determined to view the challenge presented as an opportunity to emerge stronger rather than simply “limp to the finish line,” as one fellow parent put it. I trust its commitment to their students and their transparency in communicating to us what they can, when they can.
Similarly, I do not worry about Loomis Chaffee. Loomis was founded over 100 years ago by committed, caring, innovative thinkers whose vision of an egalitarian, civic-minded education for all has also weathered previous storms. Whether facing the economic stagnancy and social tumult of the 1970’s, or the legendary flood of 1936 (there’s a reason we are called the Island), Loomis has been served by forward-thinking leaders and an exceptionally devoted faculty. As someone fortunate enough to observe my colleagues close-up and in action over the past 13 years, I am confident that whatever challenges we encounter as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath will be handled with the same determination and vision as my daughter’s college. What makes Loomis “Loomis” is not our beautiful campus or facilities. It is the people whose commitment to being their very best selves and serving the common good both on and off the Island is evident every day and in everything they do — even on the toughest days and under the toughest of circumstances.
And so while admittedly there are things I worry about here at home, there is so much more that I just simply miss about being at Loomis: the view from the first floor of our library across the Meadows; the “Hi, Mrs. Thompson!” greetings when I pass students between classes; the excited chatter of our tour guides crowding the front desk to see who they are touring that day; the sound of rehearsing in Hubbard practice rooms; the laughter of my colleagues in Sellers Hall; the music blaring during baseball practices outside my office window; the beauty of the rivers on a spring afternoon; the quad filled with seniors enjoying free time during senior spring; the blaring of the train’s horn as it passes on its way to New Haven; and, yes, the soft serve ice cream machine. The highest testament to a school is that its students and faculty miss it, and I know I am not alone. We will deliver an exceptional education regardless, but we will return, Pelican warriors. Keep the faith. Ne cede malis.