I arrived fairly easily. I’ve never really been to Auburn before, so this was an entirely new experience. As I looked at the surroundings as best as I could while driving the windy and steep hills, I didn’t see too terribly much. It seemed to just be an expansion of factories. Then of course, I got to the insanity of the hills – which I didn’t know could be possible – and suddenly I was driving through woods.
My Waze app told me to turn and I turned, becoming less and less directionally aware. I finally was told to turn right into a parking lot that looked a lot like a state park. I pulled over, checked my app and saw that I had, in fact, arrived at Green River Community College.
The sign said that parking was full, but I was able to find parking in the visitor center and get a pass.
It was raining, as is to be expected in Washington, especially during this time of the year. I wandered the campus, having to frequently stop at maps to figure out just where I was and where I needed to go. The walk felt like going through a zoo – not in that it was insanely busy, mind you, but in the sense that the roads/paths wound around buildings in seemingly nonsensical patterns, and evergreens were tall and frequent. It was boarder-line an ewok village. It was rather a fantastic campus.
I wondered what it would be like to be a part of such a campus – and so surprising given the town in which it’s nestled.
I eventually found the building through the drops of rain, and wasn’t particularly certain that I had the right place. It was a small building of perhaps five (if I’m being generous) classrooms, nowhere for students to sit and do homework or read. None of the buildings around it looked any more inviting, and having found myself there 45 minutes yearly, I had no choice but to find the most off-to-the-side nook that I could and sit….uncomfortably, I might add, as I was at this point quite wet.
I eventually spied some one that I thought might be waiting for the same thing, for the doors to room 101 of building C to open, and the presentation to begin. I meandered in his direction until we were eventually let in, along with another student that joined us just at the right time. We sat in silence, a square of tables with twenty seating spots, empty, and waiting. Columbia University’s School of General Studies was open and projected on the screen before us, sliding through the achievements and projects of the school.
The quiet and awkwardness of the room erupted into a flurry of business, staff of the college directing each other, arranging a buffet of sandwiches and drinks, while more students poured in. It became apparent those that had traveled from out o town to be there and those that were a part of the college’s culture.
With all the discussion going around on my own campus regarding race, I couldn’t help but notice with interest that I was one of two white people there, and the only white female. There was another African American student, and the rest were transfer students from Asia and the Middle East. It became an eclectic mash of dialects and words, tones and sounds while the representative of C.U. got himself together.
During this time, the realization of just what I was doing set in. I was in a position I never expected to be in. There I sat, having traveled several counties south to sit in on a seminar from an Ivy League University – and yet when I was in high school, I had no intention of even attempting college, never mind getting this far. Everything became suddenly surreal.
Dirk, the representative, began by asking which of us were traditional students, and which were had taken a break in our education. This became the explanatory difference between the School of General Studies and Columbia College: the former is for those that have taken some time off between high school and college, or plan to take time off between their education now and the next phase, while Columbia College is designed for students jumping straight into university.
He explained how Columbia University is a school of Liberal Arts, and as a result has a core curriculum, that includes Art Humanities, Music Humanities, Literature/Humanities, Social Sciences, Doreign Language, and so on. All of these are supplemented with the university’s location, in the heart of New York City. So while we’re studying in depth Picasso, we would then go to the Met and see the paintings we had been studying.
“Think of what you enjoy studying,” he said. “Then look into careers.” He said that the goal of this school was to take what students enjoy studying and working a career path into this enjoyment.
Those of us that would be going into the General Studies college would be able to get housing via the school, but not in the dorms. The dorms are reserved for traditional students, and are right on campus. Those apart of the GS School would be assigned apartments, just outside of campus, a five minute walk from campus. We could request a roommate, or try and live on our own – the School of General Studies is there to find the best fit for you. Not only that, but the cost of housing is included in the approximated annual tuition of $50,000.
When the slight gasps went throughout the room, he went into the Financial Aid and scholarship programs. He said never to judge a school by their price tag, hardly any one every pays out of pocket for tuition. In fact, he said that 70% of students were able to get their tuition entirely covered through grants and scholarships.
I left with a lot to think about. I was certainly more sold on Columbia than I was prior to walking into that room.
I had also been somewhat on the fence about whether or not to do the General Studies Admissions Exam (today). But after the presentation, and he happened to briefly mention that the exam was only the English portion of the SAT’s, I felt far more confident, and decided to do it.
In fact, that is where I am off to right…now.