Posted on Wednesday, November 24th, 2010 at 11:11 am under Comments

by
Tom Nesbitt, Director of Admissions

For the last twenty years I have spent the better part of most autumns in my vehicle visiting high schools and attending college fairs.  I have always appreciated the work that my colleagues do day in and day out to spread the word about their respective colleges and universities.  Over the past two years, I have been able to see this process through a different lens as my nephew is presently going through his senior year and I have been working with the family to help him select where he wants to continue his education.

It turns out that going through the college visitation process is far more stressful for families than I initially thought.  Not having been blessed with children myself, my limited view was that of families making time to get together and take mini vacations in order to visit colleges.  Sure there was an occasional outburst or inappropriate sharing of information but, for the most part, everyone seemed to enjoy their time away.  Some families even took extra time to go camping or visit a city they had never been to.

Back to my nephew’s search… he started a year early looking at colleges which I was happy about.  I was able to get him to a college fair with his mother (my sister) during the fall of his junior year.  It was hard for me to let them ask all of the questions but I managed.  They did a great job and he was able to narrow his list down a bit.  He took the SAT’s and received a ton of mail… much to my surprise, he really only wanted to talk about six (to date) schools out of the over one hundred who had sent information to him and, in the end, only one wound up in his final four.  That figure might have been six but his mother made an early decision that he would be attending school in New York.

During the summer we had a family wedding in Buffalo so my wife and I used some extra time to do driving tours through four colleges in the area.  We returned home and I told him to figure out dates that he might like to visit his top four schools… a few months later his mother and I started giving him deadlines to look the information up…a few weeks later, I picked two weeks I could be out of the office for two days and scheduled the visits.  I guess this is normal but it was all new to me and certainly wasn’t in the training manual!

Visits were, in a word, exhausting.  While I enjoyed the time I had with my mother, sister, nephew (17) and nephew (7 months old), at times it seemed like we were working 10 times as hard as we needed to in order to get from one place to another.  The nice side trips I always heard about really slapped me upside the head when my sister decided it would be nice to go to Niagara Falls with our mother so she could see the falls and take pictures… did I mention we needed to do this BEFORE our morning/afternoon visit to a university?  So there we were…at one of the most photographed destinations in the world… we snapped a photo or two, which I am happy we did looking back, did the Chevy Chase thing and hurried back to the vehicle to get to the school on time.

Not being shy about my feelings that each college visit should be an event long enough to get a true feel about the campus, students, faculty, activities and food we set out to do four full day visits packed with whatever each college was willing to give us and in some cases what we were able to do ourselves.  We set up camp in student centers between appointments, were direct with tour guides about what we wanted to see… in one case a small private school had told us that we would not be able to speak with faculty unless we attended an Open House. My sister was able to convince the guide to take my nephew into the building of his intended major and, when inside, she found an open door and asked the professor if he wouldn’t mind talking about their program.  Not only did he spend 15 minutes with my nephew, he also took time to call another faculty member to tour their studios.  That half hour detour, along with a great tour and interview have, for the time being, placed that school at the top of his list.  Should he attend that institution, I’ll be sure to let their Director of Admissions know that my sister deserves at least partial credit for his enrollment there! … spoke with faculty on every campus, asked a ton of questions and really tried to make the process as fun as we could.

When all was said and done we drove over 1500 miles, visited four campuses ranging in size from 2,000 to 15,000, saw Niagara Falls, drove through the Southern Tier, had Dinosaur        B-B-Q in Rochester and then took in Lake Ontario on the way back to the North Country.  We also had a lot of laughs, talked a lot about what we have been through while making new memories we can talk about in the future.  In short they are two unforgettable trips that I will always cherish…

Until next time…

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