College Tour: UVA, Georgetown and George Washington


This is the third in a 3-part series of guest posts by‘s Bess Auer, who took her son on a college tour this summer. 8 states, 6 colleges, 4 days. You can connect with Bess on Twitter or on Florida Swim Network’s Facebook page. You can read Part 1 here and then part 2 here.

We were halfway through our college tour, looking at colleges now based on location: Close proximity to Washington, D.C. (Easy access via JetBlue.)

Now, remember my son had researched prospective colleges online and narrowed down to the ones he thought he might like, but nothing replaces seeing a campus in person. After looking at 3 Ivy league colleges, we then drove down to Washington, D.C., where several good colleges are nearby.


As far as campuses go, Georgetown is beautiful! The main historical building that greets you, Healy Hall, was in the running to serve as the set of Harry Potter. And, the adjoining strip of boutiques and eateries along the Potomac River is hard to beat. We took the regular campus tour, which was led by two students, who did a great job of conveying what it’s like to be a student there. It’s always good to talk with current students for that first-hand info. When asked about the best and worst thing about Georgetown, size was listed as the best, but lack of support for the sports programs was listed as the worst. Ouch! Now, this girl was a lacrosse player, and so maybe it is only her sport that’s not feeling the love, but it’s still not a good thing to hear!

We checked out the Georgetown pool housed in a newer “all sport” facility. We did not meet with the swim coach here.

Georgetown Simming
Overlooking the Georgetown pool

George Washington University

Located within the heart of D.C., just blocks from the White House, is George Washington University. One of Jackson’s older teammates had been heavily recruited by GW and so we were eager to check it out. GW has a city feel to it, for sure, and so the campus feels more like city blocks and office buildings, but the swimming and sports facility is great. We spent time checking the place out although we did not meet with any coaches here.

George washington swimming
Inside the George Washington swim facility

University Of Virginia

Just an hour and half drive from Washington, D.C. is Charlottesville, VA, home of UVA. This was by far the largest school we looked at on our college tour, but it still had a “small school” feel to it. Designed by Thomas Jefferson, the historical buildings and lush campus are beautiful. The sports facilities are located together on one side of the campus, and the pool was quite impressive. We just happened to be visiting when UVA was checking in campers to its summer swim camp, so we ended up getting to meet then head coach Mark Bernadino.  He already knew Jackson’s name and knew where he attends high school (this was a good sign!) and Jackson was just beaming that he was on UVA’s radar. Coach Bernadino greeted us briefly at the check in table and encouraged Jackson to have a strong junior year of swimming, that many schools would be watching him. (Yikes! Motivating and terrifying for my son all at the same time!)

UVA swimming -
The UVA pool
Mark Bernadino
Surprise meeting with Coach Mark Bernadino


The Good Aftermath

So, this ended our college tour and I believe it was an extremely positive step for my son.  He discovered that the work he is doing right now (both in school and in the pool) were already being paid attention to by colleges. He also learned that his hard work might pay off with allowing him to swim competitively in college.  Jackson emailed a “thank you” to all the coaches he met with, and got nice words of encouragement back from both Yale and UVA. Princeton did not respond.

The Bad Aftermath

About a week after we were back, Jackson called us into his bedroom. I could tell he was grumpy before we even entered. He said he was  feeling really stressed because he now had to do really well in school and on his AP exams and on his SAT’s. And, because his hand was still broken he didn’t even have permission to be back in the water yet… and he said that one mistake could mess it all up.

This was both difficult and good for us to hear as parents.

We pride ourselves on being pretty hands-off with Jackson; he does his own homework, suffers the consequences if he doesn’t study for a test, excels when he puts the effort in.  This strategy has made him very self-motivated, so I was shocked when he said he felt so stressed after our trip. (I really wanted to say, “This is the middle of summer and you’re just watching TV and playing video games all day! How are you stressed?”)

But by vocalizing his concerns, he let us know we had done enough college-talk this summer. He had seen what was available to him, what he would need to do to get to whatever college he chose, and now he needed time to just be a teenager. It also reminded me that my job for the next several months was to be his number one cheerleader on reminding him that he is only human, and, yes, he will make mistakes. (But he is also basically a good kid, so he shouldn’t be too worried.)

So, will he end up choosing one of these six colleges we visited? Who knows! I will encourage Jackson to keep looking at other colleges, too. But at least Jackson has had his eyes open – it’s big swim world out there and opportunity awaits!