A busy week for M. Two college visits and senior pictures have all been checked off her To Do list.

We went to Purdue last Wednesday and then IU on Monday. Both trips went well.

She liked Purdue more than she expected, and when we left she felt like it had pulled even with Cincinnati as her co-favorite. Or at least a school that would definitely be on her list for a second visit and more research.

We’ve heard tons of great things about Purdue, especially how they have really updated their campus from the rather boring, typically engineering collection of buildings it used to be. Perhaps that set the bar too high for me, because while I thought everything was just fine, I wasn’t awed by anything I saw. Lots of new buildings, to be sure. But it still felt rather utilitarian to me.

We both liked how they broke up the visit. We started with a 45 minute tour of part of campus, landed at the welcome center for the hour-long admissions presentation, then went out for another hour or so of touring campus. That was a good way to break up Purdue’s rather sprawling campus. Our tour guides were great, talking almost the entire time. And our admissions presenter was one of the best we’ve encountered so far.

Purdue has a lot going for it. Maybe too much, in fact. Last year it had way more freshman enroll that their algorithm expected, and the school had to scramble to find housing for everyone. Perhaps it was because of that you have to make a separate appointment to tour the housing options. We could have squeezed that in, but it was hot and humid and we decided to save that for a second visit, possibly popping in on people M knows who will be students at Purdue in the fall.

Purdue is the closet school M will consider, maybe 15–20 minutes closer than IU. Despite its engineering school rep, it can offer a great education even in the more liberal arts affiliated programs. And they’ve kept tuition frozen for over a decade now. It made sense why M liked it so much.

Then we hit IU on Monday afternoon.

We lucked out and avoided big storms that had cancelled the morning tours and even got about an hour of pleasant weather before the heat and humidity came crashing down again. We parked right by S’s sorority house and found the brick with her name on it, which is always fun.

The new IU welcome center is located in the remodeled building where I took my three graduate courses on the Bloomington campus. It was fun for me to have a personal connection. “I took classes in this building!” They went with the more traditional sit through an hour presentation and then get out and walk for 75 minutes format.

Our tour guide was great. Let’s see if I can remember everything she told us about herself. She’s in the Kelley School of Business, one of the top business schools in the country. She’s on a pre-law track with two minors, one in computer science the other having to do with data analysis or something. She’s in the honors college. She gives tours. She tutors both for the football team and the honors college. She’s in Panhellenic government. She’s in the campus Catholic org. And she sings in the campus choir. I might have left something out. Girl is busy, and seemingly going places! I thought about asking if she had time for a boyfriend but realized that would both come out wrong and sound super creepy coming from a 51-year-old man.

I’ve always loved IU’s campus. It reminds me a lot of the KU campus, just without the big hill in the middle. Acres of gorgeous, tree-lined paths. Big, beautiful limestone buildings. Downtown right across the street from the main campus entrance. It’s very much a proper college environment. You shouldn’t pick a school because of what it looks like, but it sure makes a great impression.

There was less talking and more general walking and looking around on this tour compared to Purdue’s. Even M has picked up on how the whole spiel is pretty much the same thing at every school, with some tweaks to highlight each one’s particular strengths. She has realized that her next step is to make a list of her favorite schools and begin doing research to compare how the meals plans work on each campus, what the academic advising programs are like, etc. to cut through the marketing and get closer to figuring out what school meets her needs the best.

When we completed the tour and began walking back to the car, she said, without being prompted, “I like this more than Purdue.” Which I expected.

One hangup I believe I’ve mentioned before is that she doesn’t want to go to the same school as a lot of her high school friends. Although we’ve told her many times that on a campus of 45,000 students she will not see the 5–10 people she went to high school with very often either at IU or Purdue, that remains a sticking point, and a big reason she likes Cincinnati so much. It seems like her friend group will send more people to IU than Purdue. So that’s going to be an entry in her spreadsheet. We’ll see if it matters when it comes time to make a decision.

After five campus visits I believe M’s power rankings look something like this:

1A – Cincinnati
1B – Indiana
2 – Purdue
3 – Miami (OH)
4 – Xavier

A bigger gap between two and three than between the top three schools.

Of course, she has one more visit remaining. It just happens to be to a school that A) I attended and B) that won the NCAA division one men’s basketball national championship four months ago.

She squeezed in her senior pictures on Sunday. I didn’t realize what a big deal these were until this time last year, when her friends a year older than her were going through the process. At Cathedral you have to go to the “right” photographer, a woman who took family pics for us about 10 years ago. I went with M to the planning session with the photographer last week. She could not have been more organized, helpful, and fun. M was pretty well prepared already but left with a clear plan for what to do in the five days before her pics.

I stayed the hell out of the way Sunday. There was enough stress in our house before she left that I wanted nothing to do with the actual photo shoot. Luckily my presence was not requested, although C did go along with S to help and watch.

I guess it went very well. She lucked out and got decent weather. It was in the mid–80s but the humidity was tolerable, it was a little breezy, and they were late afternoon/early evening so it was getting cooler through their session. She was happy when she got home. I guess we’ll see in a few days whether it was worth all the time, effort, and money.

I miss the 1980s when you just went to a photo studio with one outfit, sat for 20 minutes, and then ordered one or two shots a couple weeks later.