20 schools in 21 days

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: 20 schools in 21 days
By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 07:39 pm: Edit

As we live overseas, we had no choice but to do an intensive school search during our recent summer holiday. I had done something similar last summer with my '04 son, so I made modifications (some of which were positive) with the '05 son. The biggest issue we had was that we were coming west to east, so we always ended up flying into places late at night (no fun with significant jet lag). So, I would recommend all searches of this nature take an East to West direction!!

My son ('05) hadn't narrowed down the type of school he wanted, so we saw a wider range than I had with son #1.

Given that so much of one's impression is based upon very subjective pieces...I will share a criterion that my son and I established- could the school describe it's theme or could we do the same in a sentence or two????...Herewith, a different take than the typical review of tours based upon the notion that a school should be able to "define itself" for a visitor- our "take home themes."

Claremont-McKenna- pragmatic, focused on government/business/IR-- but blessed by the opportunities provided by the whole cluster of Claremont schools. First school we saw- most unique.

Northwestern- It is all about communication- so many schools and programs focused on this curricular theme- in the context of a fine suburban location.

Carleton- Aggressively open minded about learning and passionate to do so. First time tour guide couldn't articulate this, rising senior learning to be a interviewer could. Kids know how to make their own fun.

Macalester- it's all about the international thing- highest %international kids we saw, huge emphasis on same--in the context of broad energy and passion

Emory- Endowment and technology take the forefront...we have the best money can buy and you had better like it! (we did!)

Colgate- rah, rah Colgate! Careful, conservative and thoughtful approaches to positive change..

Hamilton- less is more- "I would have gone on a Junior year abroad, but there is just so much I want to do here"

University of Rochester- where is the fun? a place for pre-meds to grind away...((this was our theme, not theirs!!)

MIT- it was all about the "cool stuff"- info session presenter used this phrase a dozen times, and the tour guide script was overly weighted towards hacks and other MIT frolics-- DID ANYONE ELSE NOTICE THIS?

Brandeis- OMG- the pain of being on a tour with an alumni parent who thinks she knows more than the tourguide-- Adcom member was warm and encouraging in information session, but disturbingly dismissive to students who tried to talk with him afterwards-- still, school aiming for bigger

Tufts- neutral- white bread- can't wait to get to Boston

Brown- "We are fun loving but organized"- amazing energy and diversity-- too bad sooo hard to get into

Wesleyan- the students take charge (didn't see a single adult) and push for change-- campus a bit run down at points, but tremendous impression in terms of the student experience

Amherst- entitlement reigns...left after the information session because DS couldn't get over all the parents in the audience with "Amherst class of --" Polo shirts! Also, disgenuous impression of significance of 5-college programs (talked about this for 15 minutes, and then it turns out the student co-presenting had never even taken a course at other schools)... primary benefit seems to be better concerts! compelling intellect of "green Dean" was notable, however.

MIddlebury- is there a more beautiful campus on a summer day? Vermont sensibility meets liberal arts fare--Freshman picture books speak to the issue- lack of diversity-- but tour guide was instructive on this in regards to her own experience

Johns Hopkins- the Adcom (Hopkins alum) giving the info session was asked "what makes Hopkins unique" (by another stealthy parent!) and could not give an answer! could also not answer (or understand?) question about differences in admissions rates for different programs...it all seemed a script, followed by student and dean...enough said

University of Pennsylvania- 3rd excellent information session in 3 years-- a school for kids ready for the business of learning and the learning of business--

Franklin and Marshall- nice, nice, just nice-- tour guide the least articulate of all schools visited

George Washington- a school for kids ready to leap in to the fray from day 1...a real life lab approach to learning about government/business with classes thrown in for good measure!

Georgetown- As above, but toned down and slightly different weighting due to Jesuit influence...Rah Hoyas!

I would love to hear from others as to their impressions (( at this level))...We are glad the touring is done, I must say, but sorry DS can't go back for a re-look at a few places with more students on campus...

