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The Point: Thinking back to college visits

Published: April 11, 2008
Section: Opinions


Spring has sprung, which means that the Brandeis campus is filled with sprightly prospective students, coming from as far away as Westchester and Newton to tour our concrete paths. For most of us, seeing “prospies” is a painful experience—we see ourselves reflected in their pasty faces and beady eyes and we know that we are going to hate them when they inevitably enroll.

But think back to when you were applying to colleges. I know that some of you had been building an alter to Harvard and Yale since you were thirteen and that your mom had to talk you off the roof of the library after you didn’t get in, but for some of you, it was probably a more confusing process. I remember that I treated the whole ordeal pretty blithely until the eleventh hour, which is probably why I ended up at Stalag Brandeis. There’s a lot of pressure on kids to make the right choice—more than make the right choice, to be the right way, so you can get into the right college.

To an extent, that’s understandable. You invest a lot of time and money into your undergraduate education and your degree is theoretically important to your future career. But, at the same time, isn’t it kind of your right as a seventeen-year-old to treat everything blithely? Why do you have to invest so much of yourself in this decision, especially when it so dramatically favors the colleges and universities?

I personally only visited two colleges (one of them was Brandeis) before I applied. It just didn’t seem worth it to visit more—despite the myriad advice people had been giving me since I was in eighth grade, I didn’t know what to look for and I didn’t think following a “poly-sci” major named Deirdre around a strange campus was going to give me any direction. Everybody knows that campus representatives just lie to you, anyway. After I got into a liberal-arts college in Manhattan, they had a student call me and ask if I had any questions. I asked what I was genuinely curious about—which was whether they had a lot of cocaine on campus—and she got totally confused and said no, even though this school was notoriously coked-out.

Part of the problem is that colleges are desperate to project an image that will appeal to prospective students, but that desire is mostly rooted in the desire for more money and prestige. Look at the newly remodeled Brandeis website, which boasts that the school is the “Smart Choice!” because of our new science complex and the fact that our researchers invented a certain delicious buttery spread. It reads like an advertisement for a tangible product, not an informational website for an institution of learning. If you don’t level with the kids, you’re only helping to perpetuate the culture of stress and exploitation that comes along with higher education in the United States.

I don’t know how we can shift the power so our educational resources are equitable and open to more people, but I think debunking the glamour and needless exclusivity that universities are trying to create is a good start. I commend the kids who recently formed a drum circle and yelled, “Don’t come here! Brandeis is racist!” to passing tour groups. That’s the right idea—don’t let the fascists gloss anything over, man.