Off to College

This is a belated post about Woodrow’s college decision. At the time, life was so hectic that I didn’t even think to write about it, but now that things are settled down, here goes.

So Woodrow applied to several schools, and he had some good opportunities.

At the beginning, we all favored Caltech. Woodrow is a STEM kid, Caltech is STEM heaven, and Caltech is also small, which is a big selling point to a kid who grew up in Wyoming. Caltech also recruited Woodrow to play varsity basketball, track, and baseball. It’s a perfect place, right? So this was the early favorite and one of the finalists.

I was also partial to my alma mater, Texas A&M. That’s a great school, and it has an unrivaled sense of family that Woodrow would have liked. It’s also top-20 in math, engineering, and computer science. What else do you need? And they offered Woodrow a full ride scholarship. What’s not to love? Well, it does have nearly 70,000 students, which is a bit much. So Woodrow ruled it out.

Woodrow also thought of joining the Air Force Academy, though I was never sure it would be a good fit for a kid who doesn’t like being told what to do. He made it almost all the way through the application, but he backed out at the end. It would have been free (good for mom and dad!) but I think it was a wise choice.

Dad’s favorite was MIT. Not only is it STEM heaven, it was recruiting Woodrow to play varsity football. He visited it, spent time with the coaches and other players, but didn’t fall in love with it. His assessment was that students there did too much partying and not enough studying, so Woodrow may be the first potential student to write off MIT as a party school. It was one of the finalists, but a distant third.

I also favored Rice, where Mona went to school and Emily is currently attending. It is a top STEM school, so it’s perfect for Woodrow. And I was thinking that Woodrow could live in Emily’s apartment and save us some money. Alas no, Woodrow has always followed in his sister’s footsteps, but this was one thing he wanted to do on his own. So Rice was out.

Harvard and Princeton would have been nice, but they both decided for him. Just not a good fit, I guess.

Stanford was always a dark horse. It’s a top school, but it’s really large and didn’t feel like a perfect fit. In fact, Woodrow declined to go to Stanford’s admitted student days. But in decision month, Woodrow got a letter from the head of their math department encouraging him to pursue math at Stanford. And their recruitment efforts—letters from the admissions dean, phone calls from alumni, emails—were relentless. Woodrow refused to rule them out.

So it came down to Caltech, MIT (+football), and Stanford. After visiting MIT, Woodrow soured on them, so Caltech became the undisputed top choice. This was reinforced after Woodrow visited Caltech and fell in love. He decided not to visit Stanford because of his school schedule, so Mona and I were certain he was headed to Caltech. Then the very last day to decide, he announced Stanford was his new home.

I confess this took Mona and me by surprise, and we weren’t quite sure we supported the idea at first. But I think it turned out to be the best possible choice, since Stanford is STEM heaven, sure, but it’s also a home to the liberal arts. Woodrow is now busy learning math, computer science, and he will probably give engineering a try. But he’s also taking cello lessons and enjoying courses on randomness, space exploration, and emotion. He’s also playing intramural sports, including football (his lifelong favorite) and even sports he’s never played before, like volleyball. And he’s fully integrated into the college life, with outings to the aquarium, kayaking expeditions, and, of course, Stanford football games. Good choice, Woodrow!