The other day, I journeyed to a strange land. I took my oldest son, who is a high school junior, to visit Georgia Tech.
Let's just say it was a very different place from the University of Georgia, where my daughter enrolled in the fall. At orientation in Athens, faculty and staff repeatedly referred to a UGA student's odds of getting arrested as a freshman.
At this week's information session on the Tech campus, faculty and staff repeatedly referred to a Tech student's odds of getting stumped while trying to solve an equation.
But have no fear. There's a room in the library where you can write the equation on the wall, leave for dinner, and when you return it will be completed, accurately, by somebody way smarter than you, which is amazing, because you're a freaking genius. You know, because you go to Tech.
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A lady in admissions said it's important for her office to identify the type of student who will be happy at Georgia Tech. Which are people who enjoy finishing other people's equations for no reason.
About 95 percent of engineering students at Tech get jobs when they graduate, and they earn an average starting salary of $72,000.
They have to work hard, of course. During our campus tour, I noticed that everybody was wearing gigantic backpacks and marching toward class or a secret place of study. Nobody was napping on the lawn or slinging a Frisbee. Apparently, that sort of activity is reserved for liberal arts colleges.
The rec center at Tech is beautiful, and full of students lifting and rowing and swimming and climbing, but doing so with intensity, as if they all read the same study showing that strenuous exercise improves academic performance. No pain, no gain.
Our tour guide was a young woman from Grayson, Ga., who said she had a 99-percent chance of getting a full-time job offer from Exxon Mobile. I asked her if it was difficult for in-state students to keep the HOPE scholarship, given all the nightmare stories I've heard about testing and grading at Georgia Tech.
She was the wrong person to ask.
She kind of scrunched up her forehead and said, "I haven't had any problems with that. I have a 3.9."
Oh. Of course.
I would have lasted a day at Tech. I barely made it through the tour, which consisted of our guide pointing out all her favorite places to study.
Mostly, I thought about my own college experience. I thought about the time I did something stupid on a Friday night and ended up in Vanderbilt hospital, where I saw the boxer Randall "Tex" Cobb in the hallway.
Tex had just fought Leon Spinks and his face was beaten to a pulp, but he recognized me from a late-night breakfast joint near campus, and he called me brother. His wife's makeup was streaked with tears.
Later, I told a doctor that Tex must have lost badly. Actually, the doctor said, Tex had won a 10-round decision. "You should see Leon," he said.
Anyway, I know my son will pick the right school for him. College is about way more than what Little Miss Phi Beta Kappa is going to show you on a tour, but I think he knows that already.
Contact Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org