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Peterson's - collegerankings
the ranking phenomenon
3
www.petersons.com
room maintained just for visitors. Bunk beds, stereo equipment, milk crate
bookshelves, and randomly placed posters provide an air of teenage informal-
ity. Yet it also attempts to reassure parents. No dirty laundry litters the floor
and, of course, no beer can pyramids decorate the windowsill.
The tour is over. We ride back to the admissions building, say goodbye
to the guides and head for home or, possibly, to another school. Robert
and Susan are left standing by the bus, quietly debriefing each other on
the success of the tour and reviewing the answers they provided to the
two or three questions that were actually asked. Soon there would be
another slide show, another bus ride, and another group of students and
parents looking out windows, peering into classrooms and wondering:
"Is this the right place? Will I be happy here? Will I be successful here?
Will I have to learn another cheer?"
Three Under a Tree
Welcome to college. More precisely, welcome to college as it is presented
to prospective students on college and university tours across the coun-
try. At small institutions, the tour might be less orchestrated and slightly
less practiced. But it's never done on the fly or entirely unrehearsed. After
all, it's a time for an institution to put its best foot forward and show that
it does, indeed, provide all the things that students (and parents) want
from higher education.
There is nothing wrong with earnest self-promotion. And what col-
leges and universities say about themselves is, on the whole, truthful and
often even sincere. Yet many parents cannot help but notice that after a
while, most colleges and universities start to look alike. The students are
different, but the pictures are much the same. In the brochures, viewbooks,
and on Web sites, it's always springtime on campus, as students stroll
along, take hikes up mountains, or discuss the Iliad outside in small groups.
"Three under a tree" is how one university president characterizes the
typical promotional photo.

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