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 07:47 pm: Edit

MIT hacks... yes, I've noticed that MIT emphasizes their hacks and "frolics" a lot lately. I think it's kind of a gnurdy approach to making MIT seem cool... but the fact is, the academic reputation is out there, and they do want to make it clear that even so, their gnurds enjoy themselves.

(If your son is at all serious about MIT, I'm happy to answer questions. My son adores it. But it's not for everyone.)

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 07:56 pm: Edit

Thanks, Dmd77...I am an MIT alum as is my husband. Both of us have very positive feelings about our college experience..Son is very analytical, good in math/sci, but interested in studying Pol Sci or economics which would make him a rarity at MIT....He's thinking about it!

My deal is....what does it say if MIT admissions wants to seem "cool"?? MIT is not for everyone, and I while I don't think the "cool stuff" approach will fool people, I did have a conversation with one girl who visited who said "I used to think that MIT would be too hard, too grueling, but after the visit I didn't think so any more." Do you think this is message they want to send out??

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 08:25 pm: Edit


Yes, I think MIT is trying to de-emphasize the pressure cooker image, especially after the suicides that the media attributed to it. Not that everybody toes the line. My S mentioned in the hearing of an MIT prof that he was interested in MIT. She immediately commented: "MIT students have no fun." Last Spring, though, my S attended a chocolate tasting held by the Cholocate Club (a real club formed by chemical engineering students). The girls--they were all girls-- were at pains to tell him that a. they have fun at MIT. and b. it is diverse. One girl said that her roommate is a poli sci major (MIT does have an excellent graduate department in poli sci.) The history profs are top notch, as are those specialzing in literature.

Hacking of course is a huge thing, not just at MIT. It usually makes the local paper. My favorites remain the police car and the British phone booth. The MIT/Harvard Ig Noble prizes night is a sold out event.

PS: I enjoyed your thumbnail sketches.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 08:35 pm: Edit

I enjoyed your thumbnail sketches as well and congratulate you in being able to sum a school's impression up in such brief ways. It was cool to read it in a nutshell. As my child is heading to Brown next month, I will comment that your little blurb about the school seems pretty accurate in terms of my impressions there.


PS, you are right about the beauty of Vermont, ala Middlebury, from someone who is from that general neck of the woods.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 08:49 pm: Edit


Luckily, I have a friend who graduated from MIT in Pol Sci who has spoken to my son, I hope your son has plenty of chances to speak with a range of MIT'ers who balance the professor's opinion. Have him meet some students who live on Burton 3rd. for example...since you are close by.

To my way of thinking, de-emphasizing the pressure cooker image at the admissions level is much less significant, and somewhat dishonest, without doing so at the day-to-day level. They have to "walk the walk" as well as "talk the talk". MIT used to be pass-fail the whole freshman year- now it is for one term. Students like myself, who had aptitude for math-science but did not have nearly the preparation of many of our classmates, were saved by this policy. After the initial shock, I was able to cope with a 17 on a chemistry test because I knew that my P would look like everyone else's (and I went on to do very well in subsequent graded chemistry courses!).

There has always been tension at MIT between those who want to make it "like other schools" (ie, focus on students with broader profiles) and those who don't- at least in the literature that I have read. What is needed at MIT(and a lot of other schools) is incredible mental energy (not to mention physical energy) no matter the endeavor. I am just not sure that the current admissions emphasis really serves potential applicants by suggesting otherwise.

I also have to say I hated the fact that the Adcom member who gave the information session used a lot of filler words (beyond "cool stuff")... The tour guide was articulate and engaging enough, fortunately.

I liked the hacks as much as the next person, but they are hardly the piece de resistance of the MIT experience!!

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 08:59 pm: Edit

We adopted this approach last year after an amazing one hour drone at Vassar during which time the Adcom member barely took a breath, and kept saying "now remember, this is Tuesday and this is Vassar." We decided (I had both sons with me at this point) that if a school couldn't differentiate themselves to us in 3 hours in a more meaningful way, then we could check it off the list. Harsh, maybe, but it has served our needs (besides being a good challenge for long car rides between schools!)

