After a while, college visits can become eerily similar

November 30, 2005|By DREW SPERANZA

If you're a high-school junior, senior or one of those extremely high-strung sophomores who already owns every AP and SAT prep book available, listen up.

You're either already visiting or soon will be visiting prospective colleges. You will soon realize that every visit beyond the first one is pointless. Simply put, every college in the country is exactly the same.

If you tell me any college you've visited, I'll tell you everything that's there. Chances are that at every school you've visited there's an old clock tower that, wouldn't you know it, still rings. I guarantee the library boasts a number of volumes of six digits or more and is totally wireless, or getting there. The school you visited also has a bust of an old professor or benefactor with a shiny nose because all of the students rub it for good luck. It might even be the same bust.

The school you visited also has horrible freshman dorms. But you never know, you might get lucky, because your guide got into the new air-conditioned dorms his or her freshman year. The school you visited also has an activity for everyone.

If you're into competitive sports, for example, you can play them. But if you just want to have some fun, have no fear - they have an intramural league. If you visited a small school, don't be alarmed, because it has a big school feel. If you visited a big school, don't be alarmed, because it has a small school feel. If your prospective school is in the country, it feels like the city. And if it's in the city, it feels like the country. Every school in the country has Greek life, "but it doesn't dominate the social scene."

If you do have the misfortune of being bored with the monotony of multiple college visits, you should certainly not attend more than one information session. Every college in the universe "is no cake walk to get into." Standardized test scores are important, but your transcript is the most heavily weighted part of your application.

If you attend multiple information sessions, you will soon learn that a famous actor, a famous writer and Jonas Salk, attended every college in the country. Remember that unless you go to Oral Roberts University or Howard University, there will be diversity. There will always be a slightly higher percentage of women than men, and every dad in the information session will nudge his son with his elbow at hearing this piece of information.

Some students are simply fed up with the entire process. A friend and fellow disgruntled senior said, "Every college visit is eerily similar. I refused to do any more after my fourth or fifth. After a while, the colleges began to blend together. But thankfully, every student wore a T-shirt with giant lettering on it to remind me where I was."

So, when visiting colleges, remember these simple rules: Visit one college, go to one information session, take one tour, then read the entry in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2006 for any other schools you may be interested in and simply write to them for information.

When the information arrives in the mail, look at the cover of the pamphlet or brochure from the school. But don't open it. Never open it. If you do, you'll be taking the tour again. Simply look at the picture on the brochure and decide if you think it's pretty.

If you follow all of these steps, then congratulations. You've completed your college visits and barely left your house.

Drew Speranza is a senior at the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia.

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