If you’re the slightest bit familiar with the college admissions process, you havevery likely been exposed to the sleek marketing and glossy brochures that admissions offices use to attract prospective students. After viewing happy, spirited students on pristine campuses, it’s almost impossible to fathom that there could be anything wrong with that particular college or university. Given, however, that no place is perfect, and that every school has its strengths and weaknesses, I have decided to focus this entry on how to get the real story, and not just the admissions’ office take on campus life. If there’s one tool to help you discover the good, the bad, and the ugly, it’s the campus newspaper. Reading such literature can help prospective students gain a more authentic perspective on the benefits and pitfalls of life at that college from the students themselves.
I’ll start on a positive note with an article from the Daily Emerald, the University of Oregon’s student newspaper. In “Media in Ghana: UO Journalism students head to Africa for an eye-opening experience”, writer Lucas Stewart informs the UO community about a six-week internship program in Accra, Ghana. While this is certainly reminiscent of a glossy admissions brochure that highlights the global outreach of current students, it is more than just that. This article gives students who are actually participating in the program an opportunity to explain what they are doing with their time abroad, and helps future participants understand the opportunities that are available and what to expect from them.
Now on to the bad. Casey Goodwin, student-journalist for the University of Houston’s Daily Cougar, writes about undesirable campus food and dining options (or lack thereof). Goodwin explains that despite a new on-campus cafeteria that initially had high quality food and a wide variety of options, the campus dining scene unfortunately reverted back to its stale ways. I realize that this may not be a game changer for many prospective freshmen because there are worse things than inadequate food services (I don’t know who these people are, but I’m certainly not one of them), but this is still something that’s worth pointing out. And, back to my initial point, this is just an example of something that you most likely would not hear from an undergraduate admissions officer.
I’ll forewarn you that my final example of information that can be gleaned from the campus newspaper is indeed ugly and should not be taken lightly. Angie Epifano, former student of Amherst College, penned a traumatic account of being raped during her freshman year. The Amherst student newspaper published this article, which not only details the actual incident, but also the way in which the Amherst administration handled this case. According to Ms Epifano’s piece, Amherst was not very helpful following this incident, to say the least. While I am not saying that the Amherst admissions office would lie to its prospective students about a disturbing case involving Ms Epifano, I am saying that this is the type of story that you would not hear in an information session, and which might prompt you to raise some very legitimate questions if and when you decide to visit campus.
Pre-Internet, you actually had to go on campus to get a copy of the student newspaper. Now, however, you can Google it, get it from the campus website, or obtain it from sites like this one. So,