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 09:11 pm: Edit


My S has two close friends who will be starting at MIT this fall. The girls in the chocolate club were not part of a sales operation (except that they are trying to make better tasting chocolate) so my S was rather impressed by their friendliness (he arrived early, so he had their full attention plus first dibs at an array of chocolate goodies). You are right, though, to discount adcom talk.

By Tkdgal (Tkdgal) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 09:23 pm: Edit

Macalaster and Carleton are two schools that I am considering for regular decision - but I am in NJ and my parents don't want me flying out! Can you go into a little more detail about them?

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 09:50 pm: Edit

I also graduated from MIT--and tried to talk my son out of it, precisely because I hated the large courses and the fire-hose mentality. I think it's possible Merrilee Jones has swung too far in trying to lightedn up MIT's image--but I'm not positive on that. Second half of freshman year is now ABC/no record, which is not quite as good as pass/fail, but still better than what happens later. My son responded nicely to the additional pressure second semester, and it provided a good ramp-up on intensity.

I think the educational counselors, who do the almost-required interview for the admissions office, provide a nice counterbalance to the light-hearted talk of the Admissions Office. I gather from my son that the 1 1/2 hour interview (it can be shorter--or longer)--which isn't scheduled until part of the application has been received, was a serious discussion about preparation, courses, requirements, and student life. My son said "I think he thought he was trying to scare me off, but he made it sound even more wonderful to me."

I should make it clear that my son loves the school, feels he found a group of like-minded people, and is milking the experience for all it's worth.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 09:50 pm: Edit

Sure, they are quite different though they are only 55 minutes apart (on a very nice highway!).

I visited Macalester last year with son #1 and immediately knew it was a better fit for son#2. The location is unbeatable, IMHO. It is in a terrific residential area of St. Paul- but the campus has a real campus feel to it. The school has about 15% international kids, which is important to us as, though we are American, we have lived overseas for more than 11 years. The school attracts top international students as they have generous financial aid for these students. I would say that both this year and last the students we met (including one whom my son knew from MUN) are very engaged, passionate about learning, open minded, and a bit edgy- lots of ideas and opinions being bantied about at all times. Walking near the student center, even in the summer, there is an overwhelming sense that everyone is discussing something very important ((This why I knew this school was better for my 2nd son...this is his style as well)). Both years our tour guides were warm, personable, articulate, enthusiastic++, good sales people. The only negative, last year the ADcom who did the info session was steely and full of herself, and this year she was the same person who interviewed son#2...I think the academics are solid- the physical plant is well maintained, being upgraded, etc. What stands out about Macalester is what I have described, in my mind- the international focus and the articulate and passionate students(with varied interests). my son is very theatrical and was struck by the rich opportunities.

Carleton struck me as entirely different. It is a classic high caliber liberal arts community nutured by a down to earth mid-western feel. I think the students are equally passionate to those at Macalester, but more focused on their academic learning as a process- and probably less on the "externals" than at Macalester. The school is in a beautiful small city with 2 other small colleges nearby. The campus is pristine. I liked the fact that the students assume responsibility for their own fun, and that the college supports them in doing so (key in a small town or rural school I think). Carleton is eagerly seeking to diversify, according to the very approachble Adcom person we saw. But, they have a much lower % international students, and I am not sure about their financial aid for those students.

There is a lot to like about both of these schools, but they have a very different feel..hope you can get the picture a bit from what I have said!

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 09:56 pm: Edit

Dmd77- I think your son's response to the EC who interviewed says it all...clearly it is a fit! I am reluctant to encourage my son on several accounts. First, his passions lie in non-technical areas (though he is a strong math-sci kid) and I want him to have a peer group with similar interests. Second, I worry that if he commits to applying, then doesn't get in, he will feel he has let us down-- though I have already assured him that I probably wouldn't get in if I were applying now...HOnestly, the first is my primary concern. Given his areas of interest (Poly Sci/ Economics) he would quickly move out of the large lecture halls after freshman year...

By Momof2inca (Momof2inca) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 04:46 pm: Edit

Thanks for the overview. My son is also interested in Poly Sci/Economics and is considering George Washington and Georgetown among others. Can you share the differences in campus "feel" for those two schools. I know GW is a few blocks from the White House and is split among several campuses. I've also heard that Georgetown feels aloof and somewhat impersonal. We will be visiting both schools in October during our son's fall break, but any reflections on the differences between these schools would be much appreciated. Thanks!

