Sometimes I get so caught up in dealing with lab issues and research in general that I forget about the undergraduate side of my job. This has especially been true in the summer, when the only undergrads around are those doing work in labs. About two weeks ago I was asked if I could meet with a student and his mother today to explain our program. The person who normally does this is out of town and for some reason thought that the guy who had been here the shortest amount of time and who has had almost no interaction with undergrads since starting should be the one to recruit a high school student to the program. I said I would do it and was immediately forward the email trail between the parties.
The first thing that struck me was that the contact was entirely between our head of program and the perspective student's mother. It's not as though the mother was overbearing, it appeared more as though the student just did not want to be the one making the contacts. I don't know how common this is, but it surprised me when I first got the emails.
In any case, I realized yesterday that I had the meeting this morning. Crap! What do I know about the things incoming freshman should be thinking about or doing? So, when I got in this morning I went though all of the online and print resources I could find on our particular program, printed out some pages and forms and tried to think up everything that they would want to know.
As much as that was a useful exercise for me, it turns out that I could have done something else with my time this morning because our meeting lasted about half the time that I thought it would and was dominated by predictable parental questions about the prospects of various opportunities during, and job prospect after, the student's time in our program. Luckily, we try not to graduate students into a career of hoboism, but what I want to tell all these parents is that the program matters far less than what your kid does with it. Worry more about the fact that your kid is the "silent starey type" and that you won't be there to make there contacts for them and ask their questions. Our programs turns out lots of great students every year, let's hope your child takes the opportunity to be one.