There are few milestones in a young person’s life greater than the huge adventure of moving out of the family home and heading to college. Life in the dorms can be sheer chaos and bewildering for some teens but for others it’s a great new world, a chance to find their own sleep schedule, eating preferences and lifestyle. Parties, lots of friends waiting to connect and yes, love interests. It’s a potent mix and it’s no wonder that while there’s always a bit of trepidation in the anticipation of moving into college dorms, there’s also a huge amount of excitement.
Our journey to college has been a bit more bumpy than most, however. Gareth, my 18yo son who just started last week at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, actually attended a Montana boarding school for 10th thru 12th grade. That’s a long way from our home in Boulder, Colorado, but while the beginning of that particular path was pretty rough, the end result is a savvy, mature young man. He’s already had the “dorm” experience and is more ready for autonomy than the majority of his peers. He also comes from a broken home: His mother and I went our separate ways over a decade ago, so his life has been more about us being apart – and often unable to find even a modicum of familial harmony – than it was about us all being a happy, tight-knit family. Que sera, sera.
Interesting bit of geographic trivia: The distance from our home in Boulder to his school in Kalispell, Montana was almost exactly 1000 miles. The distance from Boulder to Pitzer College is… you guessed it… almost exactly 1000 miles too. Odd coincidence!
Gareth applied to a number of different colleges and was accepted by almost all of them. Pitzer, with its 13% acceptance rate, was his “reach” school and he was quite surprised and delighted when he was accepted. The average admitted student has a 3.9 GPA, which he neatly matched with his excellent academic performance in high school. It’s possible that without much freedom in his high school years, academics were a good time filler, but whatever the explanation, he rocked high school and lined up a solid college application.
And so it came to pass that we were ready for move-in day at Pitzer. Since he had a bunch of stuff to bring and since we all enjoy road trips, we decided we’d drive. 1000 miles through some gorgeous terrain in Utah, Arizona and Nevada, right through Las Vegas, with the last leg in the Mojave Desert area of California. Chevrolet kindly loaned us a 2018 Chevy Traverse for the drive – I invite you to sidetrack and read all about our Chevy College Road Trip – and it worked out great. Joining us for the ride was Gareth’s 21yo sister Ashley, currently a sophomore at University of Denver.
We arrived a day early since we wanted to explore beautiful Claremont – again, I invite you to sidetrack and read about Our Adventures in Claremont, City of Trees – but it turned out that Gareth’s new roommate, Kevin, was already moved in: He’s from China and International students got an earlier move-in date. Opportunity knocked and we answered, so we moved Gareth in on Friday, the day before the big influx of freshman to campus. That also gave us time to go on two shopping expeditions, one prior to seeing the dorm room (Bed, Bath and Beyond) and another for bits and pieces of furniture, power strips, etc (Target).
But hey, you don’t want to read about our experiences. You want to see photos. So let’s do it.
To start out, here’s Gareth in his dorm room, new student ID in hand. He’s clearly ready for his college adventure!
Note how high the beds are: lots of storage space underneath, which is handy because there’s nowhere else for them to store suitcases, boxes, or anything else. Well, there’s a small space for clothes, but it’s rather minimal: a chest of three drawers that’s maybe 3-feet high, space for hanging clothes and a shelf. Yup, a single shelf. Which is plenty of space for shoes and a favorite beverage, right?
It’s possible we significantly overestimated how many hangers he’d need, but hey, hangers are cheap. 🙂
One question I had was the configuration of the shared bathroom. In the building he’s in, floors are broken into suites, each comprised of two double occupancy rooms. In other words, Gareth had to share this space with Kevin, his roommate, and two other young men in a room on the other side of the bathroom. In a home, we’d call this a Jack and Jill bathroom configuration but this is dorm life, so…
Fairly austere but not too bad. We did buy a plastic drawer unit to put under the sink so they could organize their toiletries better. To the right is a toilet area (with door) and a shower area (with a curtain for privacy). It’s not The Ritz, but it’s not too bad at all.
Where the Pitzer dorms really shine, however, is once you walk out of your room. When I went to college at UCSD you walked out of the room and you were in a poorly lit cinderblock hallway. At Pitzer, here’s the view Gareth sees from the door of his dorm room:
Yes, you can gasp and turn green with envy. I did. In fact, add to it the access to recreational facilities, the extraordinary calibre of the teaching staff and the award-winning dining hall and I want to move in and live with ’em. Today.
In the above photo also notice the xeriscaping. One thing I admire about the Pitzer campus is that the landscaping is focused on native flora and minimal requirements for water. Unlike even the other colleges at the Claremont Colleges (there are five in total), Pitzer honors that the entire Los Angeles basin is fundamentally just high desert and all that darn water comes from Colorado!
Fun tip: Over 2 trillion gallons of Angeleno water comes from the Colorado River annually.
We did successfully get Gareth moved in with plenty of time to enjoy Claremont Village, a quaint and popular downtown area a mere mile from the Pitzer campus. It was so busy we ended up going to our second choice for our meal, a pizzeria, but it was a great Friday night. My last night with my son before the actual move-in event on campus.
The following morning we headed back to Pitzer and found ourselves in a long line to register for Move-In Weekend:
The existing Pitzer students were full of school spirit and enthusiasm, dancing, singing and making us all feel very welcome. It was a bit much for 8:00am, but we both did our best to grin and bear it, which wasn’t too difficult when we knew it was such a great and momentous day!
Wasn’t long at all before we had badges and Gareth was able to officially move his stuff into the dorms. Except, of course, we had done so the previous morning. So handy!
Instead, we went our separate ways as he met up with his orientation group – “Duck Dive”, a surfing adventure week based at Newport Beach – and had lunch with his fellow freshman, while we adults (including Ashley) headed to the McConnell Bistro and dining hall for a splendid lunch:
Ashley was delighted with the options: she’s “plant based” (I call it vegan) and every single item on the lunch menu was vegan friendly with only a single exception. In fact, the dining hall menus show that the food options veer heavily towards vegetarian and vegan, which is terrific. Check out the McConnell menu online [here] and you’ll want to eat there too!
All too soon we three met up again and it was time for a final big hug before Gareth wandered off to rejoin his group. For our part, Ashley and I headed back to the hotel.
Now it’s up to Gareth to show us what he’s got, to make the most of the fabulous opportunities that Pitzer offers, to remember that academics are a critical part of college life and that it’s not all about socializing and hanging out with new friends of both sexes! I know he’ll do great!
Finally, here’s a photo (that I cribbed from Pitzer’s official photo gallery from move-in) of the entire Pitzer incoming freshman class:
Note: Gareth is almost exactly in the center of this group, with a white baseball cap on his head.
I wish each and every one of them the very best experience. Go Sagehens!