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 05:54 pm: Edit

We visited Georgetown last summer, this summer my son spent a week there at an International Relations program. Our reaction last summer was mixed. The campus felt squeezed into the space along the Potomac. The buildings are varied, some felt old and musty. The dorms were more modern, boxy, perched on the river bank. It had a campus feel to it, but there is also a residence for Jesuits, a graveyard, etc, so it is definitely atypical. The information session and tour were notable for an impersonal feeling- the info session started with a movie, the session itself seemed more formal than others. The tour guide was definitly positive and felt connected to the school, liked her programs etc. To me it seemed a fairly rigid place- hard to change between schools, etc...All in all, our impressions were mixed- I felt that the advantages of being in DC were barely outweighed by other shortcomings, but at that point my son liked it. This year my son enjoyed his week- excellent lectures by Georgetown profs, liked the counselors who were Georgetown students...but also felt from what he heard that there is not enough "campus life" for him-- in theater and other things that interest him, for example. It does of course have phenomenal access going for it..

We looked at GW after he had returned from Georgetown. IT almost makes no pretense of having a campus- there is a small green that serves a campus center function at times- but it was small and not embellished in any way. There are two campuses, the main one at Foggy Bottom was the one we visited, we had driven by the Mt. Vernon campus before (residential facilities and some classes- located in a leafy green residential area). This is an urban school for sure, with no real pretense of otherwise. Proximity to DC dictates the school... There is a good student advising program, there is flexible movement between the different schools. Student body is varied. There is an Honors program that interests my son, though it was hard to pin down details on that. It was the most urban school we saw (much more so than Georgetown) but for what it was, we though it a reasonable option. It is considerably less selective than Georgetown as I am sure you know.

Hope this helps.

By Clipper (Clipper) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 07:45 pm: Edit

Last year my daughter and I took a tour of a few schools - two that you mentioned - Johns Hopkins and Georgetown. We were coming from Yale so JHU was a let down. I thought the tour was bad and the kids looked unhappy. This was April - when the weather had just turned warm and kids were wearing shorts and flip flops after a long winter. Still, the kids looked like they were not having fun like they were at Yale.
We had to race down to Georgetown for their tour. We missed the opening movie and crawled into the back of the crowded room just in time to hear the SAT/GPA/Class Rank speech. She was fine in all those areas. Then we broke up into a tour group. We went with the Poly Sci guy and he was great. He was excited and as he toured us around the campus, kids would wave and say hi to him. In fact, one of his profs stopped by and talked to us and answered questions. I thought that was a nice touch. It made me think that my daughter would not just be a "number" there. Kids were all over the common area, throwing frisbee, sitting in groups, playing football - noticeably different from the morose feeling we had earlier at JHU.
The problem with the tour was we didn't get to go into a dorm or food area. My d also was not fond of having to take a theology class so she asked about religious tolerance. She was assured that they have many different religions on campus and that the jesuits are not biased against those who do not believe as they do. The tour guide said how boring the class discussions would be if everyone agreed with the profs so everyone is free to speak. She was relieved about that and to her that was a major hurdle.
She is attending in the fall in the School of Foreign Service. We went to the April orientation program for accepted students. It was wonderful. Very organized and impressive. I think they wanted to increase their yeild bc we were treated royally compared to the program for perspective students. She chose to attend a latin class and after the class the prof walked her to the next organized meeting for SFS students. She was impressed that he took the time to answer her questions as they walked. The other good thing is that the campus is compact. You can get to any class in 5 minutes. The upperclass dorms are those that overlook the river - beautiful setting. We also attended a philodemic society debate (she is planning on debating). Wow, really impressive. Internships abound - one tourguide said he worked as in intern for Hillary Clinton, then the next year did an internship at a conservative group and after the two of those he is now working for a bipartisan group! LOL

There are some good and bad things about every school but it all depends what your child wants out of the school. Sorry this is so long but I thought I would add my experiences for another perspective.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 07:59 pm: Edit

Although my son was more positive about G-town last year than this, I still think he has to investigate his concerns further...I will say. He was very positive about the students he met, the professors, etc. However, the one girl he spoke with the most told him there was big money spent on basketball, at the expense of other extracurriculars- this was his stickiest issue..and like you say, there are good and bad points to every school!

