There are few milestones in a young person’s life greater than moving out of the family home and heading to college. Life in the dorms can be sheer chaos and bewildering for some teens but for others it’s a great new world, a chance to find their own sleep schedule, eating preferences and lifestyle. Parties, lots of friends waiting to connect and yes, love interests. It’s a potent mix and it’s no wonder that while there’s always a bit of trepidation around heading off to college, there’s also a lot of excitement.
Our journey to college has been a bit more bumpy than most. Gareth, my son who just started last week at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, actually attended a Montana boarding school from 10th through 12th grade. That’s a long way from our home in Colorado, but while the beginning of that particular path was pretty rough, the end product is a savvy, mature young man. He’s already had the experience of living away from parents in a structured environment with peers and is more ready for autonomy than the majority of his peers.
Gareth applied to a number of different colleges and was accepted by almost all of them. Pitzer, with its 13 percent acceptance rate, was his “reach” school and he was quite surprised and delighted when he was accepted. The average admitted student has a 3.9 GPA, which he neatly matched with his excellent academic performance in high school.
And so it came to pass that we were ready for move-in day at Pitzer. Since he had a bunch of stuff to bring and since we all enjoy road trips, we decided we’d drive one thousand miles through some gorgeous terrain in Utah, Arizona and Nevada, right through Las Vegas, with the last leg in the Mojave Desert area of California. Chevrolet kindly loaned us a 2018 Chevy Traverse for the drive – I invite you to sidetrack and read all about our Chevy College Road Trip– and it worked out great as you can see in the below photo:
Joining us for the ride was Gareth’s 21-year-old sister Ashley, currently a sophomore at University of Denver.
We arrived a day early since we wanted to explore beautiful Claremont – again, I invite you to sidetrack and read about Our Adventures in Claremont, City of Trees – but it turned out that Gareth’s new roommate had already moved in — he’s from China and international students got an earlier move-in date. Opportunity knocked and we answered, so we moved Gareth in on Friday, the day before the big influx of freshman to campus.
That also gave us time to go on two shopping expeditions, one prior to seeing the dorm room (Bed, Bath and Beyond) and another for bits and pieces of furniture, power strips, etc (Target). And boy, was that chaotic with hundreds of families getting dorm-friendly furniture and accessories!
But you don’t want to read about our experiences. You want to see more photos!
Here’s Gareth in his dorm room, new student ID in hand. He’s clearly ready for his college adventure!
Note how high the beds are: lots of storage space underneath, which is handy because there’s nowhere else for them to store suitcases, boxes, or anything else. Well, there’s a small open closet space for clothes, but it’s rather minimal: a small chest of three drawers, space for hanging clothes and a shelf. Yup, a single shelf.
One question I had was the configuration of the shared bathroom. In the building he’s in, floors are broken into suites, each comprised of two double-occupancy rooms. In other words, Gareth had to share this space with Kevin, his roommate, and two other young men in a room on the other side of the bathroom. In a home, we’d call this a Jack-and-Jill bathroom configuration but this is dorm life, so…
Fairly austere but not too bad. We did buy a plastic drawer unit to put under the sink so they could organize their toiletries better. To the right is a toilet area (with door) and a shower area (with a curtain for privacy). It’s not The Ritz, but it’s not too bad at all.
Where the Pitzer dorms really shine, however, is once you walk out of your room. When I went to college at UCSD you walked out of the room and you were in a poorly lit cinderblock hallway. At Pitzer, here’s the view Gareth sees from the door of his dorm room:
Yes, you can gasp and turn green with envy. I did. In fact, add to it the access to recreational facilities, the extraordinary caliber of the teaching staff and the award-winning dining hall and I want to move in and live with ’em!
In the above photo also notice the xeriscaping. One thing I admire about the Pitzer campus is that the landscaping is focused on native flora and minimal requirements for water. Unlike even the other colleges at the Claremont Colleges (there are five in total), Pitzer honors that the entire Los Angeles basin is fundamentally just high desert and all that darn water comes from Colorado!
We did successfully get Gareth moved in with plenty of time to enjoy Claremont Village, a quaint and popular downtown area a mere mile from the Pitzer campus. It was so busy we ended up going to our second choice for our meal, a pizzeria, but it was a great Friday night. My last night with my son before the actual move-in event on campus.
The following morning we headed back to Pitzer and found ourselves in a long line to register for Move-In Weekend. The existing Pitzer students were full of school spirit and enthusiasm, dancing, singing and making us all feel very welcome. It was a bit much for 8:00am, but we both did our best to grin and bear it, which wasn’t too difficult when we knew it was such a great and momentous day!
Wasn’t long at all before we had badges and Gareth was able to officially move his stuff into the dorms. Except, of course, we had done so the previous morning. So handy!
Instead, we went our separate ways as he met up with his orientation group – “Duck Dive”, a surfing adventure week based at Newport Beach – and had lunch with his fellow freshman, while we adults (including Ashley) headed to the McConnell Bistro and dining hall for a splendid lunch:
Ashley was delighted with the options: she’s “plant based” (I call it vegan) and every single item on the lunch menu was vegan friendly with only a single exception. In fact, the dining hall menus show that the food options veer heavily towards vegetarian and vegan, which is terrific.
All too soon we three met up again and it was time for a final big hug before Gareth wandered off to rejoin his group. For our part, Ashley and I headed back to the hotel.
Now it’s up to Gareth to show us what he’s got, to make the most of the fabulous opportunities that Pitzer offers, to remember that academics are a critical part of college life and that it’s not all about socializing, hanging out with new friends and seeking a new love interest. I know he’ll do great!