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How prospies think

Published: April 15, 2011
Section: Opinions


Monday was Admitted Students Day, a time when hundreds of high school seniors descend upon campus to learn about our university. They eat our food, sit in on our classes, meet our administrators and club leaders, and even sleep in our dorms.

They arrive as early as 9 a.m., they stay awhile and by 2 p.m. they leave us, driving away with their parents and siblings, pausing only momentarily on the way out to yield to a stopped commuter rail train.

We were all prospective students once, some more recently than others no doubt. We all read the pamphlets and clicked through the outdated admissions website. We asked questions: Which APs count for credit? What do you do for fun on the weekends? How is the food?

For prospective students, everything is a comparison. Of course, there are those lucky students who visited just one school, applied early decision and never thought of going anywhere else. But for most, Brandeis was one of a few choices and there was a tangible reason to choose to come to sunny Waltham.

I hosted three prospective students on Sunday night, and I found this perspective to be refreshing. We were on our way to see “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and we were discussing clubs at Brandeis. At another college in Oregon, one student explained, the clubs are designed to give free food to students who are studying in different academic departments.

Free food? “I wish they gave us free food,” I said.

But that wasn’t his point. Yeah, he said, they give you food, but the clubs are all about studying. That’s too serious. Everyone just studies.

Later, we were discussing housing, and I mentioned that, living in Ziv, we unfortunately live in the shadows of The Village and Ridgewood, two really nice new dorms that I will never have the chance to call my home.

But that’s alright, one of the prospective students said. A dorm is just a place you live in for a while, but the people and the campus make up for it.

As matriculated students at Brandeis, we no longer have the luxury of choice. But that does not mean we should not focus on all the great things Brandeis has to offer.

The prospective students who stayed in my dorm were dismayed that we don’t have a pool but were excited to hear progress had been made. They were completely confused by the dining program but that wasn’t a top concern. They wished we were closer to Boston but, hey, if you can hear the commuter rail running every hour, we can’t be that far away, right?

Prospective students aren’t much younger than us, but they look to us for insight. When they come to campus, they have questions and we have answers and that forms an instant bond of friendship.

Despite the age gap, we too have much to learn from them. That we should expect more from our school but be positive about what is here. That we should expect Brandeis to maintain services and studies that either exceed or are on-par with other similar institutions but that all schools have their faults, their quirks. That compared with prospective students from high schools in places like California where cut backs have ended theater, sports, after-school activities and advanced courses, Brandeis has braved the worst recession since the Great Depression and we still have all the art in our museum.

And perhaps most importantly, the applications to Brandeis keep rolling in. For whatever reason, high school seniors want to come to Brandeis. It wouldn’t hurt to think like them.