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 08:33 pm: Edit

About college visits and seeing unhappy students.
Take into account whether your visit coincides with midterms and papers's due dates. It can have a huge effect on students'moods. If you arrive when students are having midterms right after visiting another college where either the students do not have midterms or already have had theirs, it may give a totally different impression of students' attitudes and their levels of stress, level of difficulty of the courses, etc...

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 08:47 pm: Edit

We never seemed to learn really alot except when my d. did overnights and students let their hair down. Then little differences, often just barely glimpsed in the organized tours and classes, became magnified greatly.

Of course, one can hit the atypical day, or atypical dorm, or the special food night....sigh. But my d. felt strongly she got a better picture that way.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 10:20 pm: Edit

When my older son received college acceptances last March and had to decide between 6 schools (it came down to 2) he had seen 9 months earlier for 3-4 hours each, I certainly wished I could just put him on a plane (for 24 hours!) to get a refreshed and broader view. It is very hard to gauge much during the summer visits, and too easy to be influenced by beautiful weather, articulate or humorous tour guides, or cranky Adcom people given the "blitz" approach we have had to take. We have just assumed the posture that if a school has something they want us to know about in a broad sense, we will give them a morning or afternoon to do it...and go from there! Less than ideal, surely, but better than nothing I guess!

By Cheers (Cheers) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 01:38 am: Edit

Word to the wise on the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown:

Check out the archived posts from CC kids who got in last year. Admitted SFS applicants were "off the charts" in GPA, SAT, multiple languages, phenomenal EC's.

Be warned. SFS is as hard or harder to get into than HYP--and Brown. Love to know the SFS acceptance rates.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 02:48 am: Edit

The statistics are daunting, no doubt. Plus, it bothers me that the school (Georgetown) seems so rigid about movement between their individual schools(from the information session as I recall is it less flexible than virtually any other school which operates this way that we saw). I think my son knows his interests fairly well at this point, but he is only 16 1/2 after all! What I thought most interesting (though I don;t remember the exact statistic) was that it seemed a very low percentage of SFS grads actually went into Foreign Service. Of course, getting into the Foreign Service is no picnic either.

By Patient (Patient) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 03:13 am: Edit

Robyrm...thanks so much for your descriptions, they are wonderful. And what energy it has taken you to do all of this visiting and reporting.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 05:34 am: Edit

My boys (and a few friends) made fun of the pre-organization that I did for all the visits- but mostly they made fun of my laminating the final schedule! It was my way to tell myself- enough is enough! My son and I had fun on long rides developing our idea of the school mottos as well...for another day!

By Clipper (Clipper) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 08:22 am: Edit

Robyrm - I did not know that GU was inflexible about moving from one college to another. I do know that it is extremely hard to get into SFS as a transfer (and hard to get in as a freshman too). I think it is because of the speciality of their programs. They have set requirements for 1st and 2nd years unless you test out of some of them - the exception being the theology class (no APs for that!). They are very strict on their language requirement - you must be fluent and not just travel fluent. They want you to know how to conduct business in that language - for example, if you need to buy plutonium undercover you need to know that, not just how to say where is the bathroom. They stressed the language requirement at the accepted students orientation. Also at the orientation they said many kids go into international corporations, banking, law school (they have a very high acceptance rate to law school - another reason my D chose SFS), and some government service. When she was deciding between the Echols Scholars program at UVA and GU, the dean at UVA said that GU was more hands on learning and theirs was more book learning. That also appealed to my D. Another thing, after dealing with the state of VA and the trials and tribulations of getting courses my other D needed to graduate in 4 years, GU students have no problem getting into the classes they want. That was especially important to my H and I bc my D wants to graduate in 3 years rather than 4 so that will save us the big bucks. GU also offers students who have a certain gpa automatic admittance into law school. They have 5th year masters programs too.

