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Oregon Family Magazine

Sally’s Guide to Picking a College

08/06/2015 ● By Sandy Kauten
Next year at this time, my daughter Sally expects to be packing for college. But first she must find the right one. Assisting in her quest, I’ve learned plenty about the selection process. Enough, anyway, to write “Sally’s Ten-Point Guide to Picking a College.”

1. Don’t take your parents’ advice too seriously. Yes, they have experience, but it only confused them. You’re better off figuring things out for yourself.

2. Rule out any college whose sweat shirt is worn by someone you don’t respect. For example, how could a school like Tulane University call itself “selective” when it lets a creep like Molly Borborigmus wear its sweat shirt practically every day?

3. Consider the school colors. You’re going to be looking at them and wearing them for four years and maybe longer. Wouldn’t you prefer hues that bring out the color of your eyes? Orange and blue? Purple and gold? What was the thought-process!? My color is basically aqua, but with a little more blue and a little less green, so my college search is extra-hard.

4. Some colleges have names that sound like a disease (Ursinus College for example) or sound silly (like Muhlenberg or Millsaps). You just don’t need that. Go somewhere else.

5. Don’t worry about how high tuition is.

That’s just the asking price. There are tons of face-saving ways they can knock down the price. I know kids whose main qualification is that their butts would fit into classroom chairs, and the admissions people are saying, “Hey! You qualify for the $4,000 Trustees’ Warm-Body Award and another $2,000 from the Chancellor’s Clean-Plate Club.”

State college costs about half of what a private school costs, and community college is almost free. But living at home is unthinkable, and so is living in a dorm with cinderblock walls. Be sensible; put in your four years at someplace really nice. After all, it’s only money.

Besides, if your parents are like mine, they could use a kick in the pants. My dad has been coasting along in the same low-paying job for nine years with no sign of ambition or enterprise. My mom only works three or four days a week. Hello? Wake up! Does the word “potential” apply to anyone over the age of 18?

6. Visit the dining hall. Your high school guidance counselor won’t tell you about the “freshman fifteen.” That’s the poundage a lot of kids pack on their first year of college. You want a school that has a really good salad bar. Stanford? Princeton? Whatever. You don’t want to be waddling home at Thanksgiving fat as a turkey. This issue is a deal-breaker.

7. Visit the school’s web site and get their brochures. Look at the kids in the pictures. Not just the guys. Go in-depth. Look at the girls, too. Can you see yourself hanging out with any of them? Yes, these kids were hand-picked by the administration to be in the pictures, but they have to be real students, don’t they?

8. Get a friend to apply to the same college. What’s more important than friendship? What if you get to college and fail to befriend the cool kids in the brochures? You’ll be glad of the buddy system. Plus you’ll be able to find a ride home for holidays (unless you’ve found someplace more exciting to go -- as I intend to).

9. Conversely, find out if anyone you dislike from your high school is going to the college of your choice. Maybe one slightly objectionable person would be OK if the college is really huge. But you don’t want to be walking across campus and think you are suddenly back in C-Corridor of your old high school jostling your way through the same crowd of geeks, freaks, dorks, dunces and blowhards. Also, think twice about a college that would accept such inappropriate people.

10. One last thing: Check to see if the college teaches the subjects you’re interested in. (That’s if you are desperately needy knowledge-wise. But if you’re already smart – like me – don’t obsess over it. For us, college is not about curriculum; it’s about lifestyle.)

Rick can be reached at [email protected]
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