Fighting the College Process

by Gabe Stern

April 2016 (Volume 66, Issue 3)

“The first time I set foot on campus, I knew American University would be where I would spend the next four years of my life” the actor said with an artificial tone. “Ever since then I have gained new experiences that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life”. This was about 15 minutes into the video at the AU information session, and I felt my eyes grow heavy with fatigue.

I knew I would never feel that way about a school, and I know I’ll probably end up choosing a school because of cost or location or some weird factor like that. That’s what I don’t get about college tours. Don’t they know that the majority of people coming on their tour won’t instantly fall in love with their school? And even if they do, that’s not who they’re trying to sell the college to. The people who instantly fall in love with a college are already sold: shouldn’t they be selling to the kids who are unsure? Sort of like politicians tailoring to the undecided voters.

Anyway, I feel like the college application process is painstakingly fake; the colleges all portray themselves as one-of-a-kind, while the students all give their best self on their application. I’d be lying if I told you I have any idea what I’ll write about for my college essay. I’d be lying if I told you what type of college I’m interested in, because every college I look at has the same spiel about their “pride in academics” blended with their “unique school spirit” that no other college has. Well, except for that “perfect college” I’m suppose to find.

Don’t get me wrong, I find the college process very exciting while being very repetitive. Every time I go to a college, I imagine what it would be like to go there. But with every college trying to portray themselves as “the right choice for you”, how do we really know what college to go to?

A couple weeks ago, my tour at the University of Maryland got cancelled, so a family friend of ours gave us a tour. For the first time, it didn’t feel like I was getting pushed toward Maryland, but merely shown a day in the life of a student there. There was no educational videos, no list of where you can get internships, and no big speech about how Maryland is the right campus for me; just an unbiased tour around the campus.

Self-guided tours or getting an unofficial tour is helpful if you want an inner perspective on the school. For me, this was the right choice simply because I was tired of official college visits, but maybe I’m just different on how I want to see a college.

But honestly, I feel like everyone can benefit from at least one unofficial tour; especially if they haven’t tried one yet. Not only can you go at your own pace, but you can see the contrast in how schools try to recruit kids and seeing the school itself.

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