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Choosing A College Based on Feel

On what basis do most people choose a college? I have heard more than a few students admit to being strongly influenced by the person who gave them a tour of the campus. I can still remember what the cute tour guide at Columbia was wearing the day I visited, and that he was a vegetarian – like me. What do I remember about Stanford, my first choice, and what visions danced in my head when I slaved away at my application? Well, the walkways of course – so wide! – with bicyclists in flip-flops cruising by, and the mild weather, and the arches lining the pavilion next to the English building. As with my search for the right prep school, I was trying to get a sense of the place, awaiting a feeling that would guide my decision. Just how I arrived at that sense did not, at the time, seem as superficial to me as it does now. I was not alone in my evaluative practices. A friend who graduated from Harvard admits to having had a deterministic crush on his tour guide. Perhaps we arrive with a crush on an entire school, ready to use anything as evidence in its favor. Do students really explore the areas of the college experience that will directly affect them – the social groups and extracurricular settings into which they are most likely to settle?

The Washington Post features an online group discussion on the topic. Apparently, I am not the only student who has proved susceptible to the touring experience.

But who is to say that deciding this way is wrong? If a college clearly has a lot to offer any student who manages to meet its admissions criteria and be accepted, then what is wrong with picking a place that just feels right? Most of us do not choose a city in which to live according to the amenities or institutes based there. If the city wants us – if we have been offered a job there – and if it offers the advantages and excitement of any metropolis, then we will probably choose it based on a feeling which may include the weather, the pace of life, and the people we bump into during a visit. If a studly urbanite happens to step into our subway car, well, we can not help but be charmed and mark it down as a plus for the experience. Maybe intuition is something to be trusted when choosing a college.

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