On the Circuit

September 05, 1995|By DICK GEORGE

We've been on the road recently, looking for a college for our son Russell. It's harder than picking wallpaper. We've been to 15 schools and our short list is long and getting longer.

The families we meet at college A in the morning show up at college B in the afternoon and we get to talking and the next thing you know, we're adding schools to the list based on the recommendations of Rose and Terry from Columbus. They could be embezzlers for all we know, but they loved college C so we have to check it out. We are all co-travelers on a pilgrimage of sorts; a journey of the faithful, who believe -- or want to -- that the right college choice will lead to lifetime happiness, contentment and financial independence. We must be out of our minds.

We pull in to yet another college campus. Like the others, the grounds are immaculate. My bet is that most alumni don't know that the money they contributed to that last building fund went straight into Turfbuilder.

A fresh-faced young student takes us on a tour, walking backward and telling us the same things we've heard everywhere else, namely, ''We all love this school. It's not too big and not too small. Lots of companies recruit here. Our library has a gazillion books. There's a statue of our founder. We rub his foot for good luck during exams. We have a great security system. Our campus is totally computerized. It's easy to change majors. We have a great location. Our average class size is perfect. The food is really good. We work hard but we like to have fun.''

My personal favorite tour-guide comment is ''The professors are very accessible. They're always having us over for dinner.'' Oh really? Does this mean we can skip the meal plan?

Unofficial tours are better. At one school the tour guide never showed up, so a student who just happened by took us around. He told us there is hardly any street crime because the local town has a very strong Mafia. He also told us that a financial hotshot has come in to straighten out the school's books, which are drowning in red ink, and that the alumni are always feuding. Unofficial tours are always the best.

After a tour an admissions person explains the admissions process, which is, as they say, quirky. At some schools, three out of four applicants who meet all the stated requirements are rejected. So how do they pick which ones? Well, it's quirky. They don't like to talk about their quirks. Quirks are secret. You can only hope our kid's quirks match their quirks. If we can find a school looking for kids who forget to turn the lights off, we're golden.

One admissions officer wasted a half hour before telling us the school's minimum SAT score for out-of-state students. If you're from in-state, basically you need to know your alphabet; if you're from out-of-state you have to be able to bring back Apollo 13. Blindfolded. Half of us got up and walked out, figuring if we left now we could still make college D's info session at 3 o'clock. When you're on the circuit you can't afford to waste time.

We keep waiting for Russell to have one of those Eureka moments and say, ''This is the one, guys. This is the place for me,'' but unfortunately the darn kid is like his old man. He likes 'em all.

Dick George writes from Baldwin.

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