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Teen Blogger: Outsmarting the College Salesmen

Hello, my name is Wei. (Before we go further, it’s important for you to know that it’s pronounced like “WAY.” I mean, how awkward would it be if you came up to me & called me “WEE”?) I’m a senior, a vegetarian, I read ALL THE TIME, I can lick my elbow, and I believe I am searching for a “Great Perhaps.”

A car salesman and a college tour guide are basically the same thing. They’re both trying to sell you something that’s ridiculously expensive. They’re going to show you the finer points of their wares while conveniently leaving what’s not so attractive by the wayside. Sometimes they’re bubbling with excitement to show you around. Sometimes they’re evasive. But they’re always trained in the art of selling. And there are always an overwhelming amount of them, each trying to sell you their car/college over the next guy’s.

Touring college campuses, like browsing car dealerships, should be done carefully. While everything should be taken in, it should also be done with a grain of salt. They’re a make-it-or-break-it type experience for a lot of people. You’re seeing where you could potentially be living the next few years of your young adult life. It’s scary, but it’s the most exciting feeling.

So, how do you cut through the half-truths and the pretty façade of these well-rehearsed salesmen to get to the heart of the matter to know what’s the best fit for you?

#1.) Visit as many campuses as you can. I have a lot of friends who have at current count, only visited one school. And then all they talk about is how much they love it and how it’s the school for them. But if you only visit one campus, how can you possibly know? It’s important to note that even if you don’t plan on going to College X, if you get a chance, visit anyway. Even if you hate it, you’ll realize what you don’t want which is at least a step better than not knowing what you want at all.

#2.) Visit with your parents. So, I know that the number one most appealing thing about getting a higher education is the fact that you can do it outside the vicinity of Mom and Dad, but seriously, think about it. It’s not just what you want, it’s what your family can afford. They should see the school that they’re sending their son/daughter to. They should see if it’s a good fit and if it’s worth the money. Plus, it’s good to get a second opinion. I mean, for the most part, they’re relatively wise. They got you this far, didn’t they?

#3.) Don’t fall for the little things. Tour guides are going to highlight the best parts such as the new renovations to the science lab, some famous band that just played on campus, the hundreds of sports and activities that they offer. That’s all great & good, but remember that every school has some award or unique feature, and all of them have clubs. Don’t fall for the little things like a Quidditch team (it’s tempting, I know); instead, look at the whole picture. What good is free Wi-fi if you’re too deep in the middle of nowhere that your phone doesn’t work? What’s the use of a new physics building if the professor still teaches like Prohibition is still a thing?

#4.) What you learn after the tour is just as useful as what you learn during it. Guides are only going to show you the best, biggest parts of campus. It might be a good idea after the tour to go walk around without a guide & try to find all the nooks and crannies and see if they have as much glimmer to them as what you saw on the tour. Also, eat in the main dining hall. Should this be the college you choose, you’ll be eating from there more often than not, so it’s good to get a sense of what kind of food you’ll be anticipating. Also, since the majority of the people there will be college kids, it’s a good idea to scope them out and try to get a feel if they’re the kind of people you want to spend the next few years with.

#5.) Make sure they know you’re coming. This should really go without saying, but schedule an appointment first. They need to know that you’re coming so that they can have a guide ready. Sometimes people will just take a look around by themselves, without the knowledge of the school. While that’s fine, it’s not really the most efficient way. Colleges keep records of all the students who visit them. When applying, if they see that you visited or met with an admissions counselor or in some way showed your interest in their school, they’ll know that you’re serious about wanting to attend. Basically, it will look better on your application.

If the last one went without saying, then this next one should go so much without saying that I’m not even going to list it as a tip: ASK QUESTIONS. Believe me, whatever it is, do not feel stupid. They have had sillier questions. Trust me.

I know it’s frightening, to do all these thing for your future when you’re not even sure what the future looks like. But it’s worth it.

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