FYI: My copy editor is taking a well-deserved vacation this week. This has provided me with the opportunity to take a break from the regular music-related posts that I serve up each day in order to talk about some other things that have been kicking around the confines of my mind. I will call these ramblings “News and Notes” to see if Facebook will allow me to post it. Let’s see how it goes. I apologize in advance for typos and mistakes with grammar and punctuation. I actually proofread my work but what my eyes see and what my mind believes is there are often two different things. Be gentle. On this day I am working without a net. 🙂
As many of you who follow me and the other members of my family on social media may know, one of the biggest bits of news that has happened to us lately was my eldest daughter Leah gaining acceptance in university for the fall of 2024. The process of gaining acceptance into the university of her choice and in the academic programme of her choice did not begin with the university application letter. It began a couple of years ago when Leah started narrowing down her what-I-want-to-do-when-I-grow-up list of careers to a select few. Then she began conducting research to see which university programmes matched her career-related desires. She initially whittled the potential choices down to a list of ten. At this time, she began creating a “pro” and “con” list for each university. In some cases we were able to travel to these universities and arrange for a guided tour. We did that for Brock U., Trent U., Carleton U. and the University of Ottawa in Ontario. Because my mother and sister still live in Nova Scotia, we were able to combine a trip home with tours of Acadia U. and St. Francis Xavier University, too. For those universities, as well as the other schools on Leah’s list that we weren’t able to see in person, the school websites almost all provided her with the opportunity to see the school virtually. That included being able to see classrooms, dorm rooms, stroll the grounds and so on. Each website had virtual assistants who were available to answer any questions Leah may have had along the way. All universities seemed happy to help. When it came time to actually apply to the universities that made the final cut, Leah’s school marks were uploaded to an Ontario-wide university database. Then she simply filled out the online university applications, connected each application to the database containing her marks and clicked the SUBMIT button when she was finished (oh yes, she had to pay a fee to do so). Two days after sending in her application, she received an email message from Acadia University (which was her first choice) stating that she had been accepted into their school and into her academic programme choice. They also offered her a sizable entrance scholarship. And just like that, before Thanksgiving Day had even arrived, Leah had secured her post secondary spot for the upcoming year with nine months of grade twelve still ahead of her.
The amazing part for me was how seamless the whole process was compared to when I went through it over forty years ago. Back in my day there was no internet, no such a thing as a website (unless you had a spider in your house), online portals didn’t exist either. If you wanted a database, you picked up the phone book. When I wanted information about post secondary institutions I basically had three choices available to me. First of all, I could look up information about universities in an encyclopedia. Many families had the Grolier or Encyclopedia Britannica sets on their homes at the time. These books were my generation’s version of having the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. Secondly, I could have put pen to paper and written individual letters to the universities I was interested in by hand. In those letters I would have stated my desire to attend their university and elaborated about the career path I wished to follow. I would have requested information and an application package, too. Then I would have had to wait weeks for it to arrive in the mail. Sometimes the information packages would contain the information I needed. Sometimes they didn’t and I would have to write or call again. The third option that was available to me was the one that I chose and many of my friends did, too. It was to book an appointment with our high school guidance counselor. My contact person was a wonderful man named Norm Carmichael. In his office was a filing cabinet crammed full with pamphlets from various universities. Some of those were up to date. Some of those were not. He also would have us complete aptitude tests that helped us to discover how our personality traits matched up with those needed in various careers. I can’t remember exactly how it all unfolded but through some manner of hocus pocus on Norm’s end, he managed to get me the addresses I needed to apply to the universities of my choice. Somehow I managed to put my own application package together. I can’t remember if I mailed the package away myself or if I returned it to Norm to check for me. But, whatever the case, months later I began to get replies. I was accepted at two separate post secondary institutions. I chose to go with Toronto Metropolitan University in Toronto (or Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, as it was known back in the day). In the fall of 1982, I boarded a VIA train in Sydney, Nova Scotia and set off for my first year of university without having ever seen the campus, my dorm room or anything. My eyes were wide open as I navigated my way through Union Station in Toronto, steamer trunk in hand and yet I was completely flying blind. But, at the time, I didn’t know any better. I was comfortable with the information I had at hand and felt it was all going to somehow work out. It did. Luckily I had no idea how little I actually knew. If ignorance can be said to be bliss then I started my university career in a fairly happy state of mind.
With Leah’s acceptance letter came an Acadia University student number. When she accepted Acadia’s offer (which, of course, she did online), she was asked to input her student number. Within seconds of doing that, she received a reply back welcoming her into the Acadia University family. Since that day, she has been invited to apply for residence and has been added to the university email programme. Almost every day now she has been able to be a fly on the wall of university life at Acadia. Because of this email access, she is getting a sneak peak at how her year at university will probably unfold for her next fall. She is learning when certain celebrations happen. She is learning about various student services that are available such as health care, bus passes, food plans, etc. In fact, because the Internet is such a handy tool, Leah has been able to virtually travel from her campus to shopping centres in a nearby town to make sure she knows what stores, banks, etc. are available to her beyond what she can walk to in her small university town of Wolfville. She will be well prepared for what awaits her next year. In many ways, it is completing grade twelve here at home that is the dreamlike experience.
Kids today are very lucky to be able to access information that is important to them in an easy and timely manner. While Leah did have several chats with guidance teachers at her high school, for the most part her research was conducted at our dining room table. She is connected to the university 24/7 via her laptop computer and via her portal pocket computer that she calls a phone. I often chuckle to myself when I think of how technology is interwoven into every aspect of Leah’s life compared to when I was her age. We had no computers. The internet didn’t exist. A phone was something that was attached to the wall of your house and was connected by a long cord. There was no GPS tracking device in my back pocket when I went outside to play or to roam around. The only tracking device that existed in those days was the network of mothers who would watch us from their windows as we played. If we were getting into mischief that we weren’t supposed to, a phone call would be promptly made. It always amazed me how my mother would already know so much about what I had been up to before I had even walked in through the front door.
But as we all know, having such complete and total access to technology is a seductive drug. In the case of Leah’s university experience, having access to technology made the process very simple. I find technology to be a wonderful way for me to write my stories and get them out to the world quickly and easily. I find technology very helpful when it comes to making travel arrangements for when I go and see my family back home. There are a seemingly endless amount of advantages to using technology to make our lives easier. However, the one thing about it is how dependent we have become. I wouldn’t say that we are actually addicted to using technology but have you ever tried going an entire day without picking up a device of some sort and checking in your emails, texts, social media accounts, sports scores, listening to music, banking, shopping and so much more?! If you manage to unplug for a while, the world around you seems so much quieter. You can actually get a lot of things done. It is really something to plug back into the rhythms of the real world. It may be a bit of a sad commentary on the state of my own life to say that I enjoy getting outside and mowing my lawn or digging in our gardens or shopping for groceries at the grocery store. Sometimes my wife feels guilty asking me to run errands during the day but I find that it is nice to get out and about. Conversely, it is far too easy to sit down and stare at a screen. As someone who regularly spends five to six hours per day online, I am as guilty as anyone for being hooked on technology. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld so famously exclaimed on TV, “We can’t help ourselves! It’s part of our lifestyle.” And so it is.
I will end this post here for today. I will have more to say about technology and about information, in general, tomorrow and in the coming days. I thank you for reading my words. I will see everyone tomorrow. For now, I am going to turn off my screen and see what today has to offer. Bye for now.
The link to the official website for Acadia University can be found here.
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