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September 8, 2009

Travels with Uncle Chet: The search for a college gets started

COLUMBUS _ The little miscreant has only two years left in high school and we’re sweating the next step, that leap off the cliff, college.

Fortunately, she’s a good student. She tests well and ever since she took her preliminary college board exam, scores of schools have sent her letters and e-mails, inviting her to take a look.

We’ve kept these correspondences, on computer and in envelopes, mostly without reading them, but Sunday evening, we decided to go through the pile.

``Let’s see what you’ve got,’’ said Uncle Chet, our retired teacher. He was sitting on the couch and she spread brochures on the coffee table and rug before him, everything from Adelphi to Yale.

``Ah, Bryn Mawr,’’ he picked up a glossy sheet. ``I knew a girl who went to Bryn Mawr once.’’

``Why did she go only once?’’ I asked.

``Good question,’’ he winced at me. ``All I know is she was the smartest girl I ever went to ...’ ``Didn’t Hillary go to Bryn Mawr?’’’’ Hon interjected. ``Wellesley,’’ I said.

``That’s right.’’

``Well, they’re both hard to spell,’’ said Uncle Chet. ``If you ask me, if you can spell either one, they ought to let you in.’’

``We should probably start with state schools,’’ said Hon.

``Out-of-state schools are going to be just as bad as private schools,’’ said Uncle Chet. ``But the SUNY schools are good and they only cost an arm, not a leg. It really depends what you want to do,’’ as he looked at the student.

She shrugged, ``I wish I knew. It keeps changing.’’

``What do you like to do,’’ he asked.

``Nothing related to washing dishes,’’ I said.

``Thanks, Dad.’’

``Just kidding.’’

``No you’re not.’’

``She does like to argue,’’ I said. ``And she’s good at it.’’

``Lawyer,’’ he nodded. ``Well, almost anything will do for undergrad. You can go get a traditional liberal arts education, a smattering of everything, just like I did.’’

``Where did you go,’’ she asked.

``SUCO,’’ he said.

``He majored in sour hour,’’ I said.

``What’s sour hour?’’

``Only the first year,’’ he said. ``After that, it was just a minor.’’

``I think I want to go farther away than Oneonta,’’ she suggested.

``She wants to travel, see a little of the world,’’ Uncle Chet said to himself, sorting through the pile. ``Well, how about this one, Finlandia University?’’ ``Where’s that,’’ she asked.

``Finland, I guess,’’ he scanned the sheet, looking for an address.

``How about this one,’’ she was looking at a brochure for Cornell.

``Ivy League,’’ said Hon.

``What does that mean?’’

``Expensive,’’ I said.

``How expensive?’’ asked Hon.

``Well, let’s see,’’ I was at the laptop. ``Looks like ... $52,414 a year.’’

``Can we afford that,’’ the girl asked.

``For about 11 days,’’ I said. ``We’re getting nowhere fast, but I know how we can narrow this down,’’ Uncle Chet said to her. ``Take the computer and write a letter we can send to all these schools. Tell them a little about yourself, what you’d like to study, and how you don’t want to graduate under a mountain of debt. ``That’ll be our bait and we’ll see what we reel in.’’


Cooperstown News Bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace’s column appears every other week.