Getting into a college is a different game now

Boolah, boolah


– College fight song refrain

Going to college has changed in the four-plus decades since I petitioned for admission and was accepted.

As the parent of a high school senior I am amazed at the brochures and letters my son seems to get almost daily from many of our state’s better academic institutions.

They show pictures of smiling, clean-cut young people either mugging for the camera or sitting quietly in a classroom and intently following a lecture. They brag about the college experience. They tout commitments to academics. They back it up with phone calls.

The other night a pleasant young woman from that fine school in Statesboro, Ga., rang the house to invite us to make a campus visit.

When I later asked my modest young scholar and his mother what was going on, they seemed surprised I didn’t know how the game is now played.

“Dad,” my son asked, “how did you get into college?”

“Well,” I told him, “I never took the SAT. The best I can recall, I sent a letter of application to the school president and letter of reference from my preacher, and they sent back a letter saying report for classes in September. It wasn’t very complicated.”

“You never took the SAT?” asked Einstein Jr., who has taken it often.

“Nope,” I said. “I hear it’s hard.”

What isn’t so hard these days are the pre-enrollment campus visits, something I never experienced.

You sign up or tell the college you’re coming and a personable student is assigned to take you around the school and answer questions.

They invariably like to show off the gymnasium and the lunchroom.

If they have new dormitories, they show you those, too. Some I saw last week looked like motel suites.

If you ask them about campus crime (a frequent question from my scholar’s mother), they will frown and say there isn’t very much.

If you ask them about their professors (a frequent question from my scholar’s father who had trouble with authority figures) they will smile and talk about caring and helpful instructors who keep in touch with frequent office conferences.

“Sounds like Hogwarts,” I’ll chime in with a Harry Potter reference, to show the young people that I’m not quite the fogey I seem.

They usually smile politely and hurry us along to the next stop.

OK, I know. Much of this college sales pitch is not about learning, it’s about money.

Colleges need students the way stores need customers or the way luxury car dealers need lottery winners.

Schools are out there marketing themselves the way everyone else does. I am not offended. That’s the way it is.

Or at least, that’s the opinion of a guy who never took the SAT.



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