Cheeers - Yes, it is difficult to get into GU - we noticed that they are really big on class rank. You can have the scores but if your class rank isn't way up there you don't get in. In my d's IB class, 6 kids applied and only 2 got in. One was a national merit with stellar credentials but he was out of the top 10% (which at a normal high school he would have been val or pretty close to it). He applied to the college not SFS. I was really surprised that the others didn't make it in bc they were in the top 7% and had great scores ec's etc.

About the extracurriculars - my daughter is going to be on the debate team which, according to the coach, is the only funded academic team on campus. They are given money to travel to competitions by the university. She is also going to be in the International Relations club which seems to be very big there and the Philodemic Debate Society which is a group of debaters who meet to debate but do not want to be on the official debate team. She will see what else interests her. She is not an artsy person nor does she care about sports so that is why GU was a good choice for her.

Exciting times! Sorry this is so long again!

By Kissy (Kissy) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:00 am: Edit

Wow, Robyrm- the planning and energy that went into your college trip is daunting at best! Reading some of your impressions made me laugh, esp. the one about the Brandeis alumna. I think we've all experienced that at one school or another!

By Patient (Patient) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:30 am: Edit

Robyrm...don't know how long you've been on college confidential, but if not long, you might enjoy this thread along with the made-up school mottos if that was what you were suggesting above:

(If the link doesn't work, it is "How many students does it take to change a lightbulb?" in the March 2004 College Search and Selection archive). Your boys might enjoy it. My son loved it and printed it out to take to share with friends at school.

By Quink (Quink) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 11:43 am: Edit

JHU is a very high-powered place - so far, in 9 visits, its programs, professionalism, and student body have impressed my son the most - for him, it is way ahead of the two top LACs he visited.

The JHU kids he met were all ful of energy, academic stars, confident, and into everything. He will probably apply - will be visiting HYB, MIT, and Chicago, so we'll see where JHU ends up in his final lineup.

By Momof2inca (Momof2inca) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 03:04 pm: Edit

Clipper and Robynm- Thanks for the reflections on GW and G-town. Our son will apply to the college at G-town, not SFS. He's interested in domestic politics and government. The class rank issue worries me a bit. He's in the top 10% and might make top 5% by mid semester of senior year (competitive magnet high school ranked in top 10% of California high schools). His unweighted college classes bring him down in GPA and class rank,plus until junior year he didn't have straight-A's. But he will be a National Merit semi-finalist and has some good ECs, leadership and an unusual (national) award in his area of interest. We'll be visiting five colleges in October just in time to decide if he will apply early, though for G-town I've read that it doesn't lend an advantage statistically to do so.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 03:27 pm: Edit

Don't think this applies to the SFS so much, but another Gtown factor to consider is its leading position as the best Catholic University in the US. The adcom, rightly so, rewards Catholic high school applicants--especially Jesuit-educated applicants. That's my observation.

They want diversity but they are under HUGE pressure from Rome to maintain a Catholic university, ie they take 22% but a higher percentage are from Catholic schools. Applicants from non-Catholic schools need a 4.0 GPA.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:29 pm: Edit

Clipper and Quink,
There is no doubt that the whole process is influenced by many variables...Kids are especially lucky if they can see the school life "in action", which is not an option for us. Appreciate the input.

Looking forward to reading the mottos- glad to hear we are not the only ones who play this game!

My 10 easy rules for crazy college tour planning:
1. Always fly or drive east to west, not the other way around...make the time zones work for you!
2. Always plan each visit(including interviews), laminate your schedule, and then be ready to ditch if the spirit moves you (there are 2 schools we were meant to see but didn't!!)
3. Whenever possible, make sure the tourguide is an upperclassperson
4. Travel very light- we mailed packages containing college material back to our mailing address every 2-3 days...definitely avoid checked luggage. I even tore up the copy of Fiske Guide we had and we only carried the pages we needed!
5. Immediately record impressions in a set place, and then "rerank" the schools periodically- this helped us a lot.
6. Eat real food whenever possible.
7. Do not time your visits to coincide with the Democratic National Convention, for example!!
8. Indulge child's musical tastes between visits-my son was careful to air the most tasteful "skaa" music he had, but we also heard mellow stuff like "Buddha Bar" and Cafe Del Mar
9. Keep your child's style in mind...my first son is a high threshold kid- easy going, nothing bothers him- I had to really cue him in to get him to look carefully at the schools (especially the first few)...second son is more intense and needed to kick back more during the trip
10. Plan something very fun for the last night..you deserve it!

