College Year One: It’s In The Bag!

pitzer college move in dorm freshmanThis is a significant week in my son’s life: Finals week at Pitzer College, where he’s just finishing up his first year of college. Kismet was on his side schedule-wise; all of his classes had final papers, not actual final exams, so we got him a week early and he’s already home. Moved out. Done with Pitzer for the year. And I couldn’t be more proud of him!

Here’s the depressing reality: College is becoming an increasingly difficult hurdle for adolescents to manage, and the stats on the percentage that drop out, crash burn with drugs, alcohol or mental health issues, or wrap up their first year and simply never return for their second year are alarming. According to the Washington Post “Fewer than 40 percent of students enrolling for the first time at a four-year college graduate in four years. Add in community college students, and more than half of students who start college drop out within six years.”

Pitzer College in beautiful Claremont, California, has much better stats and reports that 94% of freshmen return for their second year, one of the highest retention rates in the entire country. Which doesn’t mean they’re fast about graduating: “By 2015, six years after beginning their degree, 84.8% of these students had graduated. After an additional two years, 85.9% of this class eventually completed their degree.” An eight year undergrad degree? Yikes, that’s a lotta tuition.

Anyway, suffice to say that whether you look at the Pitzer numbers or the national average (about 70% nationally return for their second year of college), it’s a darn impressive feat for Gareth to have not just wrapped up his first year but done so with élan and really good grades!

He lived in the dorms this first year and, well, whatever you’re thinking vis-a-vis dorms, you’re wrong. They are gorgeous, a big “U” shaped building with a huge central outdoor pool and recreation area. Being Southern California, the weather’s almost always perfect, so every room faces the quad and there are no interior corridors. In fact, his dorm room had a split 50/50 door so they could leave the top half open for social chit-chat even when he and his roommate were in their room. He did accumulate things as time passed, so he had some packing to do:

boy packing dorm room - pitzer college

I drive out to get him and then have the two of us make the long trek home from Pitzer to Boulder, Colorado.

My friends at Nissan were kind enough to loan me a 2019 Nissan Murano for the drive and it was a great car, exactly the right size for all his stuff! [I’ll write about the road trip portion separately] That’s a 994 mile drive each way through some beautiful countryside. After that many miles, though, it was a very welcome sight when I pulled onto the Pitzer campus to meet him!

2019 nissan murano in front of pitzer college

Claremont is a lovely little town in Southern California about a dozen miles from Pasadena (think Rose Bowl), very much old California with its humble bungalows and quiet streets. I could definitely live there, it’s a very relaxed community, and with Pitzer and four other sister colleges all on the edge of downtown, it’s quite idyllic.

Rather than rent a place and never come home, however, I stayed at my favorite hotel in the area, the DoubleTree Claremont. How nice is this place, how Californian? Check out this photo of the pool area:

doubletree by hilton claremont ca

Warm evening breezes, a truly heterogeneous culture (quite unlike Boulder), palm trees, beautiful weather, all of these forced me to ask the question Why the heck did I ever move away from Southern California?

Then the day after we packed up, we decided to head down to the beach for one last goodbye to the Pacific before heading east. On a map, Claremont to Newport Beach is a modest 43 miles. Except that’s 43 LA miles which means that 1. You’re going to bounce around from highway to highway and 2. Traffic is going to make you want to bang your steering wheel in frustration. Our drive out to the beach was about an hour, not too bad, but the drive back? At least 90 minutes of clogged, slow traffic, and that was on a Saturday afternoon, not rush hour. (actually as far as I can tell, LA is basically a 24×7 rush hour now with its traffic and population density).

Still, it was worth it just to stand on Newport Beach Pier, smell the ocean and enjoy this view:

newport beach, california beach surf line

All good things must come to an end, or so they say, and I arrived Friday afternoon, we spent Saturday at the beach and visiting with a close family friend, then Sunday morning we made sure everything was ready for the great trek homeward and headed eastward.

Packed up, ready to head out:

2019 nissan murano jam packed - dorm college move out

Yes, that’s a mini-fridge. But it’s not for Gareth, his younger sister K- has claimed it and wants to have it in her bedroom. For what? I fear to ask, but it is an excellent addition to any hermit’s furniture, that’s for sure! 🙂

Two days after we made it home (LA -> Fruita, Colorado -> Boulder, if you’re curious) Gareth is still finishing up those final papers, so he’s not quite done with his first year at Pitzer, but he’s mighty close and by Friday he’ll be laying on the couch, enjoying Fortnite on his PS4 and celebrating the impressive accomplishment of rockin’ his first year of college. Nice job, mate!

Now, on to sponsors. I already mentioned that Nissan was kind enough to loan me the 2019 Murano for the drive, but the DoubleTree Claremont also helped out in making this a fun road trip adventure, as did the team at Discover Claremont. End result was that we had a few more bucks in our wallet to enjoy some fine dining both in California and on the route homeward. Definitely much appreciated!

And now the hardest part: What will Gareth do on his first college summer at home?

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