Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What I learned on a college visit may surprise you February 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:02 AM
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A sign supporting Bison athletics in a NDSU dorm.

WHAT DO BEAGLES and bison have in common?

If you were to travel to Fargo, you would learn that beagles and bison are integral to North Dakota State University. I picked up that information during a campus visit Friday with my husband and college-bound son.

“Do you like dogs?” our campus tour guide asked.

“No,” my 18-year-old answered.

But the other student in our tour group did, so he was advised that beagles can be checked out from the veterinarian program and taken for walks.

Now you might think that I am about to tell you bison also live on campus. No. (At least I didn’t see any.) But the bison is the university’s mascot and you’ll see that noted everywhere.

Here’s another interesting tidbit I learned: NDSU students drink a lot of Mountain Dew. I wish I recalled our student tour guide’s exact quote about high consumption of this soda. But I remember thinking, “This is not something I would tell parents of prospective students.”

As long as we’re talking consumption here, I was pleased to hear that comfort foods like tator tot hotdish are offered in the dining halls, of which there are three.

Over in a computer lab, engineering students can dish up servings of humor via a collection of “The Far Side” comics found on a corner bookshelf. My husband and son both enjoy Gary Larson’s humor. Me? Not so much. But I appreciate that among all the academia, laughter is encouraged.

It’s little details like this which reveal so much about a college.

A tour group, not ours, checks out the basketball court in the NDSU Wellness Center. It was the view through the bank of windows which most impressed me. This is typical Fargo, land stretching flat and far.

It’s also reassuring, though, to hear, as we did from an engineering professor, about the more serious aspects of college life. This teacher shared that potential employers value the strong work ethic prevalent among NDSU graduates.

That same educator looked my son directly in the eye and advised him to choose a career path that follows his passion and will make him happy in his life’s work. I couldn’t think of any better career advice than to choose happiness over money.

I appreciated his honesty and attitude and friendliness and enthusiasm, and even the computer information he exchanged with my teen. This visit really was all about my son and the choices he’ll make.

Based on our interaction with this professor, I could see the connection between student and teacher which, when I asked, he defined as the strength of the NDSU engineering program. It’s fostered partially by small class sizes.

My specific inquiry about the program’s strength caught the professor a bit off guard. But that’s OK. I like to ask the unexpected.

I didn’t care about the cost of parking or space for a big screen television in a dorm room or whether an elevator is available on move-in day. Yes, inquiries were made of our student guide on those topics. But not by anyone in my family.

As for the beagles and the bison, the tator tot hotdish and “The Far Side” comics (and, yes, even the Mountain Dew), those personalized the university.

But what matters most are affordability, quality of education, connections and that my soon-to-be high school graduate finds a college that is a good fit for him and will make him happy.

HOW ABOUT YOU? If you’re the parent of a college-bound child or have had a child go through college, what do you/did you look for in a post-secondary institution? What questions would you ask?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling