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The Other Side of College Campus Tour 3

 The Other Side of College Campus Tour 3

By James H. Choi
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Continued from:

The Other Side of College Campus Tour 1

The Other Side of College Campus Tour 2

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/6378458/Column/Graphics/campustour.jpg9. College criteria students should be looking at are rarely found in campus tours — and they’re often misunderstood anyway.

As for the valuable university details, which sometimes slip into tours and upon which students should be basing their college choices — assuming they have any choices — students hardly ever understand the meaning of the terms used.  They are simply not likely to understand terms such as “faculty-to-student ratio,” “faculty availability,” or “undergraduate research opportunity.”

Therefore, during a campus tour while all this hard-to-internalize information is being thrown at them, students are of course likely to be daydreaming about that gift shop that awaits them at the end of the tour. (One student I took to a tour thought “undergraduate” meant an “underachiever” or someone on academic probation, and a “graduate” was someone she could be if she behaved appropriately at college.  For her, the admissions officer who kept discussing admission requirements for “undergraduates” wasn’t saying anything meaningful to her. There’s a snapshot of the campus tour scene for you.)

10. Campus tours are not “tours.” They are not “family vacations.” They are “missions.”

The college tour is a singularly stressful experience.  Many students guided by their parents are in un-cheerful moods because they’d rather be on real vacation. Trips often correspond with weekends or school breaks which reminds them that they should be having real fun that they are entitled to.  If they visit campuses in a peer group (which is how I take them), their mood is significantly better because they can ignore the tour more easily.  Their favorite time is at night at the hotel.  As their guide, I’ve had to quiet students down, break up their games, and get them to sleep on time to make sure they can wake up the next day to arrive on time at the next university — all to get to the next information session that they don’t care for.  In other words, I managed to foul up their mood.

If you go as a family, this type of tour exerts a great deal of stress to the family.  In no other vacation does a family cover so much distance in so little time while under so much time pressure.  Finding parking space in a new city under time pressure alone is enough to let the crack show.  Parents also discover that the only active interest their students show on any college campus is the gift shop.

Families must not approach the campus tour as a “tour” or a “vacation” but rather as a “mission.” This is “work” with a specific goal, which in the end is likely futile because a tour’s goal is supposed to be to help a student decide what school to attend, but the choice might likely never exist.


11. Wrong questions, wrong goals

What high school students should be thinking and deciding is what their career is going to be.  College is a stepping stone to reach that career goal.  If one can’t pinpoint a career, how does one then choose the best school for obtaining it?

But that’s a difficult question for anyone, especially for a high school student who still doesn’t have all the data.  Campus tours draw emphasis away from this salient and difficult question and substitute it for an easier but false one: “If  just need to focus on the vibe and comfort of the college, then your life will be fine.”

As many unemployed college graduates can attest, finishing college does not guarantee a thing.  To add to the insult, there are many high paying jobs/careers that go unfilled because the lack of qualified candidates.  Sometime, somewhere, somehow a massive number of students took a diverging path from these promising careers.  That fork in the road could have been the campus tour that blinded them from the real question.

12. The time and money spent visiting campuses could be better spent actually deciding and preparing for career.

College campus tour is not a magic and it will not solve any problems, i.e., it won’t work as a motivation tool, it won’t substitute as a career selection.

Yes, it is useful for those rare students who will have to choose among many admissions offers.  However, those students can do the tour AFTER they are admitted.  There are special gathering specifically for them offered by every college.  Our director Mrs. Monica Lee is a parent connector at MIT whose mission is to offer the inside information/story to those who are already accepted.  Thus, even for the top students, college tour before admission is not likely to change anything other than their closet filling up with college-branded apparels.

If you have money to spare, sure, college campus tour is as good as any other way to spend it.  However, if you are juggling a zero-sum budget, the time and the money can be better spent on exploring the real world to discover the career that would fit the student’s talent and interest.


Categories: College Campus Tour

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