Down by the Riverside

Hitting the road for the third weekend in a row—though this was day trip—Beth, North, and I were in the car by seven a.m. on Saturday morning. We were bound for Southern Maryland to attend Admitted Seahawks Day at Saint Mary’s College of Maryland.

Early on a rainy weekend morning in March, this drive takes two hours. (It took a little longer coming home.) I ate a breakfast I’d made the night before in the car, and we listened to the Normal Gossip and Moth podcasts. By nine, we’d walked through puddles and past rain-drenched signs that said “SMCM Bound,” “Seahawk Crossing,” and “Life is Better by the River” and we were sampling pastries from a table outside the auditorium—I got a slice of zucchini bread.

There was a presentation by administrators, a vice president, the director of Admissions, and the President of the college. The school mascot, Solomon the Seahawk, made an appearance on stage before the administrators spoke. North thought he was less creepy than Wildcat Willy. They also appreciate the fact that he does not send out emails. (They are not a big fan of mascots in general.)

The President’s speech was more memorable and funnier than these speeches generally are. She noted that St. Mary’s is usually fifth or sixth on the U.S. News and World Report’s list of best public liberal arts colleges and then came up with reasons to eliminate the others ahead of it—e.g. the top four are military academies or a pseudo military academy (VMI), and that isn’t even really what people think of as a liberal arts college. By the time she was finished, St. Mary’s had come out on top.

When the presentation was over, it was a little past eleven and there were events North wanted to attend at noon, one, and one-thirty, we so decided to have an early lunch at the dining hall, where we had coupons for a free meal. The food was not exceptional but fine, maybe a little better than average cafeteria food, and the dining hall itself was quite pretty, with wooden beams and a soaring ceiling. On our way out of the building, we bought a couple lattes (one for me and one for North) at the coffeeshop. They were happy to see lavender syrup on the menu because that’s one of their favorite flavors. 

Next, we went to a panel about Academic Support Services and accommodations, which was not as entertaining, but it was informative.  Then we took a Performing Arts tour. It turned out to be more focused on music than theater, which was what North would have liked to learn about. Next, we went on a tour of the Psychology building since North’s been thinking of majoring in Psychology. North said they liked seeing the posters summarizing student research projects. I was impressed with the ample opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty and conduct original research. Psychology is the most popular major on campus—it was the only academic department with tours in two time slots—and it’s a big department for a small school.  I also noticed that in this group, there was the highest proportion of kids already wearing St. Mary’s t-shirts or sweatshirts and one girl even had a St. Mary’s Psychology t-shirt. After the two tours we had a little time, so we popped into one of townhouses where juniors and seniors can live, even though we’d seen one of those last spring.

After that we split up. North went to a prospective student meet-and-greet and Beth and I went to a session for parents. At their session, North learned from another prospective there that two current students had approached her and said she shouldn’t go there because there was nothing to do. North speculated they might have preferred a more sports-and-parties-oriented kind of school, and they seemed more amused than put off by hearing this.

While we were on campus, North kept seeing acquaintances from school, maybe a half dozen or so. They had also learned through Instagram that their best friend from elementary school (Megan) was attending the event and we saw her mom at the parents’ forum, but we didn’t get to say hi because she came in after us, and I didn’t catch up with her on the way out. North never ran into Megan, but I was thinking it would be cool if they both ended up at St. Mary’s and re-kindled their friendship. I was always fond of Megan.

Those were our last events. When we reunited, we took a stroll down to the boathouse because it’s just so pretty down there I didn’t want to skip it. The whole campus is lovely, full of red brick buildings and paths and woods and a pond, but the St. Mary’s River and the dock full of paddleboats, sailboats, and kayaks you can check out during warm months is quite the draw. The signs (and the t-shirt in North’s swag bag) may well be right that life’s better on the river.

It was almost four and North was wiped out by this point. They asked if Beth could fetch the car and drive it to us. She did and while we waited, I walked the length of one of the docks and sat with North in the Adirondack chairs looking at the water. “This is a good school. I like this school,” they said, noting however that they did want to hear from Oberlin and Mount Holyoke before deciding.

The next day, though, they declined their offers from Aberystwyth and Towson.