Saturday, April 17, 2010

Visiting Colleges

I apologize for not posting over the last two days; I was out visiting colleges.

We left Cowtown, CT, where I live and headed south on I-95. We got to around Madison and hit traffic. (#1) I was driving and we didn't feel like sitting in traffic, so I took the next exit. Fortunately, Route 1 parallels I-95 from Maine to Florida (as does Amtrak from Boston to Philly) so we just took that a couple exits and got back on. Got on the Merritt Parkway, went two exits... and they're stopping traffic cause they're cutting trees (#2). We actually did a Chinese Fire Drill so my dad could drive, cause we were dead stopped for over 5 minutes.

Once we cleared a bit of that, dad too the first exit to back on 95, and we hit general New York traffic (#3), went over the Tappan Zee Bridge (an awesome-looking bridge, 3 miles long over the mighty Hudson), went through New Jersey, and hit traffic at the toll booths going into Pennsylvania (#4), and finally made it to Bethlehem, PA, an hour late but just in time for my visit at Lehigh.

Lehigh is a pretty nice school. It's a beautiful campus - all older-style architecture, even the new buildings - set on a steep hill (600-foot drop from south campus to north). However, it's too much a liberal arts school for my taste; I'm looking for science, math, and engineering first and less humanities - it's just the way I am; it's also too much out in the middle of nowhere for my tastes.

We then headed up to the Capital District of New York. We took State Route 33 through eastern PA, hit a huge construction zone (#5), and turned onto I-80. That's the one section of I-80 that I love; the rest of its journey through Pennsylvania and ohio is flat and boring, but in that short section there's the Delaware Water Gap and the Delaware River Viaduct which are really cool. We headed up thorugh New Jersey, stopped for gas... and inexplicably got caught in a traffic jam there (#6) that wasted 20 minutes.

We stopped just inside the New York border; I then drove the 2 hours up to Troy, NY along I-87 in spitting rain. Fortunately, traffic was light, so I put cruise control on 72 and rested my legs for 90% of the way. We stayed with a friend of my dad overnight in Troy.

Me drove the 5 minutes into Troy (RPI, despite being Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is not in Rensselaer but 8 miles away in Troy) and had the infosession and tour of RPI. It's a nice school and it's pretty high on my list, but nothing really stuck out for me. Well, there was a car mounted to the wall, but that's another story...

We went out to lunch at a place called The Ale House where I devoured a plate of wings, and then headed back to the friend's house. They live right next to a lake, and there's a little grassy peninsula about 450 feet out in the lake. We got some old golf balls and took turn aiming for the peninsula; after a few tries we all got one each on. And scared some geese.

After that, it was time to head home. I drove all the way home - I-90 to Springfield, then I-91 to Hartford. Traffic jams (#7) at a toll booth and (#8) heading into Hartford. Then I merged onto Route 2... and got in traffic (#9) for half an hour before I could take Rt. 2 home.

I'm very much glad for the college visits; I like visiting colleges a lot, and every visit helps me narrow down where I want to go. I like RPI, but my top three are still MIT, Boston University, and Northeastern. I like the urban environment of Boston, and all three have the sort of engineering program I'm looking for, and the general feeling I got was better for them than the other schools I've looked at. All the schools I'm looking at are gonna give me a good education and cost roughly the same, so assuming I get in to all (a very big if...) then it's the little things, like the dorm rooms and transportation and such, that will determine where I go, rather than stuff that's normally more important.

With the 3 schools in Boston, I also really like that I can use public transit to easily get home. I love public transit, and I'm not a big fan of driving in the city. I can ride the T a few stops to South Station can board the Commuter Rail and meet my folks at Worchester or Providence in an hour, or ride Amtrak to New London and be there in 2 hours just 15 minutes from home. (Or drive home in 2 hours flat). With RPI I'd have to take a short bus ride to the train station, and then at least two trains** to new London and taking some 4 to 5 hours, and scarcely better than the 3-hour drive home that's filled with traffic. Oh, and freshmen aren't allowed cars.

With Lehigh, despite the inherent unpleasantness of driving near New York City, public transit is simply no an option. I'd have to find some way into Trenton, then ride the Northeast Regional all the way to New London. Rather lengthy and expensive, plus getting a friend to drive me to Trenton (there's limited parking on campus, and freshman aren't allowed cars there either) would use up a lot of favors.

** On a typical friday afternoon:

Depart Albany at 420 pm on the Empire Builder, arrive at Penn Station at 650, board the Northeast Regional at 730 and arrive at New London at 1023pm. 6 hours 3 minutes; $111.00.

There are several other options, however, they are somewhat less optimal. They involve, in various permutations, the Metro North, Shore Line East, and NYC 7 Line subway.


tori said...

wow! Now I can see why you'd prefer to go somewhere that you can use public transportation. YIKES! My daughter at U of M can walk 2 blocks to the Amtrack and ride that to Chicago to see us. SO nice!!
Hope you get accepted to your top choices!

The EGE said...

Thanks. I've got decent odds of getting into BU and NE; MIT is still a long shot.