April vacation seems to be a vacation no longer, atleast for the many high school juniors who travel the country to find theirperfect college. This time once reserved for relaxation has now become, for many,a time to think about school perhaps even more intensely than when school is insession. And so, last April, despite my acknowledgment of the interruption of myspring respite, I too set out to find the perfect school. And along the way, Inoticed some similarities between the schools I visited. Perhaps it was myweariness from driving, or from tromping around campuses, but soon, every campustour and information session I went to began to sound the same.
Eachadmissions office is stacked with piles of somewhat useful literature. I muststress that this information is only slightly valuable because it is alladvertising. Every school's literature proudly proclaims its diverse learningenvironment, its friendly atmosphere, the nationally renowned beauty of thecampus, and just how much its food tastes like Mom's home cookin'. Then there arethe course catalogs, which, for all their offerings, I find not very stimulatingliterature and more useful as a doorstop.
Information sessions can be usedto gather some good facts and opinions on the school, but it seems that moreoften than not, a dean of admissions will happily listen to himself talk atlength, cheerfully promoting the school's strong points. If questions are taken(not from a doting parent diligently taking pages of notes), then some validinformation may be available. But getting a sincere answer from someone who isoften trying to sell a college can be difficult.
The students who givecampus tours often sound as if they are reading from a book. I am not surewhether they memorize the tours word for word because they're required to, orbecause it eases the complicated task of walking backward and talking at the sametime (which I sincerely think is a challenge). I do have evidence for the scripttheory, however, since I went on two tours at the same school a year apart, givenby different guides, and heard almost the exact same speech both times.
To make these spiels seem even less genuine, it seems every school uses the samephrases to describe their college. I distinctly remember numerous guides saying,"It's not a suitcase college," "The students here work hard andplay hard," and stories about how he or she babysat for a professor's childor had ice cream at their house. I find it hard to believe that at every collegeI visited everyone stays on campus on weekends, works hard and plays hard, andthat most people had babysat for a professor. After a while, these clichésre-semble insincerity.
Perhaps all these similarities, and others Inoticed, are just very common traits of colleges. But while this may be true,hearing the same information on every tour makes me wonder what differences thereare between these schools. If I had to go by my visits alone, I'd say not much.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.