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College tour impressions: Boston University

The sequence of different-type-of-campus visits continued on our call to Boston U.

Unlike our previous stops, BU’s campus sits smack in the middle of a major city, strung along a public transportation-served artery for over a mile and a half, with the riverside as its northern boundary. “Beautiful” does not enter the conversation to describe the campus at all, even though there are some impressive buildings and the promenade along the river bank is quite pretty. But most of the structures belonging to the institution fall into two basic categories: Rows of well-maintained brownstones or outwardly-unremarkable, except for pretenses of grandiosity, industrial-age edifices.

But the unmistakable “student town” vibe pervading the area more than compensates for the perceived lack of pleasing vistas. There are plenty of places to go to, be it for a cup coffee or some form of entertainment or a simple walk. The city center is but a few minutes away by tram. And still, predominance of people of college age everywhere you look tells you that it is all occupied by a university, even if you are so inattentive as to miss seven hundred signs that announce the name of the school on every nook and corner.

Becky finds this type of setting extremely appealing.

BU is the biggest school we’ve seen so far in terms of enrollment and in terms of available programs and majors. Not surprisingly, it covers all of the areas of interest for Becky and even offers dual-degree programs that could combine those areas of interest. It is also the first one on our circuit that does not make promises of covering the gap between total tuition and fees and the incoming student’s family ability to pay. They offer a variety of merit-based and selective scholarships, but beyond that it’s all about attempting to qualify for government grants and ending up getting student loans or second mortgages.

The information session was lively, led by a BU alumnus who now worked as an admission officer at the university. She covered all of the major topics at a brisk pace, with plenty of cheerleading for the school, and managed to answer the many questions in such manner that for the first time in my short history of attendances of such events the audience seemed to run out of questions with time to spare. One current student was present to help her out with some of the more student life-specific topics, and he did all right, although he mentioned his not very common major so many times during his remarks that it felt a bit OCD.

What I especially liked is the way a number of students – “admission ambassadors” – made themselves available to chat about college life with visitors who were waiting for the info session to start. The kids were all personable and animated and definitely helped both the high-schoolers and their parents to warm up to the upcoming presentation. I would not put too much emphasis on anything we could gain from that chat, but I can definitely see how a one-on-one personal touch makes you feel more welcome at a large institution.

Becky did not particularly like our tour guide on account of her deadpan delivery of corny jokes. As is my habit, I tried to defend the girl, reasoning that she was playing down to the lowest common denominator in a large group of people and quite succeeding at that. Becky’s standards for humor were much higher than that, though.

The tour took us inside a student center and a library, the latter showcasing the alumni, including a glass case with a bunch of Oscars and Emmys in it. We were also shown, unlike anywhere else, a dorm room, which entirely failed to impress me. I appreciate the honest approach of not baiting me with some luxury accommodations that will not be available to my kid possibly ever, but a small room that can barely fit two high single beds with built-in desks hardly inspires any appreciation from my side. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Near the end of our tour, as we were walking past residential brownstones, some smart-ass from an upper floor shouted at our group, “You’re all making a mistake!” We got a good chuckle out of it.

On balance, Becky really liked what the school offers in terms of programs as well as its urban feel. BU moved towards the top of her list, likely with an earlier than elsewhere application in order to gain consideration for those scholarships.

1 Comment

  1. Konstantin

    From my recent visit to Boston area, the whole town is like one big School. It would be terrible though if the child returned from a 4 year BU stint as a Red Sox fan.

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