College Visit – Caution

Here are the 4 key objectives of a first college visit; this assumes you will be impressed with the results of your visit, which will require a second visit with a different strategy.

1. Show up unannounced. You want to witness first-hand how flexible and accommodating admission people can be so that your gut instincts will help determine your first impressions. It’ll also tell you how hard the college works on making first good impressions.

2. Ask for the name of the admissions person who handles your geographical area. This is your contact person for future email contacts. Try to meet that person, introduce yourself, and get a business card. It would be wicked cool to trade business cards, so I would get one created with only your name, address, email address, and phone number.

If the college doesn’t assign admissions people on a geographical basis, ask for a business card from one of them and make that person your contact.

3. Ask about the school’s retention rate: “What percentage of freshmen return after the freshman year?” When you get home, look on the school’s website to see if the figure matches what you heard. If the answer is a high retention rate, you want to ask a follow-up question: “Is it because of a proactive college policy to recruit a diverse student body that includes non-A students, or does the school focus on the A students who almost always account for a high retention rate?”

These 2 questions will give you a sense of the school’s orientation or philosophy of recruitment. If you’re not comfortable with the answer, move on to another campus.

4. Ask the killer question that will be most difficult to answer, and as a parent you have a moral obligation to ask it. If the school is going to ask you to spend thousands of dollars, you want to demand an answer to this question: “Because campus safety is in the news all the time, how and when can I get access to the campus police’s records of crime on this campus for the past 12 months?”

This could be a real curve ball question, but you don’t care. Listen carefully to how your question is answered. If the answer sounds too practiced or too routine, such as, “Any incidents or crimes on campus are public record. You can call the local police to get that information.” If you hear this answer, you’re being lied to. The local police do not record all the campus’s incidents because the college wants to keep any real crimes quiet if they can. The most convenient reason to have a campus police force is to hide any potential public relations or image problems that could damage the school’s effort to recruit if disclosure of all crimes is made.

Uncomfortable Fact: Colleges are a business, and image is everything.

Student tour directors are programmed to tell you what you want to hear. Which is why I detest planned tours. You get far better information from students sitting at a dining hall table. But if you take a tour with a young and enthusiastic robotic tour guide, you need to ask questions they don’t hear; however, do not be surprised to hear other parents ask these 3 mind-boggling questions:

1. How’s the food here?

2. What are laundry facilities like?

3. Do students get enough sleep?

Colleges witness parents asking what they view as really dumb questions. These are the equivalent of asking, “Do you have running water?”

If you’re touring a college that requires $40,000 a year, you need to ask tough questions. If you don’t get the satisfactory answers WITH FOLLOW-UP research, perhaps another college will be glad to help you.

Comfortable Fact: There are over 4,000 colleges and universities out there, and you are in the driver’s seat to choose, not the colleges. They know it, but they won’t tell you that they know it.

It’s a game – a game you can win.

The Freshman’s Guide to the Social Scene at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA

First of all, I would like to point out that I do not condone underage drinking in any form as stated by federal law due to the proven health risks associated with this practice.

Two years ago, as an incoming high school senior ready to start applying to colleges, I sat down and thought to myself what exactly I want out of my four years of college. Number one on my list was a school that would provide me with a strong academic background to prepare me for medical school. Like many incoming college students, I wanted to find that oh so difficult to attain balance between work and play. Although work is a necessity to succeeding in life I wanted to find a school where I could have an equally strong social background. Needless to say, Brandeis was not near the top of my list.

During the application process, I would often look for forums describing the Brandeis social life only to be disappointed when the results were obtained. Brandeis is not known for its social scene, as fraternities are not funded directly by the school, like other big name universities in the Boston-area. I’m looking at you MIT. Then I saw comments that pointed me toward the notion that the Brandeis social scene was what you make of it. I found this odd, but if it takes a little drive on my part to have fun then there’s nothing that’s gonna stop me. I later applied to Brandeis and was accepted only to find that I controlled my destiny. If I’m in college for only four years then I better make the best of it.

Brandeis parties can be categorized into four different groups: frat parties, athletic team parties, miscellaneous group parties and private gatherings.

The fraternities at Brandeis include, Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT), Alpha Eta Pi (AEPi), Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi), Alpha Delta Phi (ADPhi) and Sigma Alpha Mu (Sammies). As far as parties go, Iwould rand ZBT the highest because they always have great music, a crowded dance floor, and plenty of beverages to go around. Also, another cool thing about the house is that there parties always include black lights and occasionally they throw white-out parties where everyone wheres white under the black lights. AEPi parties on the other hand, sometimes lack the active environment and instead provide a house to be drunk and merry in a relatively relaxed setting.

