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College tour impressions: Georgetown

The last stop on our tour. A level of fatigue certainly sets in. It’s not that we are not enjoying campus visits anymore, rather we are challenged to differentiate. Our first few visits each generated a couple of pages of notes. Our last few – less than a dozen lines each.

But Georgetown scored in top three on the initial matching test, so it had to be part of our itinerary.

The campus is a self-contained little city with very little vehicular traffic. There are some impressive Gothic buildings around the main green, the rest is more block-y and utilitarian, but well coordinated in its entirety.

Outside the main gates are pretty residential streets. Less than ten minutes away by foot is the vibrant commercial center of Georgetown, with theaters, cafes, shops and markets. Anyone who’s been following my ruminations on the subject will immediately recognize that close proximity to city life vaults the college to the top of Becky’s personal rankings.

There are some unique programs offered at Georgetown that blend Becky’s various interests rather well together. We already know it from our online research. After spending half an hour of our own on campus, addled by aforementioned touring fatigue, we are ready to conclude that we like the place and will be applying here.

Then the info session and the campus tour make an effort to spoil the impression. First, we get an admission officer who not just talks fast, but also has clear problems with diction. She breezes through her Powerpoint-aided presentation swallowing sounds, words and sometimes whole parts of the sentences. Not that big of a deal for us – we sat through a dozen of these already, we can piece together what she is telling us from seemingly unrelated sounds. And the slides are in front of us anyway. But some people in the audience are obviously new to the process, they want clarity, they can’t keep up, and yet they are uncomfortable stopping the lady and asking her a question – they neither want to appear dumber than the rest of listeners, nor can they expect a comprehensible response (which may no longer be accompanied by a visual aid).

Not surprisingly, the Q&A session at the end of the presentation peters out several minutes before the tour guides show up – a definite first on our trips. Once the simple yes-or-no questions are done, no one dares to ask something that would elicit a long series of sounds from the presenter.

Only a few colleges allowed us to pick the tour guide whose introduction appealed to us the most (the majority randomly matched a kid with a section of the auditorium). We had better returns on average with the random assignments than with picking our own guide. At Georgetown, we did not fare too well at that. The kid we thought would be the best choice turned out to be reasonably personable and articulate, but he was so married to his script that he would undergo an almost visible transformation every time something messed up his cues. He would then stutter, search for words, construct incoherent sentences. He could not answer any single question any way other than to put it off for later (if the script did not reach the appropriate point) or repeat word-for-word a previous part of the script (if we already went through that part before). Watching him trying to conjure an answer to something outside of the script was downright painful.

The highlight of the tour was the ascent to the rooftop terraces of senior housing, with sweeping views over Potomac and parts of DC. In sunny weather, the vistas are magnificent.

It was a brilliant sunny day, so we capped our last leg of college tours with some leisurely downtime in Georgetown village, where Becky met up with her pals from a summer immersion program and I had lunch with our Virginia-residing friends. It’s always nice to augment business with pleasure.

I felt it was a bit ironic that we managed to come away with a positive impression after both main components of our visit proved disappointing, but Georgetown definitely makes the cut.