Road Trip 2015: The College Search

Sometimes you have to leave home to find the things you need. I tested that theory at the end of June, when I took Betsy and Emily on a road trip through Iowa. Starting with today’s post, I’ll spend the next few weeks sharing the things we found.


Emily will be a high school senior in the fall (Class of 2016! Go Hawks!), and is looking for a college. She dreams of a campus in a faraway city, where she’ll find intellectual challenge and spiritual growth and social comfort. She wants to leave the state of Kansas, and venture into parts unknown. She wants—oh, so many things. Did I mention she’s seventeen?

We, her parents, want a few things too. We want a safe campus where our daughter will be equipped for the next step in her life. We want competent professors who take an interest in their students. We’d prefer a half-day’s drive or less. Most of all, we want tuition that won’t beggar us, or saddle Emily with a burden of debt. College is not a destination or a vacation, we tell her. As long as you are paying to be there, choose an affordable place. When you get your first job and someone finally pays you, go wherever you want to go. She’s a conscientious girl. I think she gets it.

Public art on the Truman State University quad. I don't have a better picture of the campus.
Public art on the Truman State University quad. I don’t have a better picture of the campus.

Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, was the first stop on our tour. We’ve visited before, so we are familiar with the orderly layout of red brick buildings arranged around a wide quadrangle. She’s eaten in the dorm dining hall, and walked through the updated classrooms. This time, armed with her latest ACT score, she wanted to talk with an admissions counselor about her own situation.

(“Quadrangle” is such a collegiate word.)

There’s something to be said for visiting a campus during the summer session. Our counselor, Jaronda, had all the time in the world for us. She answered our questions in detail, and shared her own reasons for choosing Truman over better-known schools. She confirmed what we already knew: Truman is academically rigorous and financially affordable. My dream school.

Afterward, as we stood on the shady quad in the center of campus, I asked Emily if she felt like this was ‘her’ school. “I’ve felt that way since the first time I visited,” she said.

I breathed a sigh of relief. But the story wasn’t over. The next day we toured the University of Iowa.

The Old Capitol on the University of Iowa campus. Taken from Iowa Street.
The Old Capitol on the University of Iowa campus. Taken from Iowa Street.

Jon and I met at Iowa. I was a freshman, he was a junior working food service in the freshman dorm. But that’s another story altogether. I say this to establish that we have a long history with the place. We don’t necessarily want our children to follow us to Iowa, but since we were passing that way, we thought it would work for Emily as a mode of comparison.

She wasn’t supposed to love it.

I have to admit, the place has changed. We walked through several new and updated buildings on our tour, and heard about improvements to residence hall life and faculty advising. Downtown Iowa City exerted its charm, and I remembered why I chose it for myself.

But some things haven’t changed. It’s still a big school that requires a lot of initiative on the part of its students. Find your major. Choose your classes from a smorgasbord of offerings. If things go off-track, they’ll send you an email at the end of the semester.

It’s also a state school: A bargain for the in-state student, and a raw deal for all the rest. The University of Iowa charges $8,000 per year (tuition only) if you live in-state and $28,000 if you don’t. We live in Kansas.

How will it all end? We’ll visit other schools, if she wants to go. We’ll talk, and talk, and talk about the options, and a year from now Emily will graduate with a plan, because she’s a planner.

The suspense is killing me.


      • Maybe her fog of confusion would clear as she hears, “Go Cycolones!” and looks at the beautiful campus. Red and gold are prettier than black and gold… 🙂

      • Becky, I realized after I posted that flippant answer to your suggestion that I should have been more respectful. I think she’d like Iowa State. But there’s that pesky price tag.

  1. Jane, I can’t believe how grown up your girls are! They were preschool when we left Kansas City. Prayers for Emily and the perfect school for her. We are looking with Kalyne as well and this time is a lot harder than when we looked with Lindsey. Will be glad when the decision is made. 😊

    • I feel the same way, Laurel! Betsy knew what she was looking for, and Emily is wide open to the possibilities. I’m so glad to hear from you! I have good memories of Emily and Kalyne playing together while their sisters were in school.

  2. Mrs. Tucker, I am floored!! You are so sweet. I’m thrilled to hear that Emily enjoyed her visit last month. You three were a delight! My fingers are crossed that Emily decides on Truman. I know she will fit in perfectly and will have the time of her life! Please do not hesitate to reach out if you all need anything. I may no longer be working there, but I can definitely give any information you all may need! All the best with the college search.

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