Ten-campus tour helps high schoolers choose a college
Art Mullaney, riding shotgun in a beige Plymouth van heading north from Boston, turns to the seven silent recruits seated as neat as churchgoers on the three car seats behind him.Skip to next paragraph
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''Would you marry someone that someone else told you about? Even if the person sounded wonderful?'' The question elicits no audible response, but finally one boy shakes his head.
''No, you wouldn't,'' continues the veteran high school counselor, a grin rising to his basset-hound eyes. ''But college is like a four-year marriage. And many people make a decision about what college to attend without knowing the place. It's not always a mistake, but it might be. That's what we hope to help you avoid.''
Art Mullaney is taking the seven high school students on a one-week tour of 10 New England colleges. During the week the four boys and three girls will meet the admissions officers, eat in the dining halls, sleep in the dorms and swim in the pools of such big name schools as Dartmouth and Bowdoin, and such lesser-known institutions as St. Michael's College. They'll participate in discussions about various aspects of college admissions, receive individual criticism on rough drafts of the personal essay many colleges require, and sort out impressions of the different campuses they visit.
''That's how the name was chosen,'' says Mullaney, referring to College Impressions, the title he picked for his enterprise. ''The idea is not so much that they choose one of these schools, but that they get a clearer idea of the kind of school they're interested in, what it will take to get in, and what each one (of the students) has to offer.''
Mr. Mullaney has spent more than 30 years in high school guidance counseling, the last 16 of them at Randolph High School south of Boston. For the past five summers Mullaney has been renting vans and piling in high school seniors for his college safari.
He charges $500 per student, which covers the cost of everything except the occasional candy bar or school tee shirt. He laments a price that seems expensive; but when stacked up against the $50,000-plus price tag of many four-year, private-college educations, it sounds more like a good investment.
Of the seven students on this trip, most got word of the program through mailings. But two of the girls are making the trip on the recommendation of older brothers who've made the tour. Says Ann O'Driscoll of Abington, Mass., ''It got my brother organized and gave him a lot of confidence. I feel that's one thing I could use.''
The next day Ann speaks timidly at the outset of her first one-on-one interview at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. But by the interview's close she is demonstrating the confidence she thought she lacked. By the end of the trip, all the students are requesting individual interviews because, as one says, ''they're really a lot of fun.''
Information is plentiful during the four-state trip. Each student starts out with a canvas bag filled with publications on getting into competitive colleges, how to take the Scholastic Aptitute Test, and being prepared for the college interview. There is also an information sheet on each of the colleges to be visited.
''Don't arrive at your interview unprepared,'' says Richard Jeffers, a guidance counselor and hockey coach at Lawrence Academy. A college buddy of Mullaney's, he is one of three counselors who help with the summer trips. Jeffers adds, ''Walk around the campus, read the school newspaper, and question people you meet, especially students. Then when you go in, you'll have some intelligent questions to ask.''