Call me Irresponsi-Bill

A trip to Orlando to see a college campus yielded more turkey legs than information

I’ve been in the parenting game for about 16 ½ years and I’ve picked up a few notable skills, including unlocking the coveted “Preeminent Fish Stick Chef of the Northeast” achievement.

As impressive as that may be, I’ve upped my superpowers a bit. For example, I’ve learned how to make any obligatory task feel like a trip to Walt Disney World.

The trick, of course, is to actually make it a trip to Walt Disney World.

My daughter is a high school junior now, so we’ve started to investigate her post-high school future. We figured we’d visit campuses both near to home and further afield, which would give her a feel for a variety of different options. So we scheduled her first visit. It would be just she and I on this exploratory venture. Her mom would stay home and tend to the dog while I heroically offered to make the sacrifice and take her to the University of Central Florida for the weekend.

We chose to visit this campus for several valid reasons: it’s huge, it has a wide variety of programs, and if we could establish residency, in-state tuition is a fraction of the cost of most New England schools.

But there was also a secondary — and some may argue more predictable – reason we boarded the 6 a.m. flight out of Manchester. It comes right in the name of the school — “Central Florida.” See, that’s where they keep the Disney.

I am a Disney dad. I’ll take any excuse, any opportunity, and turn it into a trip to our (my) favorite vacation destination. And this was one I simply could not pass up. In my mind’s eye, UCF was just on the other side of Epcot. I could probably walk there from the Boardwalk Resort, I surmised. In reality, it was about an hour away from where we were staying — a detail I learned the day before we flew to Florida. I should probably stop surmising things. It’s not one of my superpowers.

Upon arrival, we headed straight to the UCF campus. Here’s our take-away from the tour: Having one chicken and two pizza stops near the main quad is a major recruiting tool. The place is certainly huge, and the school has a highly regarded aerospace engineering program.

However, we didn’t learn much about the music program there, her potential course of study, because in all the excitement, I hadn’t thought to seek out someone who could tell us more about it. My wife had, but she was about 1,300 miles away at that moment. Campus visits are a new thing for us, and it’s a skill I’ll need to improve on.

But thanks to the “dad-fu” I did possess, we had just enough time afterward to stop-in at another campus — one with a castle and a Mouse. So we spent the next two days together, talking about college, what she might like to study and her future. And the gigantic turkey legs in Frontierland.    

IrresponsiBill Burke is a writer who lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and daughter. He is also Managing Editor of Custom Publications for McLean Communications.

More Dad on Board columns by Bill Burke

The empty passenger seat

When my daughter gets her license I’m going to miss our time together

Excuse me – how much?

Stunned and stupefied at my daughter’s first college fair

As seen through our dog’s eyes

Just call us Chew Toy, Boss and Beni

The BIG question

What does she want to be when she grows up? She has a few ideas.
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