Monday, August 16, 2010
Prepare for college visits, then take tour
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw --We are going to New York and Boston to visit Columbia, Harvard, and MIT this fall while classes are in session. We have already visited Notre Dame, Purdue, Ball State and Butler.
We would appreciate any advice you'd like to provide on things we should look for during our visits. -- A busy parent
Dear Busy Parent -- Before you start the pilgrimage, I have some suggestions that will save you time and money.
First, do your homework. Forget the walking tour and go online and take a virtual tour of the campus to see the buildings and the physical layout of the university.
Next, log on to the campus student newspaper. They usually have the crime figures on campus and other information that you won't find in the admissions office. The student newspaper is also one of the best places to get a feel for the nuts and bolts of campus life -- social, cultural, political and job recruiting.
Once you've done your pre-campus research, you might want to pare down that list of colleges.
Forget about visiting more than two colleges in any one day. Unless the colleges are within a short driving distance of each other, it is almost impossible to glean much useful information on a blitzkrieg tour.
I would start by contacting a current student -- preferably one from your hometown. Tell him you would like to visit the campus and have him give you a guided tour. Inform him that a swanky steak dinner awaits the lucky guide. (Students are always hungry.) Ask him to bring along a friend for company. That way you get an added point of view. They will tell you all you need to know, plus a few things parents never heard about.
If you visit the admissions office, lay it on them hard. Ask them about the quality of science programs, grad school prospects, percentages of graduates who go on to professional schools -- law, business, medical -- and have them name those schools. If they don't have the numbers, that will tell you something in itself -- that they don't track the most important data on their graduates.
Set up a meeting with a noted professor in your field of interest. Call the department secretary for assistance.
When you get home, use the Internet to Google and find a review or summary of the books being assigned and do a background check on the professor -- is he left-wing or right-wing in his social and political views? (You want an "A," don't you?)
You can also get a feel for his biases by the information on his vita and a list of papers and books he has published. That will be on the biography page of the university website. The more you know about the professor, the greater your chances are of getting a better grade.
Smart kids from rich prep schools already know how to game the system and arrive on campus with an edge. Public school kids need to start thinking about the politics of education in addition to their normal studies. Doing your homework before starting your tour means you will know what to look for when visiting the campus.
Doing your follow-up homework when you return home means that no matter where you decide to attend college, you will have the advantage.