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So what is a newyorksubalien...

I’m a New York subalien. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly legal – it’s just my loving other half, official alien that he is, comes with a so-called “supermodel” visa that apparently denotes him as one possessing extraordinary abilities (falling asleep within 5 minutes of sitting down in front of the TV, remembering only 2 of the 3 items on a mental shopping list and not knowing where the dishwasher tablets live after 2 years in our apartment are just some of his many talents).

The same visa leaves me extraordinarily unable to possess that most American of entities - a “social” i.e. a Social Security Number. Calling it a “social” makes it sound like the password to some party-filled, fun-packed lifestyle. That’s not far wrong as without these all-important 9 numbers, you pretty much can’t have a lifestyle at all - no bank account, no credit card, not even a driver’s license.

So what does a subalien do? Well, like over sub life forms waiting for evolution to give them a leg up on the ladder of existence, I have plenty of time to observe and these, dear reader, are my observations…..

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Adversities of finding Planet Colliversity

Poor Mini-Mum. We’re just back from a week of intergalactic traveling aimed at helping her decide where she wants to land next as she prepares to launch herself off towards Planet "Colliversity".

I call it "Colliversity" as once again we’re finding a common language doth not a common education system make. For starters, there’s the college/university name issue – this side of the pond, the next stage on from high school is generally called college which offers undergraduate degrees whilst our preferred term, university, is reserved for larger institutions that includes postgraduates. Confused? I’ve only started.

There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in Planet America and if our brimming mailbox is currently anything to go by, it seems that most of them are sending letters to my daughter, explaining how they are the one for her. In contrast to Planet Britain, it’s more of case of getting you in, rather than letting you in the door. Perhaps that’s why many are from Recruitment as opposed to Admissions Officers.

Most other Mini-Mums in her grade have already embarked on the Campus Trail which seems to involve manic three-day sessions driving hundreds of miles from one college to the next, attending the obligatory campus tours and making sure you register your "interest" at the Admission Office.  

Apparently there is even an app that maps out college routes for you, grouping them together so you can maximize your “hit” rate. Although from what I understand, most of the hitting seems to be from the mothers banging their heads against the steering wheel when after driving 200 miles, their beloved offspring refuses to leave the car as he or she doesn’t like the colour of the buildings.

It wouldn’t be Planet America unless you were spoiled for choice, and that goes for your choice of subject - or rather subjects. One of the biggest differences in the two planetary systems is that whereas in the Planet Universal (ie the UK) you apply to study a specific course, in the Planet Collegiate, you simply choose your college and can spend your first two years studying subjects as varied as astronomy, cultural anthropology and newyorksubalien literature (well, maybe) before  "declaring your major".

For Mini-Mum, this could (ironically) be the decision-breaker. She’s already likened the whole process to the dilemma she faces every lunchtime at the sandwich shop. With the multitude of options available – breads, meats, cheeses, dressings, sides - Mini-Mum is the only person to ask for things to be taken out of her roll. All she wants is a simple ham sandwich.  Likewise for her next three years of study – she’s happy to keep it simple. No baloney for her.

Personally I feel there is another aspect of college-life that might also tip the scales eastwards.  Most US colleges expect first year students to share rooms with essentially complete strangers. Top Freshman survival tip? Invest in a really good sleep mask and ear plugs so you can fall asleep when your roomie stays up until 2.00am. A friend whose daughter started college this year bought her a special present half-way through term – two nights in a hotel so she could sleep, eat, study and watch TV on her own.  So you have to pay for fees, living costs – and nights in a hotel as well?

I’m already having sleepless nights anyway trying to come to terms with the new vocabulary needed to negotiate the entry systems – SAT, ACT, GPA, AP all now roll off my tongue but don’t ask me what they actually stand for. It’s the sandwich thing again – Planet Universal keeps it simple, a clear-cut offer based on predicted grades in your final exams. In Planet Collegiate, where there is no formal final exam as such, colleges look at your GPAs (Grade Point Averages I’ve since discovered) over the penultimate 3 years plus your scores from the infamous SATs (Scholastic Aptitude/Assessment Tests), SAT subject tests or other multi-lettered equivalents.  

As I write this, Mini-Mum and I are about to head off to a "motivational "  talk on the Colleges Admissions Game which I am sure will have us all cheering in the aisles by the end of the evening. But when decision time comes round, I suspect that Mini-Mum will be going British rather than Greek, choosing societies over sororities, cream teas over pop tarts and trail mix.

And we'll be left, one star less in our universe. And me, a newyorksobbingalien. That's the real adversity of finding Planet Colliversity.
Creative Commons License by Caroline Eagles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.