Sunday, July 5, 2009

Is Traveling To Colleges the New Family Vacation? Let's Hope Not

In today's Los Angeles Times, Bruce Poch, Pomona's dean of admission was quoted as saying the following.

"Campus tours are the new family vacation." AND

"They're just trying to see if they have that gut reaction," Poch said.

Well, are they the "new family vacation"? And doesn't this strike anyone else has kind of an expensive way to find the "gut reaction"?

I hadn't even visited L.A. County before I came out to Claremont McKenna a few days before classes began. I bought a one way ticket -- $120 on American Airlines -- from Boston to LA. And even though my parents couldn't afford the trips all over the country, I'm less than convinced it's a good proxy for discovering if the college is right for you.

Bruce Poch calls it a "gut feeling," but you shouldn't base an investment in human capital on a first impression with the campus tour guide. How silly is that? And yet because they lack information, some families and prospective students do just that.

For starters, many of the people who do college tours tend to be dreadfully boring. Some of them just parrot the commonalities of the college that you can find off the website or elsewhere. But if the campus tour were really that powerful, don't you think that the colleges would pay their students more money (or any money, as the case might be) to provide a truly excellent tour experience?

Unlike the controversial and amazing Hahvahd tours, which actually teach something to those who take the tour, there isn't exactly a market for Claremont College history tours and so its incumbent upon the college to provide as much information, as truthfully as possible. In my honest estimation, people should learn about Kerri Dunn, the white party-fiasco, and David and Kyle getting banned from Pomona before they decide to invest in higher education in Claremont. I have sought to fill that market niche with this blog and oftentimes receive emails from prospective students asking for advice about the Claremont Colleges. I try to give them as unbiased a perspective as possible.

How did I make the decision to come to CMC? I did something that I recommend a whole lot more than going through the dog and pony show of school websites and school tours. I contacted the professors from the department in which I planned to study and asked if there were any books that they would recommend for me to read -- and then I read them all and asked them questions about them. I used Facebook to find the clubs I thought I might want to join and then contacted their leaders and asked questions. Only then did I make my determination that CMC was the school for me.

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