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College admission is a marketing game

Marketplace Staff Mar 24, 2008
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College admission is a marketing game

Marketplace Staff Mar 24, 2008
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TEXT OF COMMENTARY

KAI RYSSDAL: There’s something to be said for taking an actual tour of the colleges your kid might be considering, but as of tomorrow there’ll be an easier way. CollegeWeekLive.com’s going to unveil the world’s largest virtual college fair. Prospective students will be able to chat online with current undergrads. More than 300 admissions counselors will be available, too.

Commentator and high school junior Morrisa Brenner says the whole admissions process is a strange game of chicken.


MORRISA BRENNER: A couple weeks ago I took the SAT. In another two months, it’s the Advanced Placement exams. Every test, every prep course, every aspect of my life is in service of a single, overriding question:

What else can I do to get into college?

And I’m not the only one. High school juniors nationwide are busy marketing themselves to colleges. Our goal, fine-tune our pitch to our target schools until it fits perfectly on the application.

Meanwhile, colleges are busy doing the exact same thing. They send us a seemingly endless stream of marketing materials: e-mails, brochures, catalogs filled with happy pictures of broadly grinning students, because everyone in college is always happy, of course. I even get mail from staunchly Baptist and Methodist schools. The thing is, I’m Jewish. Still, each college insists it’s the right school for us. Of course, as we are constantly reminded, just because they want us to apply doesn’t mean they’re actually going to let us in.

The colleges know it too, but that doesn’t stop the barrage of pretty promos. Every additional application helps to lower a college’s acceptance rate, and more “competitive” admissions stats makes a school seem that much better, which, of course, makes us more likely to apply there, because it’s more difficult to get into. Seems strange. Doesn’t it?

We’re always told that the most important thing is to find the right college for you. Well, yeah, it is important to find the right college. After all, we’re going to spend four years there and it could well determine the future course of our life, and so it becomes even more imperative to look beyond the admissions stats and the promos, and to weigh each school based on its real value to us.

So, as I continue my quest for the perfect school, and of course the best possible application to that school, I can take solace in one thing. When the inevitable rejection letters start to pile up, I’ll know it wasn’t just me who was rejected, but that those colleges, for all their glossy pictures of smiling students, were rejected too.

KAI RYSSDAL: Morrisa Brenner is a high school junior at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies. It’s a magnet school here in Los Angeles.

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