April 14, 2013

Macaulay at Hunter -


So on Wednesday, DS(17) Julian and I took the Megabus down to New York City.  It was an inexpensive and pleasant ride, and we'll definitely keep it in mind for future trips we might take down to the city.  The bus drops all of its passengers off in mid-Manhattan at 7th Ave and 28th Street.  It was dark and raining when we arrived, and we were slightly discombobulated at first, especially since the area was very crowded, but we quickly got our bearings about us and started heading in the right direction.  If it had been earlier in the day and not raining, we likely would have just walked the nearly two miles to our hotel.  But since we still needed to eat dinner and since our luggage and J's guitar case (yes, of course he brought his guitar with him) were getting wet, we opted to take a taxi.  There are approximately a zillion taxis in NYC, right?  So hard can it be to hail one?  Harder than you might think if you're not used to doing it!  We tried peering in all of the tinted back windows as the taxis drove by to see whether or not they might be available, and not surprisingly, that didn't work very well.  In the meantime, we kept walking briskly in the direction of the hotel (which was over on Lexington between 50th and 51st Streets), trying to avoid rolling our suitcases through big puddles, and *finally* I remembered how to tell whether or not a taxi is available.  The light - pun intended! - went on.  If the taxi's number is lit up (on the vehicle's rooftop), it's available.  When passengers are picked up, the driver turns the light off so you know it's not available.  Well. . . that knowledge certainly made getting a taxi a lot easier!  Yeah, yeah, we could have just stood out in the street with an arm raised high, but if you know me and J, you know that's not in our introverted nature!  :)

Settling into the hotel and dinner and all of that went fine.  The next morning after breakfast, we headed down and over 25 and 3 blocks, respectively, to the Brookdale Residence Hall he would live in if he were to accept the Macaulay at Hunter offer of admission.  I don't know.  I really don't know.  Some things about it are great, but overall it just isn't in very good condition.  One of the biggest highlights is that he'd have a single room, which is amazing - and the rooms looked to actually be in good shape.

Student Dorm Room

It's a cute little room, and the furniture can be moved around so the space can be individualized.  The bed can also be lifted up so there is more storage space underneath it.  Personally, I would find it comfy and cozy and pleasant.  J found it a little on the small side, but I assured him we could help him to make it a fantastic space.

One of the other particularly great things about the dorm is that it has a really neat courtyard out front that is blocked off from the road.  So in a fairly large area between the street and the building itself are sitting benches, picnic tables, tennis courts, and just open space.  It would be neat to be in Manhattan but still have a protected outdoor area right outside your building's door to hang out in.

The biggest downside is that the building itself feels pretty run-down, and I don't think that's a misconception.  They only plan to keep it open for two more years, and then they're going to demolish it.  That leads me to assume they're only going to be doing minimal upkeep to simply ensure it's operational.  Each floor has a lounge and a kitchen, but they're truly not nice at all.  I'm not worried about where he would live afterward because his acceptance into the program comes with guaranteed housing, and I'm trusting they'll work it out. 

While we were on the dorm tour, DH was driving down to meet up with us.  He ended up totally missing the dorm tour, and so we met up with him at the hotel.  By that point, it was pretty much time to head straight up Lexington to 68th for the formal Macaulay at Hunter accepted students event.  Hunter is located in a fabulous part of the city.  It's in a relatively quiet area and only a few blocks away from Central Park.  The college president talked to all of us first, and I think she did a great job making us all feel terrific.  She talked about how Hunter has quite a few gems but that Macaulay is its very top gem and that it is a special program that is VERY well taken care of.  She also shared that they only accepted 15% of the applicants this year.

At some point, they separated parents from prospective students and we had our own agendas.  We parents got to hear from a faculty and administrative panel and from a student panel.  The current students on the panel as well as those we met informally during other times that evening were delightful.  They were all bright and inquisitive and seemingly hard-working.  I came away thinking that the kids in the Macaulay program clearly serve as good role models for each other.

Every single aspect of the "Macaulay" portion of the program sounds fabulous.  It's the "at Hunter" part of the program that gives us a little concern.  A few of the students talked about having classes with a couple hundred students.  Yikes!  We were not expecting that because all of the literature stresses the intimate nature of the program.  I think I'm going to call this week and try talking to one of the advisers to get a sense of just how many classes we could expect to be that large.  Also, most of the Hunter buildings in general felt almost shabby.  Some aspects of them felt downright depressing.  And. . . on the parents' tour, they didn't show us ANY of the actual academic facilities.  We didn't get shown one single classroom.  Why?  And they took us to outside of the library and told us what was in it, but they wouldn't open the door and let us actually see it.  Why?  They're supposed to have a special Macaulay Lounge on the campus, and again they told us about it but didn't show it to us.  Why?  Do they not think it would make a difference or do they purposely not want us to see these things for some reason??? 

After the Macaulay at Hunter event ended, we on our own walked across Central Park to the lone Macaulay building, which is right on the other side of the park.  That building is simply lovely.  Inviting, comfortable, and clearly well taken care of.  As a Macaulay student, he would be able to spend as much time there as he wanted, and as a Macaulay at Hunter student, it would be very convenient for him to go there every day if he wanted.  He could easily head over there to study in between his classes, and it would be a thousand times more pleasant of an environment to be in than what we saw in the Hunter buildings.  Of course, maybe there are equally pleasant environments at Hunter.  We don't know.  But if there are, why wouldn't they have shown them to us?!

(Macaulay stock photos)
hallway 02  Macaulay Honors College students  working on a project last year at the  Manhattan campus.

So it was a good trip.  It was an important trip.  But I don't know that we're any closer to having a final decision made.  Skidmore's acceptance was the last that came in, and they gave him a pretty generous financial aid package.  I really, really, really like the feel so far of Skidmore for him, and we're planning to spend a day up there this week.  We'll see how that goes, and then we're scheduled to visit Bard again on Saturday.

As is J's style, he's thinking he won't make a final decision until the very last day possible.  I love this kid, but sometimes he drives he a little nutty.

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