I don’t know if you’ve gathered from what I post lately, but I’m doing a ton of research on college admissions for my thesis. Running through some newspaper articles tonight on Factiva, I came across this gem of a piece describing one family’s perception of Wesleyan that, while printed over a month ago, is just too hilarious not to post:
By the time we get to Wesleyan, it’s so hot that we may as well be in Louisiana, and we’re happy to discover that the admissions office offers bottles of chilled water, with its own Wesleyan label.
Not surprisingly, the admissions office, like those of other colleges we’ve visited, is filled with people who seem, more or less, just like us, trailing kids who seem, more or less, like Sam. There are slightly rumpled couples wearing sandals — with very little in the way of makeup on the women, lots of Eddie Bauer for the men — and boys and girls in various stages of nerves and excitement. Everyone radiates a kind of hopeful, earnest sameness.
But we’re early — by almost two hours — so rather than sit and study the other families, we scoop up our bottles of Wesleyan water and head out for a self-guided tour. This, of course, is different from a guided tour, because on it, you get no facts and figures about small classes, flexible programs of study, cooperative dorm living, sports, modern dance concerts, vegetarian and/or kosher cafeteria alternatives, or chemistry labs. Sam is particularly interested in seeing the library.
“How big is this place, anyway?” he says. “How hard could it be just to find one stupid building?”
“I don’t think I even considered applying here,” Stuart says.
“My friend Amy went here and loved it,” I say. “I remember visiting her once . . .”
“You’ve told me this story, like, a thousand times before,” Sam says.
” . . . and the food was so amazingly good. I’ll never forget that.”
“Who cares about the food?”
“You will,” I tell him. “You’ll care about the food.”
And so it goes, until we decide, grumpily, if unanimously, to walk down the hill in the direction of Middletown proper for lunch. Where, once again, there are all these people who look like they might live in Berkeley, or the Upper West Side of Manhattan: people in Birkenstocks, the New York Times tucked under their arms; women with big silver jewelry, carrying notebooks and pens; teenagers so tall and good-looking that you wonder if maybe you’ve seen them before, perhaps in a movie . . .
Sam, picking up on social nuances, is glancing around nervously, and biting his lower lip. Perhaps he’s thinking, as I am, that the other kids here, in addition to having a certain quality of East Coast suave that Sam, with his Deep South upbringing, clearly lacks, also have SAT math scores superior to his. Especially the kid whose family, sitting just behind us, is vigorously debating the relative merits of MIT versus Caltech.