Phi Psi hasn’t had many notable parties over my freshman year, but they are looking to branch out over the next year. ADPhi has the same status as Phi Psi, party-wise, but we’ll know soon enough about their ability to compete with other frats. And as for Sammies, they are a fairly new fraternity, two years old I believe. Sammies is constructing a house over the summer with a bar so we should see great things from them. The best way to learn about parties is to have friends in the frats or at least in-the-know, but not necessarily be in one yourself. Frats are a great way to meet people, make lifelong friends and be invited to private parties with the sororities on campus, Delta Phi Eta (DPhiE) and Sigma Delta Tau (SDT).

The athletic team parties are a fun way to meet Brandeis athletes depending on what you’re looking for. These houses usually throw the pregaming events and random costume parties including Halloween, which are always huge.

The miscellaneous parties include those thrown by student groups (not affiliated with fraternities or sports teams). These include the random parties thrown in the Rosenthal sophomore quad that aren’t huge, but worth stopping off at before the bigger party of the night. The Purim party is also huge every year and thrown by the Jewish student life on campus. One of the most surprising organization to throw parties is the group of students that call themselves Flavor Country. These parties tend to be the biggest and best on campus. But you need to be tight with the guys who run these gatherings because there usually is an invitation only list for guys.

One of the best ways to have fun on campus is to definitely form a group of friends and make plans to get together and have your own parties. These are usually thrown in a suite or in some cases freshman dorms (Ahem!). Everyone is so busy during the week with schoolwork and extracurriculars that the only time to connect with your friends is during the weekends. So these private parties are a large part of the Brandeis party scene.

Whatever social path you do decide to take while at Brandeis, remember one thing: you’re only in college for four years. They will go by much faster than you can even imagine. It’s your job to not only craft the foundation of your future, but to also enjoy life as much as possible while you have the time to do so.

Antwaan Randle El Played College Basketball, Baseball, & Football For Indiana University Hoosiers

Antwaan Randle El is a unique football player because of the fact that despite being an exceptional quarterback at Indiana University he went on to be a very effective NFL player at the position of wide receiver. It is rare for an athlete to be gifted enough to play multiple positions at such a high level. Being able to excel at multiple positions on the football field is indicative of an athlete that is capable of excelling at multiple sports.

A little known fact about Randle El is that in addition to his impact on the football field he found time to contribute to other athletic programs while in school at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. While in college the high profile athlete also played on the basketball team for a season under legendary head coach Bobby Knight (1998-1999 season) and even played varsity baseball for the 2000 season.

Randle El was born in August of 1979 and demonstrated his impressive athletic ability at a very young age. Growing up in a predominately African American area (80%) of the south side of Chicago Randle El was a standout three sport star for Thornton Township High School in Harvey, Illinois despite his relatively small size that peaked at 5’10” and 190 pounds. While at Thornton Township the future professional football player dominated opponents on the gridiron, hardwood, and baseball diamond. The eventual star quarterback for the Indiana Hoosiers once set an Illinois high school state record by scoring 69 points in a basketball game and was also drafted by the Chicago Cubs out of high school.

As a football player for the Indiana University Hoosiers Randle El was deemed one of the top offensive players in the gritty Big Ten Conference. Despite being undersized for a Division I quarterback in the Big Ten Randle El masterfully combined passing and running efficiency to help make Indiana one of the top offensive squads in the country. While quarterbacks with the ability to run the ball have been historically present in the game of college football few ever combined the running and passing aspects of the position as Randle El who would become the first player in college football history to rush for 40 touchdowns and to throw for 40 touchdowns.

While in Bloomington, Indiana the star player broke numerous team and NCAA records while on his way to eventually being named a first team All-American quarterback and the Big Ten Player of the Year after his senior season. During his four solid years of playing quarterback at Indiana University Antwaan Randle El did what no other player had ever done by putting up 2,500 yards of offense for four consecutive years.

Since leaving college in 2002 Randle El has been a valuable player for both the Pittsburgh Steelers (where he won a Super Bowl) and for the Washington Redskins. To utilize his athleticism in addition to normal receiving duties Antwaan is often called upon to return kicks and participate in trick plays where he is able to show off his passing skills from the wide receiver position.

Profiling Lander University

Lander University is a state supported four year institution in Greenwood, South Carolina. The regional university was founded in 1872 as Williamston Female College, a private institution in Williamston, South Carolina. After the college moved to Greenwood, it was renamed in 1904 after its founder, Samuel Lander. Men were first admitted to the college in 1943. Today the campus occupies 123 acres and has a mix of older and newer buildings. Many of the university’s facilities have been upgraded or expanded in recent years.

