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College tour impressions: University of Rochester

Not all colleges on our touring itinerary were selected because they matched up exceedingly well with Becky’s interests. Several were selected for reasons that could be summarily expressed as “why not”. U of R was one of such selections. We heard a couple of good things about it from acquaintances, and we were making the trip to a college in Upstate New York anyway (which will be the subject of the next post), so instead of driving four-plus hours each way for just one college, we figured we could add a couple of hours to the overall journey to visit a place that was not originally on our list.

Neither Becky nor I can say that we came away especially impressed, but similar to our earlier trip to BC, we did not find anything especially off-putting either.

The campus is of the suburban self-contained variety, not unlike that of BC. Downtown Rochester is said to be 15-20 minutes away by bus, but there is not much in the way of obvious off-campus points of interest in the immediate vicinity. The architecture of the main campus is very homogeneous, of “colonial” red-brick variety, reasonably charming and uniform. Not an eye-sore, but certainly not eye-catching either.

The info session was fairly forgettable, led by a nice lady who tended to give a long-winded answers to the simplest of questions, insisting on providing specific examples of “this student did that, that student did this” that after a while started to look entirely made up. We were asked to pick our tour guide from among a half-dozen students who showed up at the end of the info session, and we chose the kid who appeared the liveliest of all during the brief introductions. He turned out to be personable and talkative – as all tour guides undoubtedly are – but he volunteered not much information along the way, concentrating almost exclusively on telling us which building served which purpose. He did take us into a student center, a couple of libraries, the athletic center and also down to the tunnels that connect academic and administrative buildings, so we got a pretty good feel of the college.

There were a couple of things that we learned that fall into the “definite plus” category in our differentiation formula, such as non-existent everyone-has-to-take-these core requirements beyond a writing seminar, or the ability to take the fifth year of studies free of charge for additional electives if you satisfied your degree within four years, or interest-centric dormitories. The only item in the “definite minus” category was the 5-hour-plus drive to get there, thus far the farthest distance on our itinerary.

One thing that we did at Rochester is we signed Becky up for an interview with an admissions officer. Not all colleges recommend or even offer such opportunity. We could have had a similar interview at Yale, but not on a Saturday when our visit occurred, and by the time we decided that making a separate additional trip to New Haven mid-week was a worthwhile exercise, their entire Fall schedule had been filled up. (A huge blunder on our part in this whole process, I think.) But Rochester was offering such interviews on Saturdays as well, and if we are already there, why not take advantage of it.

Becky came out of that interview (she was one-on-one with the counselor, I was waiting in a lounge) a big believer in having them. She really enjoyed the opportunity to personally emphasize her strengths to someone who will play a role in the admission decisions. Cynical person that I am, I have little faith in the fairness of the admission process overall, and I am not sure how much the notes scribbled down by the counselor after roughly 25 minutes of talking with a given kid would make a difference in the decision made to accept or refuse that particular applicant, but I don’t see how having the opportunity to showcase yourself even to a single admission officer can be a negative thing. Unless you come across as an idiot or as a bore. Which Becky can’t even if she tried. She felt that she she convinced the counselor that she was a stand-out candidate.

As the result, we came away with an impression that Becky had an excellent chance of being accepted to U of R. So, even though it is probably sharing the bottom place with BC of all the colleges we’ve seen so far, we will likely make it one of our “safety” choices.

1 Comment

  1. Brian Greenberg

    I’m several weeks late to this party (apologies for neglecting the blog for so long – but there were technical constraints that Ilya is well aware of & are no longer a problem for me).

    Anyway – just one point to throw out there that might be helpful to Ilya/Becky: interviews tend to be much less important than they appear. Admissions is, as you mentioned in your introductory post, a depressingly quantitative process, and the report the interviewer fills out will likely become one more piece of paper in a file that eventually gets converted into a row on a spreadsheet (or a record in a database). Unless the school is small enough that they can narrow down their applicants to a definitive “maybe” pile and then review each one individually, I just don’t see how the logistics of reading each interviewer’s report can factor in.

    That said, I agree with your point that there is no downside. And, it seems (at least for Becky) to make the applicant feel “heard,” whether that feeling is illusory or not. So that’s a good thing in & of itself, I guess…

    Anyway, that’s my $0.02

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