Tag Archive | Cleveland

No Joke: Our campus visit to Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University

I don’t understand why Cleveland is the butt of so many jokes.

In our sports-obsessed culture, perhaps it is the lackluster record of their teams as to why the rest of the nation picks on Cleveland.

Even the Case Western Reserve University admissions representative, a native New Yorker who spotted my husband’s Mets cap, worked in a jab about Cleveland as he touched upon Cleveland’s cultural and sports offerings at our information session.

“Another big plus about attending Case Western – when your hometown team comes to town to play against a Cleveland team, there is a good chance you’ll get to see them win!”

There we were, the five of us, at my daughter’s first campus visit.

Most prospective students came with one parent. My daughter had her whole entourage. For the most part, her little brothers were good sports. Lesson learned: Next campus trip, we just bring the kid closest to college age. 

At the information session, about 20 prospective students awkwardly sat among their parents. Most of the students were from Michigan. All were asked to introduce themselves, what they were interested in studying, where they lived, and one interesting thing that makes them unique.

My daughter, the lone student who declared an interest in studying science AND art, declared that her talent for drawing made her unique.

My freshman son, mistaken for a prospective student, joked that his one interesting quality was that people frequently thought he was older than his actual age.

Jokes aside, Case Western Reserve is a highly competitive university known for its science, engineering, social work, and medical schools. The Huffington Post calls it the “Geek-centric” up and coming school to watch because  it encourages students to be interdisciplinary researchers and creative thinkers and problem solvers.

Before releasing us to our student tour guides, the admissions counselor gave us a thorough presentation on Case Western’s place in college rankings.

  •  In their rankings, U.S. News & World report ranks it No. 37 among 280 national universities.
  • Case Western Reserve University was also ranked No. 27 on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Values charts.
  • Its medical school is ranked 12 in the nation
  • The school encourages interdisciplinary coursework across 200 academic programs
  • There is a 9:1 student/faculty ratio, meaning that students get many opportunities for individual attention from professors.
  • Undergraduate acceptance rates for the 2011- 2012 stand at 51 percent.

You can get all these stats on a website. But what you won’t get unless you visit a campus is the feel of the campus, the buzz of the students as they walk, bike or skateboard by as they switch classes. You won’t get a chance to peek into a class in session.

Case Western Reserve is located in Cleveland’s  University Circle neighborhood, putting it within walking distance to about five museums, parks, art galleries, restaurants, and lots of commercial and retail development that will only add to the university’s offerings in years to come.  During our visit, our family became enchanted with the area’s parks and charming neighborhoods.  We stopped into a small art gallery where the owner, upon learning my daughter was interested in studying art, asked if she might be available for a summer internship.

Wandering around the campus and its surroundings is an important part of the campus visit. Outside of the academic rigors, the student has to ask themselves: can I picture myself living here day after day, for at least four years?

An “online visit” to a campus website is a poor substitute for a walk through the campus, eating a meal at a student union or peeking into a lecture hall when a class is in session.

One can even get a feel, or have what they learned at a campus information session, reaffirmed over a bowl of  linguine.

That evening after the tour,we went out to eat at an unpretentious but very popular Italian restaurant. Seated near us was a large group of students with an older, bearded gentleman at the head of the table, presumably their professor. I hushed my family so I could overhear the conversation at the table. Indeed, the gentleman was their professor, and the group was enjoying a meal before taking in the Cleveland Orchestra, which plays at a hall right on the campus. Student tickets to the Cleveland Orchestra are only $12, and if you are a Case Western student, going to the symphony tops the lists of things to do before graduation.

There was a steady light drizzle as our student tour guide walked us through some academic buildings, dorm quads with washing machines that TEXTED you when your load was done (!!!)  and the student union.

This is pretty typical on a college tour: visitors will first sign in at the admissions office, usually housed in a stately old building with gleaming hardwood floors. An admissions representative will give a talk and present a polished video of current students and alumni before releasing you to a student tour guide, most likely on a work-study program.

For my middle child, a ninth grader, tagging along on a campus tour with big sister hopefully got him thinking of what campus he could see himself on after high school.

I watched them walk ahead with the student tour guide as I hung back with the rest of the parents. I watched my daughter tell my son I wish I had started visiting colleges when I was YOUR age. 

One final word of advice from our tour guide as he made his obligatory plug for us to give him a good score on the feedback card back at admissions: Never overlook the colleges closest to your hometown. Our guide was a native of Cleveland, and he never imagined himself winding up at Case Western Reserve. But he did, and is happy about his decision.

Next up: Our visit to Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. 

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Rite of Passage: The college tour blog posts

Howdy, people!


Yes, it’s been ages since I have written a post. But this blog post will be merely a placeholder to say, come back, I promise, I will have something to say of what my life has been like over the past few weeks.

Most of what has been occupying my family’s time is the college search for our oldest child.

This spring “break,” the family took a most unusual road trip. It did not involve going back to our hometowns. It did not involve sleeping in our childhood bedrooms and seeing extended families.

It was all about visiting colleges.