The university enrollment is 3,000 undergraduate students, with an average class size of 22. The small class size and low student/ instructor ratio gives the institution the feel of a small private college. Lander University has undergraduate degree programs in 60 academic areas. Major areas of concentration and study include biology, chemistry, business administration, computer information systems, early childhood education, elementary education, special education, English, music, nursing, political science, and visual arts. There is a dual engineering degree program with Clemson University. Lander University offers a number of pre-professional programs including pre-law, pre-medicine, pre-dentistry, pre-pharmacy, pre-veterinary medicine, pre-physical therapy, and pre-occupational therapy. A criminal justice management degree is available as an online program. Three Masters Degree programs are offered at Lander University. The Masters programs that can be earned are a Master of Arts in Teaching in Art Education, a Master of Education in Teaching and Learning, and a Master of Education in Montessori Education. Lander University is the only institution in South Carolina offering undergraduate and graduate programs leading to a national certification in Montessori Education.

Students at Lander University may become involved in more than 60 clubs and organizations on campus. Available choices include academic organizations, honor societies, fraternities, sororities, professional organizations, theater and musical groups, student government, religious organizations, social groups, and intramural sports teams. Lander University participates in NCAA Division II athletics. Lander Bearcat teams compete in the Peach Belt Conference with teams in golf, tennis, baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, and volleyball. The Lander men’s tennis teams have won 12 National Championships in their athletic division.

Lander University has an Equestrian Center that operates the Bearcat Therapeutic Riding Center. The university has an equestrian team that participates on both a club and a show level. All students are welcome to join the equestrian team, regardless of their level of riding experience.

The Monsanto Gallery at Lander University features the work of artists from around the Southeast. Special exhibitions are scheduled during the academic year. The gallery is open to the public Monday-Thursday from 1-8pm and Fridays from 10am-5pm.

Large Vs. Small Universities

Whether you are a senior in high school picking out a college or already an underclassman at a university and looking to transfer, you still want to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of your size school. I went to a state university that had over 46,000 students, but I’ve had friends who attend small private schools with 5,000 students. I’m going to take the next few paragraphs to list some of the pros and cons. This is all based on my opinions and my personal experiences at a big time university. My assessment of small private schools might be off because I have never personally attended one.

Right off the bat when you think of a big university (Texas, Ohio State, University of Florida) you think sports. One of the major advantages of going to a large university is their athletic programs. If you are a sports fan, then attending a Division I football school might factor into your decision. Televised games, pep rallies, homecoming parades, and rivalries are all part of attending a large university. However, you do not have to love sports to go to a D-I school. There are thousands of students at large universities that want nothing to do with sports, and that’s OK because there are plenty of other things to do.

Large schools also come with large libraries and media centers. There are plenty of places to study and plenty of computer labs to get your work done during class. I used to go to a computer lab (there were hundreds of computers in there) in between my classes and surf the web or complete my homework from the night before. At a small school there may only be one library and it might be too far out of your way. At a big school, there’s a library, study hall, or computer lab on every corner.

Food is another advantage of attending a large university. They have several dining halls and not to mention Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Chik-Fil-A, Taco Bell, Pizza hut, and basically every other fast food joint you can think of right in the middle of campus. You can get food anywhere. And the dining halls actually have eatable food. They don’t serve Helda’s three day old meatloaf and peas. We had freshly baked omelets with bacon and pancakes every morning. I bet you can’t get that at Flagler College.

Some other quick advantages of a large university are the social aspects (fraternities and sororities, intramurals, clubs, student government, and so on). Most universities have a distinguished faculty that know what they are doing. Another advantage is there is on-campus housing for freshman (and sometimes sophomores). This gives you to opportunity to wake up 10 minutes before class starts and walk there in your PJs.

Some disadvantages of a large school are the enormous sized classes. It’s likely you can have a class with 900 people. No matter what you say or how many questions you ask in class, the professor won’t know your name. Many classes are taught by Teacher’s Assistants, which means you are not getting as high a quality as you would like. At a large university you are just a number to some people, and you can get lost in the crowd. Finally, all professors think they are hot shots and care more about their own research than helping students.

Small universities on the other hand have smaller classes. These smaller classes may put more emphasis on learning and hands-on experience. I have never attending a small university but most likely they have more individualized majors. It is not a set curriculum that thousands of people follow every semester. With smaller classes students are able to get to know their professors better. This is great from when its time to find letters of recommendation. Try getting a letter from a teacher when you were just one of 900 students in the class.

Another pro for attending a small college is the advisors know the students very well. Try seeing an advisor at the college of liberal arts at a major university. They see a hundred kids a day and won’t ever remember your name or what classes you’re taking. Also, there is a greater sense of community at a small school. You aren’t just a number on an ID card, here you are a person with a face and a name.

If you have any more questions about university size, feel free to email me at