The Boston Globe had an article this week about how families are striving to visit colleges despite the state of economy, and it reminded me to update this post from last year:
I always encourage LOTS of campus visits. I don’t suggest this because I believe by going on a never ending series of walking tours you will suddenly find THE PERFECT SCHOOL. As I’ve mentioned before, I think the whole idea of one perfect school is mostly a marketing pitch we admissions officers have created to try to raise our profiles and your stress levels.
Shameless Plug: If you had been visiting Mason yesterday you would have gotten somewhat inconvenienced by our many VIP visitors for the kickoff event for the new G.I. Bill that was held on campus. You probably would have forgiven us, however, if you’d caught a glimpse of either President Obama or Vice President Biden, both on campus for the event (one of the few times both visited the same university at the same time since they’ve been off the campaign trail). A number of Mason students were able to attend in VIP seating, and an incoming student, Staff Sergeant Jim Miller, even got to introduce the President and Vice President.
As I was saying, instead of trying to find your “dream school”, think of college visits as a way to figure out what you want most out of college. That takes a lot of pressure off these visits, which can actually be a pretty good time if you handle them in the right way.
I realize you may be thinking, “It’s not like I don’t have every minute already over-scheduled, now you want me to add a bunch of visits to schools and not even try to find the perfect one? Clearly you have no idea what my time is like, and you are at best clueless and at worst an idiot.” In the interest of preserving your time and my reputation, consider ways to make this process less time consuming and more fun. You might bear in mind, for instance, that it can be helpful to visit colleges and universities in your own area before visiting any others to get an idea of what kind of questions to ask, and what kind of propaganda you’re likely to hear. Also know that you don’t have to go this alone, you can bring friends. You also CAN go this alone, and don’t have to have your parents with you at every visit.
Finally, I suggest making the visits into some kind of competition with your friends. A few years ago I started suggesting playing a game called, “make the admissions officer cry” during your visits. During one speech where I used this line an admissions officer from one of our rival schools was so offended she sent me a sternly worded email about how serious the admissions process is and how my ridiculous efforts trivialized the lofty role of admissions officers. I may or may not have suggested she seek medical advice for removing the stick that instiution seems to require that staff members…well, you get the idea.
In any event, and for the sake of preserving the sensibilities of additional admissions officers similarly over-obsessed with their own feelings of superiority, I note that I don’t REALLY want you to make anyone cry, and that you should bear in mind that the person conducting your information session during a campus visit may very well be the same person who will read your application, and they may just remember you. So no name calling, making fun of bad haircuts, etc. What the game really involves is asking incredibly difficult questions.
My favorite question to ask in this game is, “What’s the worst thing about your school?” Amazingly, even though I’ve been giving this advice for years, many admissions officers still totally freeze up at the site of this question. Many will give you their best salesperson smile and respond, “Nothing – I can’t think of one thing wrong with this school.” Riiiight. Be seeing you.