July 2014: Puppy love and other perks lure frosh-to-be

Touring a college campus last week with the Princess (a-rising-senior-can-you-believe-it), I was struck by some of the “perks” that are offered to lure prospective students. My favorite was the promise of a “puppy room” designed to calm the nerves of jittery freshmen taking their first exams. The idea, gaining ground all over the country, is that students who cuddle with a room full of puppies, “who don’t judge them,” will do better in college.

Puppies can be checked out, just like a library book, by law and med students at Harvard and Yale because, a therapist told a reporter, “You can release emotions to a pet that you can’t to a human.”

That’s all well and good but isn’t college supposed to prepare you for the real world? You can’t claim stress during a business meeting, grab a free inner tube and meander down a Lazy River in the middle of the day, like you can at Boston University, now can you? (BU also has a wave machine you can ride with your boogie board if you’re in a slightly more aggressive mood.)

Should you expect to be able to just grab a massage for free when you’ve had a bad day like you could at the University of Wisconsin? Or ski free at a private mountain at Michigan Tech or climb a rock wall at the University of Houston?

The good news for parents like us is that there are plenty of colleges out there who really need students and they’ll do just about anything to get them. Warm cookies delivered to your dorm? Please. That’s so 2010. Worried about that chem test? Here’s a bag full of kittens. No, really. Watch them play. There. Now go on out there and tackle the world.

Laundry done in a day? Sure, that’s the way the real world works! For stressed-out students at MIT, there’s even a dorm that comes complete with a ball pit to take you back to those carefree days of Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties.

At the University of Virginia, you can get a dorm room with a working fireplace and a porch with rocking chairs. Because you are, apparently, 95 years old. At UNC’s Granville Towers dorm, there’s a “gift wrapping station” complete with papers, ribbons, bows and tape for students unfamiliar with The Dollar Tree.

You have to hand it to Oxford University, one of the world’s finest, whose reputation means they don’t need to offer free iPods and designer clothes swaps at their dorms. If you want to cuddle a loaner pet, go back to your pampered America. But, wait! They do have one perk for incoming students: “Abundant free pens.” This puts Oxford right up there with the funeral home in the small town I grew up in. Anyone who was buried there could be assured that their grieving family would have plenty of free pens AND unlimited cardboard fans shaped like praying hands. Top that, Princeton!


Rivenbark is the author of “Rude Bitches Make Me Tired.”
Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.
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