February 24, 2007

College Merchandising

My 10th grader took the PSAT, the practice college entrance exam, aced the English and did well on the math. She hasn't thought much about colleges, and up to now hasn't wanted to do so, or even to visit campuses we come across in our travels.

Since the scores came out, it's like Christmas in our mailbox, except the mail's not from Land's End or L.L.Bean. Colleges great and small, ones I've heard of and ones I haven't, are deluging her with mail.

All this effort can't be cheap. Many of these outfits are located far from us, and they must send out hundreds of packages for each response. Some are sending emails instead, which is probably wise in our computer-obsessed age.

Many parents in our BoBo town obsess on the college entrance process, as if little Ashley and Todd will repine in ignorance and poverty if they don't get into the University of Wherever. It seems that in reality the colleges are afraid they'll die on the vine, or at least drop in the U.S. News ratings if they don't recruit students with high scores. We need to sharpen our bargaining skills and get them to offer major discounts (called scholarships) from their list prices (pretty much like those for appliances). We also need to turn on our beyessometers (just made that up) to cut through the pretty pictures and platitudes on the promotional literature.

Resort ads always show smiling people waving from golf courses or beaches. Sometimes the toilets are backed up, the food makes you sick, your room is next to an elevator, and the mosquitoes eat you alive. At some colleges, no doubt, the dorms are ratty, half the students are on suicide watch and the other half perpetually drunk, the professors are horny communist drug addicts, the classes in the semiotics of punk rock are taught by shy Chinese graduate students who speak no English, or all of the above. The problem is to figure out which ones.

I wonder if there's college equivalent of Priceline where you can make a last-minute deal, say in August just before freshman classes start, for four years all expenses paid, breakfast and greens fees included, plus use of a late-model car.


1 comment:

TK said...

Brilliant! Let me know when you find it...