At the crack of dawn next week my son will thrust a hastily downloaded Google map at me, plug his favourite Justice tracks into the car’s audio system and we’ll set off for yet another university open day (snow permitting!)
The only trouble is that after visiting a handful of universities already, they’re all starting to blur into one. Neither of us can remember which boasts 22 Nobel Prize winners, which has a library with four million books and which serves coffee that tastes like old socks.
University open days are a new and weird phenomenon in our lives. When I went I more or less stuck a pin in the map and hoped for the best. Today’s teenagers get bombarded with leaflets and letters, spend hours trawling through the UCAS website and are encouraged to visit universities all over the shop before applying. The only trouble is that when they get to open days they meet academics in tweed jackets quoting statistics like 1,000 applicants for fewer than 100 places.
Even more bizarre is the sight of thousands of 17 and 18 year olds trailing round campuses with their middle-aged parents. Some look dead embarrassed to be seen out with their mums and dads, while others are clearly livid that their parents have muscled in on the trip. I’ve scored a double. I’m in both categories.
And this year there’s something new to worry about. The newspapers are full of doom and gloom about tuition fees trebling to an eye-watering £9,000 a year and students being saddled with debt for the rest of their lives. I take one look and stuff the papers in the bin. This university lark is hard enough without worrying about that right now…
PS. Forget my hankering for a 2CV. I’ve just spotted my new dream car outside Jamie Oliver's restaurant in Islington (see above!)