Fall is the season when everyone is just plain busy, particularly so for students in the admission process. With all the other things students need to do, one of them is attending the myriad of receptions and presentations when schools come to town to tout their wares, so to speak. Over the past couple of weeks I have also attended a number of these perceptibly mind-numbing events as schools talk about why students should be interested in their school.
I say mind-numbing because in many ways they all talk about the same things: how their school is like a family, close-knit faculty relationships, challenging academics, beautiful campuses, to name a few. Their presentations, filled with drone perspectives and lovely sunset pictures, seem to invite everyone to come be a part of the amazing experiences.
It takes a keen mind to be able to sort out the nuances of what each school is really talking about. While listening, I wondered how many in the audiences were able to pinpoint the key factors that make each school special and outstanding, for their child. When a perceptively “top” school sings their song, how many are missing these key factors, or are they just assuming that if admitted all would be well? Or would the glamor of the name push aside any concerns?
Almost every Director of Admission or Headmaster who spoke talked about FIT. It was a common theme throughout, and there were many nodding heads, but I still wonder if everyone really understood the inferences and how they apply to each of them as an individual student. What I will say, is that there were some very good questions from the student audience which definitely indicated a depth of awareness. I know I am being skeptical, but even at some of the receptions, I really needed to think about what was being said; some of the information was a bit complex.
What I enjoyed most out of the presentations is the fact that each school really does differentiate in how they approach education. Every school, for the most part, described the psychological studies supporting their unique education. Further, each school remarked about how location determines a significant portion of what their educational values stand for and the experiences a student will have in their particular location, whether on the East or the West coast.
Some of the most interesting comments I heard were the following: “Arrogance has no place in education.” What a great statement, that if one assumes they know everything, how can they learn? “Structured curiosity”: to mean that as a student progresses through courses, these courses should drive their curiosity on their path to life long learning; and “Students should have relationships with the community, not the institution.” I do think that sometimes students get this last piece wrong, thinking that an institution will make them successful. That could not be further from the truth, and is at the heart of what makes ranking so wrong. One cannot quantify the value of a relationship, the growth that comes from a connected and supportive community, the inspiration that comes from meeting and engaging in conversations which cause intellectual change.
In the end, I found much more inspiration than I initially thought. Going beyond the basic information takes an open mind and some critical thinking – how does this apply to me (the student) or to my child (the parent)? It is through the nuance that we are able to find a theme, and hopefully that brings one to understand that a school is not the same as another school. As a student hopeful to study at any institution, that student needs to know oneself.