In the next few blog posts, I will be sharing our experiences of our visits to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland,  and in Pittsburgh, the contrasts between Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.  And, because we live in southeast Michigan,  this series would not be complete without our visit to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

In the next few blog posts, I will be discussing my impressions of the presentations given by each schools’ admission departments, what you can learn on an official college tour, and what you can further learn from taking a real-live student to lunch.  I will also write about the “vibe” of each campus and the surrounding cultural aspects of each town.

I will also be writing about the issue of  early admission, and how the Ivies and other prestigious universities continue to become even more selective in their admission process.

At that post, I would like hear from you, dear readers on the worth of a college education received at an Ivy League or other prestigious schools. Is it worth the high cost of tuition if it will open up doors for the student at the onset of graduation?  Is it better to get an undergraduate education at a good public state college and then gain the prestige of attending an Ivy League for graduate school? These questions are in hot contention right now and I would love for you to chime off on that post.


So, stay tuned right here, and I promise I’ll be cranking these posts out in the days to come. And, if you are also in this stage of life with your children,  feel free to comment on each post on your college searches.

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What you can learn from a Lizard Named Sue

seemingly fragile, anoles make quite resilient pets

This is the story of a lizard named Sue. Her given, formal name is Susan.

Why Susan? Susan the anole started her life as a 4th grade class biology project. My son’s science partner Sarah declared that this animal must have a name that started and ended with the names of her caretakers: Sarah and Nathan. Hence, the moniker Susan was bequeathed to this tiny, sometimes green, sometimes brown reptile.

Anoles are very delicate creatures. Adapting an anole is free, but the stuff that the anole needs to live is not. It needs a large glass tank and proper humidity and temperature levels that are maintained with a heat lamp and daily squirts of a water mister.  Within the tank, it needs a water dish and natural or artificial plants to hide within.

Then there is the strict diet anoles follow: Crickets. Live ones. Though the anole requires no walking or training, the anole owner must frequent the local pet store and bring these creaking creatures home in a plastic bag. 

The crickets are kept in a separate container, and must also be fed lettuce, potato peelings or other vegetable scraps. In other words, the anole owner has a little ecosystem going on.

Anoles, unlike fuzzy and loving puppies, are not fuzzy or loving. But unlike puppies, you can leave an anole by itself for a night or two if you give it a supply of crickets and put its light on a timer. 

One early spring weekend, my family decided to take an overnight road trip to Cleveland. Nathan threw some crickets in Susan’s tank and bid her farewell.

Unlike leaving a dog or a puppy, who become sad and traumatized when they are separated from their master for any length of time,  I don’t think Susan really noticed we would be gone.

We returned from a short but great trip to the city where the phrase Rock ‘n Roll was coined. At the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum, we enjoyed looking at all the rock memorabilia and learning which musician inspired which musician in the attraction’s vast interactive database. In the special exhibit on Bruce Springsteen, viewing the original notebook where the Boss scribbled the lyrics to Thunder Road was almost a spiritual experience. 

We cheered on the Cleveland Indians and ate some great food in the Flats Arts district. We couldn’t wait to come home and tell Sue all about it.

Only, when we climbed the stairs to Nathan’s bedroom and peered inside Susan’s tank, either she had hidden herself extraordinarily well, or she had fled.

Now, if you scroll back up a bit, you will notice that my son had fed Susan some crickets. But, alas, he did not completely close up the screen on top of her tank.

Our lizard named Sue was gone. So tiny and capable of crawling into any crevice of the house, including our ventilation and/or plumbing system, all hope seemed lost.

Nathan went to bed devistated.

“Suzie, Sooooozzie!” he cried in his bed. He cried himself to sleep.

As I tried to sleep that night, I was simultaneously touched that a boy could care so much for a tiny creature and creeped out that it could be anywhere in the house and we would probably smell it before we found it.

Two weeks passed.

It was a quiet afternoon before the kids got home from school when I decided to do some deep cleaning in the boys’ bedroom. I had moved the large bookcase from the wall and was dusting behind it when, from the corner of my eye, I noticed that a small, plastic toy lizard had appeared.

Only this plastic lizard darted across the floor before my eyes.

Susan! She was alive. I was elated and completely spooked all at once. I threw a small toy bucket over the found creature and waited for my brave daughter to come home and pick it up and place it in it’s tank.

Back in her cage, we looked at Susan, and she looked a bit humiliated and, well – pissed off. Her vacation and her adventure were over.  She remains in her tank, now with a more securely fastened screened top, to this day.

Susan had lived on her own wits. She survived with no heat lamp or daily spritzes of water. And we guessed that she lived on the spiders and occasional ants that enter our house in the springtime.

So, what can we learn from a lizard named Sue?

  • when all hope is lost, miracles can still happen
  • Creatures, if left to their own devices, are very resourceful and resillient
  • Nature, if left alone, can survive, even in the wilds of a boy’s bedroom
  • anoles don’t read the manuals they come with and can live on pretty much any creature that creeps and crawls
  • you really don’t need all that many creature comforts to get by
  • Never miss out on an opportunity to break out of what ever cages that might hold you
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