Admitted students are swarming the campus, checking out groups and events and anything else they can think of while on campus tours. Each potential Jumbo is followed by a patient parent asking questions with a concerned look in their eyes. The student is worried about an organization that they can join, and the parent is worried about campus safety. Parents will ask the questions that students will be embarrassed to hear, and students will ask the questions that will make parents cringe. This is the way that most people will remember their first moment on campus before they were even taking classes.
This scene is what most people expect when choosing a school to attend. For most R.E.A.L. students, this is not even close to the reality. Along with many other types of non-traditional students, most R.E.A.L. students never had a campus visit with their parents who asked embarrassing questions to the admissions counselors, for the majority of R.E.A.L. students were both the parent and the student. We were the ones asking the embarrassing questions about safety and wondering if we could study abroad. We were asking questions about financial aid packages and food options on campus.
This does not mean our parents are not in the picture. Most of us have a support system in our families. This may be parents, but this may also mean children, partners or just a friend. We all have someone behind us making sure that we ask the embarrassing questions, which we know are so important when choosing a school.
My parents weren’t there when I had to make the decision on where I would be attending school. It was a decision that I made on my own. My parents are proud of the decision I made and what I have accomplished in my time here at Tufts. They will be there at Commencement, even if they were not there when I started.
My parents weren’t there when I started Tufts because it was my decision to make. It was one that I needed to make on my own. I asked for their advice when I was in over my head, but my priorities for what I wanted in a school were very different from what they wanted in a school. My parents wanted me to succeed after graduation. I wanted to be better off after graduation than I was when I started. These may sound like very similar things, but the distinction is the difference between a job that pays well and a job I love that pays well.
I never found that job. That wasn’t the way my path led me, but I don’t think it’s as important now. I have other directions that I can go in, and I’m content with that. But now, my parents are asking all the embarrassing questions that make me cringe when people are around, like “When are you going to settle down and find a real job?” I think I can put that off a little bit longer.