Education with a side of waffle fries

Kayla McLane

Every week, my Sunday mornings look just about the same, but a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago was different. I was going to lunch with  a friend, and this friend just happened to be a prospective NMU student. We walked into Vangos, one of my favorites, and pondered over the menu only to order the obvious—waffle fries. As the drinks arrived, so did the mug COLOR

My fiancé and I began to answer every question thrown at us from this student’s anxious parents. Why did we come to Northern? Did we regret our choice at all? What’s the food like? These questions forced me to reflect on when I was an anxious high school student filling my time with endless scholarship applications, campus visits and looking at way too many flashy pamphlets.

It felt strange to realize that being juniors at NMU meant we were experts (legends, a source of info, experienced), and I felt old.

In my reflection, I realized just how much I love going to Northern, so I answered the questions honestly; I don’t regret my decision to come here. I love the environment that surrounds Northern; both the nature and the city.

I love the small class sizes and the passionate teachers that make this university great. I love the art department and the love for art that it has instilled in me. I love a lot of things about this university, and I told this young student about all of my great experiences.

Toward the end of this conversation, which was muted sometimes by the devouring of waffle fries and burgers, the parents asked a tougher question, “What is this deficit we have been hearing about?” With this question, I knew I had a big responsibility. I had a responsibility to be honest, real and

I am not in the business of sugarcoating, but I also know that Northern is a great school and that this student would love it here. Every university has a lengthy list of pros and cons, Northern included. Focusing on only one side of the list will always steer prospective students in the wrong direction. As I swallowed my bite of food and prepared to answer the question, I knew I needed to find a place of balance.

As I would have with anybody, I encouraged this young student to seek answers. I told the student to ask the tough questions and seek real responses, not sugarcoated answers.

My one piece of advice, upon hearing that he was visiting with a department head the next day, was to ask where the program would be in two or three years and how the deficit is affecting that program.

This prospective student has the right to know the answers to these questions. He, like all students, has a right to know if he’ll be able to graduate from a program before signing up.

Students, the people behind the money, should feel that they have control over their own education. We have a right to define our own paths and make decisions on our education based not on the prettiness of the quad, but instead on the quality of teaching we receive, the likelihood we will be hired after graduation and the overall value of our tuition dollar.

We, who are again the people behind the tuition checks, should always view our college experience as something we have the power to define. We are buying college, and just like any other product or service we purchase, we should approach it with a mind that considers the big-picture.

We are paying for an education, an investment. The school is here to help, teach and give. Students should never
underestimate the power they have to define their own
education. With this mindset, they can receive the best education possible.

As we packed up and paid our lunch bills, I realized the new perspective on education I gained. I don’t regret my decision to come to NMU, and I hope my friend makes the decision to come here also.