In order to best serve my admissions counseling clients, I have been visiting college campuses for the past 30 years. Although I have long since lost count of the number of universities I've toured, I imagine I'm coming up on 200. To help you avoid the inconveniences of travel, the delayed flights, the pricey rental cars, the lonely hotels, and the time away from family and work commitments, I have prepared this time-saving amalgam of recent visits.
Walking Backwards Guide: Thank you for joining us here at North Cornstalk University.
Assembled Parents: Mumbles and murmurs.
Walking Backwards Guide: Here on your left is our new, state of the art, ten million dollar science facility. On your right is our new, ten million dollar student union. Across the immaculately manicured quad is our new ten million dollar dormitory.
Assembled Parents: Nervous laughter. Vigorously nodding heads. Terrified silence.
Walking Backwards Guide: Are there any questions?
Assembled Parent: How is the Anthropology Department here at North Cornstalk?
Walking Backwards Guide: Our anthropology department was rated number one in the country by "Useless News and Hurled Retort."
Assembled Parent: I beg your pardon. I didn't say "Anthropology." I said "Accounting." How is North Cornstalk's Accounting Department?
Walking Backwards Guide: Our accounting department is the best in the country by far. All other accounting departments worship ours. Many accounting departments at other universities are taking psycho-tropic medications because of their deep rooted feelings of inadequacy based on their comparing themselves to our accounting department. Our accounting department has its own zip code. Ticker tape parades down Fifth Avenue honoring our accounting department are popular as are statues in the park. After "Sophie" and "Patti," "North Cornstalk University's Accounting Department" is the most popular name for new-borns conceived in 2010.
Assembled Parent: Thank you.
Walking Backwards Guide: You're welcome. Only too happy to talk about the zoology department here at North Cornstalk.
Assembled Parent: Zoology? I thought you were talking about accounting.
Walking Backwards Guide: Whatever.
Different Assembled Parent: Is there any alcohol on campus?
Walking Backwards Guide: I'm glad you asked. We did have one child who, three weeks before her 21st birthday, did think about opening a can of beer. Fortunately, everyone in her dorm gave her a group hug and she poured that beer right down the sink. So the answer is "no." There is no alcohol on this campus. Never has been. Never will be.
Assembled Parent: How are the acceptance rates at professional schools for graduates of North Cornstalk?
Walking Backwards Guide: Last year, 98% of our medical school applicants were admitted to med school; 99% of our law school applicants got into their first choice law school and 140% of our MBA applicants were admitted to their first choice MBA program.
Assembled Parent: 140%? How is that possible?
Walking Backwards Guide: We had a bad year.
Assembled Parent: I see.
Walking Backwards Guide: But we did win National Championships in both Javelin Catching and Synchronized Sleeping.
Assembled Parents: Requisite "oohs" and "ahs."
Walking Backwards Guide: Are there any other questions?
Why is the North Cornstalk tour guide so effusively hyperbolic? Because she is trained to be. Her boss isn't the head of the "Admissions Committee." Her boss is in charge of "Enrollment Management." Her boss's job depends on three numbers: 1) the number of students who apply; 2) the number of students whom she can reject (the ratio here is important as well;) 3) the number of admitted students who show up (called "yield.")
Those "Please Apply Here" letters that get kids so excited and enthusiastic, those letters that make students think that a highly competitive school wants their highly average profile? Those letters are all about increasing the number of applicants.
Here's another reason why tour guides are invariably attractive, eloquent, perky and pleasant: If one of the Assembled Parents does indeed have a child who is admitted, the tour guide wants that child to show up. (If a student applied to seven colleges and gets admitted to three, that means there are two schools where she doesn't show up. At those two schools, the student did not "yield.") Outgoing tour guides are another "yield tool."
My colleagues in admissions are good, decent people trying to do the best possible job of attracting a first year class that is diverse by ethnicity, social class and background. They want to admit smart students, students who can play lacrosse and students who can play the tuba. But they can only get these great classes if they have students from whom to choose.
Hence the the Walking Backwards's exaggerated answers to the parental inquiries above.