Sometimes people check out stuff they come across in the infomercials.
Drexel was nowhere near our list of targets for Becky’s higher education. It is not big on liberal arts and humanities subjects, instead priding itself on offering strong programs in applied sciences and professional lines of study. Not at all what our undecided applicant is looking for.
It did send us quite a number of mailings, just as many other schools did. But whereas most of the other schools attempted to entice us solely with variations of rah-rah slogans such as “You deserve the best!” (meaning, of course, that they are, naturally, the best) or “Imagine yourself here!” (implying that there is hardly any reason to imagine any other destination) or “You’re such a star, we want you!” (which any reasonable sixteen-year-old would see through as meaningless flattery), Drexel supplemented their “we’ll give you VIP treatment” pitch with highlights of some pretty cool programs available at their School of Media Art and Design. Given that we wanted to check out at least one other school besides our home state university that was sitting well outside the Top 50 ranking, and coupled with its relative proximity to us, we included Drexel on our itinerary, giving it a distinction of being the only school on our list whose mailed ads to us worked to some degree.
Unfortunately for Drexel, nothing else really worked.
As much as Becky enjoys the idea of living on a campus in a large city, the amount of through traffic and noise on the streets occupied by university buildings was a bit too much. As little as she cares about architectural composition of the campus, there was too much of uninspiring industrial structures on or around campus; sprinkled with some cool-looking modern buildings, to be fair, but not to a large degree. The main university building, which used to be the entire university when it was first founded, is actually quite delightful inside and out, with a grand central atrium, arched balconies on all levels, a museum-worthy collection of artifacts and an impressive picture gallery. Since that was the first building we went into, everything else went downhill from there.
UPenn alums in my audience will undoubtedly tell me that University Town, encompassing both UPenn and Drexel, has a lot to offer in terms of diversions (and downtown Philly seems to be but a stone throw away), but we must have been on the wrong streets and did not see much of that. I have little doubt that happening areas, full of restaurants and shops, were just a couple of blocks away, but not seeing that firsthand left us with a feeling of being in a wrong part of the city.
One of Drexel’s main selling points – its strong Co-Op program of paid internships at major companies for literally all undergraduate students – is a plus (although one quickly realizes that taking the most advantage of it means getting your undergraduate degree in five years, rather than four, while paying for each of those years as if it was a standard year of study). Having to declare your major at the very beginning – albeit with some room for an “undecided” factor and an ability to change majors later in the course of studies – is a definite minus, taking away a lot of flexibility that we have come to expect in our college search. And then, besides those seemingly cool media-related programs, there are truly no major fields of study that align with Becky’s interests, and we really have to account for the possibility that she will change her mind many times during her first couple of years, which seems less convenient with Drexel’s approach of fitting into a major-focused study from the very start.
The info session was conducted by an incredibly fast-talking admissions official who managed to squeeze more informative points into a 30-minute presentation than most people do in an hour. She answered a dozen of questions from the audience during that time as well, concisely and to the point. Becky thought her too fast, but I actually enjoyed that part of our visit the most. Then, for the campus tour, we got a girl who clearly could not hold still for even a second and gave us little beyond scripted snippets of what purpose each building played and how some of the key elements of being a Drexel student worked. Boilerplate stuff. She took us into the student center (which was all right), then a gym (which was modern and dandy – probably the reason why it was included – but hardly merited a stop on the campus tour), and a “show room” at the freshmen dorm. The latter seemed ok up until the point when our tour guide ventured that while this particular room was a double, the same size room could be a triple. Since we could not imagine how a third of anything – bed, desk, wardrobe – could fit into that space, we came away depressed by the possibility.
I hope Drexel alums in my audience, if there are any, will forgive me for coming to a quick conclusion that we will not be applying. It’s not you, it’s us.