Observations After Some College Visits

In the last 16 months or so we’ve been involved with I think 18 college visits. Last week alone we hit the Boston area and did nine visits.

Here are a few observations from college visits in general, more specifically the ones last week. Most of the visits start with a 45-90 minute presentation followed by a 60-120 minute tour of the campus.

And in no particular order …

  1. Every school has a quidditch team now, and touts it.
    • At the one school that didn’t mention the quidditch team, some parent asked about it. I guess that’s a factor for some people
  2. Nearly every school wants you to know that they are one of very few schools that allow undergrads to perform research.
  3. You can go gluten-free for four years on campus if you wish. One school was even pine-nut free.
  4. Each school does an amazing job of pairing roommates.
  5. Your education is completely personalized, no “cookie-cutter” educations.
  6. Professors are always available for you, will answer your email at 2am. You can eat dinner at their homes with their families, and even babysit for them.
  7. Everything is green, some LEED certified.
    • solar-powered garbage cans are common
  8. Everyone gets 2-3 different advisors before they even set foot on campus.
  9. Don’t see a club you like? You can start one. Anything.

But the most amazing thing to me is this. The schools have a very brief window to sell themselves to prospective students and families. And most seem to spend 1/4 – 1/3 of the time explaining how much time you will spend not there. Co-ops, internships, and study-abroad are huge now. Some of the schools have as much as half of the junior class doing it any given year. In some cases the schools spent a 1/3 of the presentation telling you all of the fun places you can visit.

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  • wintercow20

    They’re all such cutting edge leaders that they are nearly indistinguishable.

    And remember that while they celebrate that you won’t be on campus much, the school year is really only 8 months long to boot.

    • http://pretenseofknowledge.com/ speedmaster

      Thanks! But Brown didn’t have quidditch. :-)

  • Kp

    As a student at an elite university, I’ve been dismayed by the teaching quality. Rankings seem to be based more heavily on research. It’s quite annoying that all these undergraduates keep showing up and wanting to learn stuff.

    I’m particularly surprised by how unscientific my science education is. Eric Mazur gave two excellent talks – “Confessions of a Converted Lecturer” and “Assessment: The Silent Killer of Learning” – that discuss a lot of the problems I’m seeing.

    Educations seems strangely resistant to science. In our Epidemiology textbook, there’s a quote from Lord Kelvin: “If you can measure that of which you speak, and can express it by a number, you know something of your subject, but if you cannot measure it, your knowledge is meager and on satisfactory.”

    Yet there are no pretests, so no one really knows how much we learn, or how we learn it – in two of my courses, I had to give up in the lectures and just learn it all from other sources. And I was hardly alone in that.

    Well, random thoughts from some random person on some random continent (where our heads are all upside down, which is probably why we think funny). Just stumbled onto your blog when I was looking for info on inks for the lovely fountain pen my girlfriend bought me (who may well drag me off to Princeton next year).

    • http://pretenseofknowledge.com/ speedmaster

      Thanks very much for posting, I appreciate it! What pen did you get, choose an ink yet?

    • KD

      There is no teaching anymore.
      I am generally familiar with schools like the University of Texas and Texas A&M and most classes are not really taught.
      You need to attend a smaller so called ” second tier” Texas college to get an actual professor who actually gives a damn about their teaching quality.
      Before I retired I was amazed at the number of people coming out of UT who didn’t know anything, were unprepared, but they expected the moon because they had that piece of paper from the glorious University of Texas…..we literally started to prefer grads of smaller state schools…..there was at least some training at the more ” regional” schools.