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 09:31 am: Edit

Cheers, I know some kids who are at GT without a 4.0 and without perfect SAT scores, not from catholic schools and not catholic. My understanding is that it does not take religion into consideration, however, the applicant pool is self selecting, though not as much as other catholic colleges where the pool could be nearly all catholic.

Having said the above, it is not quite true that the religious element is not taken into consideration as the adcoms have strong ties to many "feeder" catholic schools and just as there is an advantage for certain prep schools to have this relationship with colleges, so it is with GT. But there is no catholic quota as there are often definite in-state quotas for some state universities. I am sure if the school became overwhelmingly non catholic, there might be some steps taken to rectify the situation, but right now there is not that issue.

I have found that with schools like BC, Villanova, Notre Dame and GT, there is a reluctance for some families and kids who have a strong religious connection to another religion, or who are adament about separating church and school, to consider them even if the schools fit well in nearly every way. At least 8 incidents of this sort occurred this year, and this is consistent with my experience annually. There is the same aversion to single sex schools and to schools that have recently turned coed that were all female. Some Christian colleges and schools with a connection with some religion are also eyed warily--Brandeis is one that I get comments on. The Quaker based schools do not seem to attract this mentality, however. Just some observations on my part.

But I can assure you that many, many of the kids who end up in any of these schools have great experiences there.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 09:46 am: Edit


I suspect the pressure from the Vatican is more on the faculty than on the students. A famous GT alum: Bill Clinton.

This reminds me of another possibility, if you are willing to consider Catholic colleges: Holy Cross. It's easier than BC to get into and definitely a sports-oriented college and it also has good academics. I don't know about its poli sci department, though. Close by is Clark which has the same profile but does not seem to me to be as sports-oriented.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 01:24 pm: Edit

Like the nutshells ... agree with comments about Brown, Wesleyan, and Amherst (based on tour in Spring of 2002).

Also, I wouldn't be put off too much by JHU's poor info session, if your child liked the school. It's academically very tough, though. (disclaimer -- I was a student there).

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 01:37 pm: Edit

We were eager to like Hopkins- it is close to family, great programs in son's area of interest, good friend going into Sophomore year... but it was just "flat" overall and the housing and neighborhood situation did nothing to enhance the perception that it wouldn't be a balanced place to go to school. Nothing clicked..which we were sorry about!!

As an aside, they also seemed unusually eager to get applicants, similar to our experience with Wash U in St Louis but not as aggressive. There was much talk about a huge bump in SAT's in the incoming class (son's scores are still fine)..I think ((just a conjecture)) they are not happy with the Fiske guide rating (4 1/2 for academics) or maybe other ratings, and they are doing all they can to impact variables (like yield, SAT's) that might influence these...I just wonder.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 02:51 pm: Edit

Interesting ... I have to say that I was not happy at JHU myself, but that was 20+ years ago and may have been due more to me and less to JHU.

I imagine they have a yield problem (don't really know) since they may well be a common backup to HYP-type schools. Also, they have had a bad reputation for undergraduate life. Part of this is due to the extremely tough academics, also grade deflation compared to other schools. I'm surprised they didn't get 5 stars for academics -- any idea why? Makes you wonder about the Fiske guide...

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 03:18 pm: Edit

Really, no idea about the Fiske guide but I am guessing it is impacting them on the admissions front (we'll get those 5 stars-or whatever they are- we'll show them!)...I don't know enough about the school to really comment as to what might be factoring into the rating. It certainly seems to have the aura of a 5 star academic place!

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