Thursday, May 27, 2010

Keeping College Visits Straight

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NBC's Ann Curry confused Wheaton College in Massachussetts, where she gave the commencement address, with Wheaton College in Illinois. How embarrassing! However, the consequences are worse when the confusion happens on a college application. Believe it or not it is easy to confuse colleges, since there are many with similar names. For example, there is a Wesleyan University in CT, a Roberts Wesleyan College in NY, and an Ohio Wesleyan University in OH. There is a Cornell College in IA and a Cornell University in NY. There is a Washington College in MD and a Washington University in MO. You see what I mean.

Students sometimes get universities mixed up when they visit several in a row. After a few visits, the universities all blend together especially their similar features such as blue light security stations. It is important to remember the unique programs and facilities of each college for later applications. I visit over 30 colleges per year and I need to keep their features straight in order to help my students. Here are some of the strategies I use.

I take notes. I take pictures. I may even sketch a unique feature. I also find that talking to students helps especially when they share funny stories. At the end of the day, I review my notes and put them into a spread sheet. Different strategies work for different people. You may think you can remember it all but you would be amazed how the details blur and even vanish with time.

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