College Tour Fatigue

17 May

My eyes glazed over as the chatter of words from the undergraduate tour guide registered as “blah, blah, blah,” to my tired brain.  It was spring break and we were on yet another campus.  If this is Tuesday, we must be…where?  Not for the first time it has occurred to me that maybe we were overdoing this college visiting, and now my cerebral faculties were in an imminent state of meltdown.

I couldn’t distinguish among the colleges anymore.  They were starting to look alike with their similar architecture: collegiate gothic, Georgian redbrick, modern glass-and-steel, quads, greens.  Sometimes I get a tingling sense of déjà vu when driving to a college because so many of them are located in poor neighborhoods where they share an uneasy relationship with the locals.

If you attend enough information sessions, they start to sound the same too.  They promise personal attention with low student to faculty ratios, caring and accessible faculty members and advisers, opportunities to do exciting research as an undergraduate, a vibrant campus life, and student organizations to suit every obscure interest.  (Quidditch.  Really.)  And along the way they also promise to provide your child with a rigorous education.

These colleges all seem to want the same type of students: engaged, passionate, intellectually curious, those who have challenged themselves with the most demanding courses in their high school, and who have demonstrated leadership abilities.

Blah, blah, blah.

Before I completely degenerate into jadedness, it’s time to take a step back.

There is no perfect college.  Like all organizations run by flawed humans, each college or university has drawbacks.  Some are too big, some are too small, some are too difficult to get into, some are bureaucratic, some don’t offer the right academic programs, all are jaw-droppingly expensive, the list goes on.

Where to attend college is a big decision and deserves our careful attention.  As application time draws nearer, this process is taking on a growing momentum of its own that sometimes it feels like it is the biggest decision in my daughter’s life.  And of course I know from my solidly middle-aged perspective that it is not.  Other decisions in life will have greater impact: whether and whom to marry, whether to have children, whether and how to live life with integrity and faith.

If anything, touring around two-dozen colleges has convinced me that many, many colleges can and will provide a first rate education.  So as I cling to my belief that my daughter can and will end up at a college that’s suitable for her, I slowly focus my attention back to the tour guide.

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3 Responses to “College Tour Fatigue”

  1. Carol May 17, 2011 at 12:23 PM #

    What a great post and perspective!

    Though I am about 6 years away from embarking on this journey with my first born, I hope to remember your words when that time comes. And, I suppose it is never too early (or too late) to be praying about this decision.

    Thanks, Wanchee!
    Carol

  2. Seth & Cary May 17, 2011 at 1:54 PM #

    In the New York Diamond District, appraisers cope with ‘diamond blindness,’- fatigue that makes good and mediocre diamonds indistinguishable. So they have to take regularly scheduled breaks to reset their faculties. And speaking of resetting faculties, the NYTimes op-ed Sunday, “My So Called Education,” warns that there can a con game afoot with these beautiful colleges, which increasingly offer less genuine intellectual growth than they promise. Let the buyer beware. But I’m confident your daughter is already a diamond, and will be an even brighter one whatever choice she makes, as your thoughtful entry nicely expresses. Well done, Wanchee.

    Seth

  3. Karen Brauer May 18, 2011 at 5:36 AM #

    Like ‘diamond blindness’, i have had that same feeling you describe at art museums and looking at houses for sale here in Dublin – where literally all houses had the same floor plan! I know you’re coming to the end or your explorations, so my suggestion may not be possible. But i would like to hear your review of small Christian colleges, particularly, Covenant College on Lookout Mountain. Alas, my daughter no longer works there to give you a tour.
    We visited with Jojo and though we already had kids who attend there, it was refreshing to hear their perspective which emphasized the student’s spirit as well as intellect. I believe it is their aim to make Christ pre-eminent and not neglect the integrity of a Christian worldview. (This never ceases to amaze me, as I can recall no such interest in maturing my thinking process toward faith during my university experiences. I often experienced a challenge to all my previous ways of thinking, which oddly enough, made me desperate for a solid grounding in relationship to God.)
    Perhaps Christian colleges would start sounding the same as well. However, our three who attended there have really been helped in their maturity by a very caring community of staff as well as students. So it could be a worthwhile visit. Plus Chattanooga & Nashville are really fun cities!

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