Jewish World Review April 19, 2002 / 8 Iyar, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Paper trail to college | At least six tall fir trees have given their lives so our soon-to-be high school graduate can decide where to go to college. No one ever tells you how much paperwork is involved in selecting a school. I'm not talking about all the papers you have to fill out, but all the papers you have to throw out.

"Which ones shall we pitch today, sweetie?"

"Let's pitch everything from the small private schools, but keep all brochures and mailings from large public schools featuring football stadiums on the cover."

For the record, the girl has little interest in football, but the stadium shots are a good way to assess the H.Q. (hottie quotient) of any given academic institution. Some days we keep the pretty postcards, but pitch the 9x12 envelopes. Other days, we keep anything that comes on a high-gloss card stock and throw out all the bulk mail with red letters on the envelopes that say, "You're Going to Love it Here!" Some days we throw out all the bumper stickers and just keep the window decals.

My question is this: Do colleges really think kids choose a school based on brochures with pictures of Aimee and Josh laughing over their clarinets in a music theory class? They may think kids do, but they do not. No kid chooses a college based on a picture in a brochure. A magnet, maybe. A coffee cup with the school logo, most definitely.

The thing that fascinates me about all the publications that come in the mail is that all of the students appear so wholesome. So happy. So well-adjusted. So racially balanced. Apparently everywhere you go on college campuses these days -- the library, the student union, the dormitories, the classrooms - entire student bodies move in small groups of four: two whites, one black, one Asian. You have to wonder how they do it. It's probably part of freshman orientation: Moving and Living in Racially-Balanced Groups of Four (Beginners). Upper level transfer students probably take a more challenging orientation class titled: Moving and Living in Racially Balanced Groups of Five (Advanced).

Another puzzlement is the signature photograph that is an aerial view of the campus. These are lovely pictures of a campus green with colorful foliage framing a stately building (red brick, white trim preferred) in the center. It's a lovely view, but never a view you see on a campus tour led on the ground by a perky communication student who has a minor in talking while walking backward.

Oh well, ours is not to question why. No, ours is to send in tuition deposits, room deposits and campus cash card de posits. Which brings me to my point about the trees. This paper waste is completely unnecessary. All any college really needs to send is one small postcard with two yes or no questions:

1. Can we have your kid? 2. Can we have all your money?

When our oldest child was college-bound, we looked at two schools, which was one too many for his attention span. Our high school senior had a list of 17 schools she wanted to visited. We went to five. We dragged our youngest child along on all these campus tours by promising a T-shirt from each campus bookstore. (She has the T-shirt wardrobe of an extremely well-educated teen.)

We have told her we can save the colleges a lot of paper and ourselves a lot of hassle when it is time for her to go. We will pin all the T-shirts to a wall, blindfold her and let her toss a dart. She is amenable to the idea -- as long as we throw in a magnet, a window decal and at least one glossy brochure with boys on the cover.

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman