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Poor first impression of college

momgeh50momgeh50 84 replies3 threads Junior Member
edited July 2006 in Parents Forum
Just got back from a midwest college tour. Overall a good trip but one college really bugged me. I have been curious about it for years and was eager to visit with my daughter. It is a well-known top 75 or so LA but I shall not name the college. I know it is summer and I don't mind the shaggy grass and sloppy looking dorms but the first thing I noticed were the campus signs which were in poor repair and dirty. Not just one of them, but most seem to need a good coat of paint and need lettering. A few even needed more nails. Then we arrived at the admissions office. The main area was decorated in a somewhat eclectic manner and would not pass the spit and polish test. The doors in the area were marked by chips and tape marks. Then I went into the adcom's office after my d's interview and I was somewhat aghast. The room was poorly painted a light weird pink and the furniture was old and chipped (mismatched file cabinets with dings and chips, old worn carpet, old metal desk, mismatched bookshelves,etc.) with us sitting on what looked like old, wooden kitchen chairs with cushions. I kept thinking of the money they would want us to invest in my d's education and wondered why they could not invest in some decent furniture. So, if any adcoms are reading these postings, be advised that first impressions do matter and a pleasantly decorated admissions office and well cared for college signs speak pride and institutional esteem. It made me wonder whether the president ever walks around his campus. Everyone was very nice but I wondered if the adcoms had truly taken a long, hard look at the impression their office created. Thanks for letting me vent.
edited July 2006
37 replies
Post edited by momgeh50 on
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Replies to: Poor first impression of college

  • MagsMomMagsMom 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
    Could it be that the school spends more money and time investing in education than looks- money for things like technology, recruiting top faculty, offering generous merit and need based aid, etc? Did you ask them why things were in such disrepair?

    I do realize that first impressions matter and I agree with having a things in ship shape for prospective students but if this is a well known top 75 LAC there should be a reason it is ranked as such.

    My cousin has just decided to go to an academically less impressive college than his original "dream college" because of the same thing you are venting about so again, I agree, colleges should take note that these things do matter.
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  • ohio_momohio_mom 4029 replies16 threads Senior Member
    This is kind of a tough call - a palatial adcom's office also makes one wonder where the $ were going. Campus upkeep is a major cost - sounds like they are deferring maintainance.
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  • momgeh50momgeh50 84 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Was not expecting palatial. Ikea interior decor would have been just fine. It was really ragged and odd. The college is not wealthy but the things that bugged me were not expensive issues. More about care and pride. Honestly, I would not have thought I would have been so bothered but I wanted to go and fix the signs myself. And I was truly stunned when I entered the office.
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  • MagsMomMagsMom 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
    I do see where you are coming from - especially in the office was dirty. I could see myself feeling the same way.
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  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 34785 replies1076 threads Senior Member
    momgeh you hd one daughter start school last year and another is looking?
    Maybe you are just burnt out?
    I didn'treally notice the furntiture at my daughters top 50 LAC, but frankly it could have been the school you were describing I suppose.
    I thought it was comfortable and was a nice way to make families relxed instead of worrying about smudging the coffee table.
    Generally schools are closed during the summer and that is when the sprucing up happens. After a long year anyone of us can start to look a litle beat up around the edges ;)
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  • dt123dt123 1147 replies31 threads Senior Member
    I'm not an expert in interior design, but I can appreciate the impression given by signage in poor condition, dirty and needing maintenance, not just one or two but consistently around the campus. This is clear evidence that the college has been cutting corners in the maintenance dept. for a while. Too long to overlook. It is reasonable to assume that corners are being cut elsewhere that you can't see, and that management is haphazard or lax. Is someone monitoring the dish rinse water temperature in the cafeteria? Is the parent's financial data safe from hackers? Is someone doing background checks on the security officers?

    When you are considering parting with big bucks for princess's or junior's education, probably the last big thing you will do as parent, to establish that launch pad for his or her success as an adult, you want to see a tight and efficiently-run institution not sloppiness.

    Compare this to another thread where students are being slammed for rejecting potentially-great fits for silly reasons, "too preppy," "too many trees." I think it is reasonable to reject a school for "too few nails."
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  • kitty56kitty56 1317 replies20 threads Senior Member
    We had a similar experience. We were visiting a college over my son's spring break. Now this was also a school we had visited 5 years ago for my daughter, so we were familiar with it. But this time was totally different. It started from when we arrived at the admissions office. I had scheduled the first appointment of the day which was 9:00. We walked in at 8:50 and there was no one there, so we sat until someone showed up. A student worker came in, took our name and we sat some more. Finally she noticed that S was scheduled for an interview and said "Oh, good thing I looked!". About 9:15 he was called for his interview and was back with the admissions counselor 20 minutes later who asked us if we had any questions. The one question I had she couldn't answer and couldn't tell me who to contact (it was a combo fin. aid/admission question). I found out who to talk to about it on their website. This counselor was so quiet, bland, uninspiring, unengaging I wasn't sure how S would have done in the interview. In the meantime, a football prospect showed up and everyone seemed to be fawning all over him, as we were sitting by ourselves in the other part of the office. This went on for over 45 minutes. We were waiting to go on the tour which was set for 10:00. At 10:20 I asked if we were going soon, as we had another college appointment that afternoon. Turns out the tour guide assigned to that tour just never showed up, so the desk girl finally took us. The campus was truly run down and in disrepair compared to the last time we were there. We know they have tough winters, so could almost understand the outside, but when we looked in a dorm, I was really disappointed - bad lighting in the hall, very stained rugs, dorm room furniture was bady chipped and just dirty in general. After the tour, she didn't take us back to the office or offer us lunch vouchers or anything - it was just "Bye!". As we had some extra time at that point, we went back to the one building that housed my son's major and met some wonderful faculty. One saw us wandering and introduced us to another who found a faculty member in son's area. This man was awesome! He invited us in, talked to S about the major and was totally interested in what S was looking for. We have kept in touch with him by email and will go back this summer to meet with more of the faculty. Because of the faculty attention, this school is still high on the list. If we had not met the faculty, it would have been erased. Also since that visit, I spoke with a different admissions counselor on the phone who answered by question and gave me a much better feel toward the college in general.
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  • SpringfieldMomSpringfieldMom 1027 replies39 threads Senior Member
    It's a tough call. I, too had a bad first impression of the school I ended up going to, way back in the dark ages of the 1970s. The dorms especially were in poor shape, but the academic part campus itself was in pretty good shape. I did apply, and the school gave me a great aid package which was too good to pass up. I stuck it out living on campus for 3 years (the dorms never had much maintenance while I was there) then lived in an off-campus apartment senior year. Now, things are a different story...the dorms have all been renovated (some even have air conditioning...wooo wooo!) when the (required---after the Seton Hall disaster) sprinkler systems were installed...most of the academic buildings have also been renovated or expanded. Time has made a big difference!
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  • newmassdadnewmassdad 3792 replies56 threads Senior Member
    I think these initial impressions are important and relevant.

    There are so many colleges to choose from that I see no reason to waste any more time on one that can't even get the superficial things right. Unless that school offered a truly unique program, time to move on.

    Doing my D's tour three years ago, we had a frustrating experience with CMU. The only day we could visit, they were offering no tours because it was move in day. The admissions office response to my email was curt, to say the least. And it gets worse, in some ways. In spite of this chilly intro, we decided to visit anyway. We did a do it yourself tour and stopped by admissions. We then found out they had decided to offer a tour that day without letting any of those turned away know.

    Because the place offered opportunities in both music and science, we did not rule them out. We ended up that day with a wonderful visit with the school of music and had later good interactions with the folks.

    At the same time, if it had not been for the unique opportunity, we would have rightly passed. Turns out the admissions experience is a small indicator of a college that DOES put admin road blocks in the way of students. JMHO.
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  • cyclistsmomcyclistsmom 33 replies1 threads Junior Member
    We, too, had a similar experience. We visited three mid-west schools. The first one wasn’t very high on my son’s list, but the admissions office was extremely efficient, friendly, and knowledgeable. The student tour guide was enthusiastic about the school, and the faculty he met with were impressive. The academic buildings, grounds, and dorms were well kept and inviting. Consequently, this school moved up on his list. The second school, while not as physically attractive, was well kept and staff was also friendly and helpful. For our third visit, we may have gone to the same school you visited. However, we didn’t get as far as you did. We came in and saw signage in disrepair, grounds and buildings that looked shabby and unkempt. My son said, “no way can I spend 4 years here.” He cancelled his appointments, and we drove home.
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  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom 24049 replies804 threads Senior Member
    I wish you'd state the name of the college. There's no reason to keep it a secret. By saying what college it is, we all could put your comments into context including opening the door to feedback from students, alum and people who work there.
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  • bluejaybluejay 786 replies129 threads Member
    Any reason why people don't want to share the names of these schools? We're all on this site seeking information not looking to participate in a guessing game.
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  • MombotMombot 914 replies26 threads Member
    Yeah! I'll add one...to be fair to the school, we visited Reed in March and it had been one of the wettest winters on record, so the lawns and beds couldn't be expected to be in great shape but I had an impression that other than the big lawn in front, the campus was ankle deep in mud.

    The admissions office was fine, but the dorms and common areas were dingy and cruddy. Graffitti on some walls, and a beautiful old hall was scabby. There were old broken down couches EVERYWHERE--now I know where in the universe old sofas go to die. There were clumps of kids smoking everywhere, which was a huge turnoff and I can't recall seeing that at any other campus we visited.

    I didn't like it and neither did my D, who is always acutely aware of her surroundings.

    At the other extreme, we visited Johns Hopkins and the campus was so eerily clean that it seemed fake. I don't know how they do it.
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  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 34785 replies1076 threads Senior Member
    well I guess I won't be inviting Mombot to our house, the couches in Old Dorm Block are as least as nice as the one in our living room.
    I do know that a big chunk of roomandboard goes to maintainance, as my D saved lots of money when she went off board.
    I don't know which dorms would be dingy and cruddy.
    Soem of the dorms are less than 10 years old, and while I didn't really like the feel of Steele ( fancy retirement home- ) or Bragdon ( ski lodge), I really liked Chittick ( cross canyon dorms) they over looked the wooden canyon and lake and had a great common area although the kitchen was a little small.
    Where she lived last year was the Birchwoods- some town houses that Reed bought a year or two ago, and although they had been updated quite a bit, they still need some work.

    This certainly illustrates why it is so important to visit your college before hand, as the feel of the atmosphere and your day to day surroundings on and about campus aren't easy to convey in picture postcard shots.
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  • WhitneylmWhitneylm 145 replies24 threads Junior Member
    Mombot- Your couches comment made me laugh because it's so totally true. I've seen more sad and tired looking couches here then all the Goodwills combined.
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  • SpringfieldMomSpringfieldMom 1027 replies39 threads Senior Member
    I think I saw my old couch at my alma mater during my reunion last year...
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  • momgeh50momgeh50 84 replies3 threads Junior Member
    I decided not to post the name of the college to be fair to them. I have even kept my impressions from my daughter so she could come up with her own impression. If the school stays on her list, we will have to talk. I have to tell you that the tour guide, although a pleasant young man, was not terribly energized by his college experience. I had another internal gasp moment when I asked about his freshman year and his workload. His sweet but naive report was that he never had more than an hour or two of homework per night (total for all classes and he was a physics major) and that his weekends were quite free until Sunday evening. I then asked if he used his spare time to do more independent academic learning and he looked at me blankly. The guides at the other schools reported more work hours invested per course, that there was lots to juggle but well worth it. I can tell you that I was very impressed with Grinnell, Macalester, and Carleton. All schools that have bigger endowments than College X. As background for these comments, my oldest goes to New College of Florida which is not the paragon for upscale environs but they are public and I have been very pleased with her experience. The sticker price for College X is considerably higher than the sticker price or generous scholarship rate that we pay for d #1 at New College of Florida. Much more academic work expected at NCF than reported by the one guide at College X. Good luck to all of you on the college search. It does all work out in the end.
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  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 34785 replies1076 threads Senior Member
    but did it have a MOTOR?
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  • PackMomPackMom 7650 replies17 threads Senior Member
    A small private college (not one that you would know, not selective) in our state offered my niece a volleyball scholarship but when my brother took her to visit they were so put off by the rundown condition of the place that they barely considered it. The school really wanted her so upped their offer by adding a softball scholarship too. They decided to visit again because it was a generous offer but even on the second visit they just couldn't get past the disrepair of the facilities. Niece ended up attending a state u (div.1) and walking on the volleyball team and later earned a scholarship there. She got little playing time there and is now transferring to a smaller state u (div.2) to play.
    She would have been the star of the team at the small private and probably would not be transferring but she (and my bro. who is director of facilities maintenance at a big state u.) just couldn't get past the rundown facilities.
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  • kelmomqkelmomq 5 replies0 threads New Member
    momgeh50, my D and I could have written the same post after visiting one midwest LAC last summer during an open house event...add the smelly bathrooms near the auditorium and admissions office at 8:30 in the morning...yuck! We were willing to grant the lawns last summers' drought until we saw the grounds 1 hr. west the next week at another school. I'd bet it was the same school given the list of schools you're more favorably impressed with. Our experience exactly.
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