Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 04/ 6/2010

How to decide on a college

By Valerie Strauss

My guest today is college admissions consultant Bruce Vinik, president of Vinik Educational Placement Services, in Cabin John, Md.

By Bruce Vinik
Don’t try this at home.

When I was a teenager, I had a good friend by the name of Jim. Since Jim was a year ahead of me in school, I had the opportunity to watch closely as he navigated the college admissions process. Like many students, he ended up with good choices but had a tough time deciding where to go to college.

One day, I found Jim drawing a large circle on the back of his closet door. While I watched, he divided the circle into six wedges. With a thick, black magic marker, he drew the letter “P” on three of the wedges and the letter “D” on the other three.

As Jim stepped back from the door and grabbed a small pen knife off his desk, he announced that he was about to decide his college fate in a best out of 100 battle to the death. Over and over, Jim threw his knife at the door, and after 98 tosses the results were clear. By a vote of 51 to 47, Duke had defeated the University of Pennsylvania.

Though Jim’s mother was none too pleased about the closet door, Jim ended up spending four happy years at Duke.

I’ll admit that there are better ways to decide where to go to college than hurling a knife at a door, and now that seniors have received all of their admissions decisions, the time has come to identify those that will be most productive.

Talking to family and friends or a trusted teacher has its place. A review of Web sites and college guidebooks is valuable. Developing elaborate spread sheets with all sorts of hard data can shed light on key differences among colleges. But in my years of experience, nothing is as helpful as re-visiting two or three favorite campuses.

Although some would disagree, I think attending official on-campus programs for admitted students is the way to go. While these programs can devolve into elaborate dog and pony shows, they do allow colleges to showcase those aspects of their education that they believe are important for students to appreciate.

Some colleges may choose to emphasize their extensive study abroad and internship options, while others may promote their research and independent study opportunities. Still others may decide to highlight quality of life issues, such as the size of their dorm rooms or the quality of their food. No matter how elaborate their presentations (and they can be very elaborate), what colleges choose to emphasize can be very telling and can provide extremely useful information to students who are trying to make sense of their options.

Perhaps the best reason to attend official on-campus programs is the opportunity for students to meet their future classmates. Nothing affects an individual’s college experience more than other students.

Since a fairly high percentage of the seniors who attend admitted student programs will eventually enroll at these schools, they are a wonderful opportunity to meet the individuals who will be most responsible for shaping the next four years. Why not spend a few hours getting to know some of the people who will be sharing classrooms and bathrooms?

If my friend Jim had attended a couple of these programs he might well have ended up at Penn. Of course, he’s not all that upset with his choice of college given the results of this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Go Duke!


Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our new Higher Education page at Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | April 6, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Bruce Vinik, College Admissions, Guest Bloggers  | Tags:  Bruce Vinik, G Duke, attending Duke, choosing a school, college admissions, guest bloggers  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: E.D. Hirsch Jr.: Common Core Standards could revolutionize reading instruction
Next: Everything you ever wanted to know about Butler


While throwing knives at a door is one idea to choose a college, a better idea would be to consult a counselor.

At C2 Education, Inc. we provide tutoring for students in the grades K-12. Our main focus is to allow our students to witness a higher learning experience. We provide extensive tutoring for standardized tests such as SAT, SAT Subject Tests, ACT, Advanced Placement test, and much more. Our directors and tutors are also there to provide college counseling, so that the process of choosing a college is easier and more efficient.

If you have any questions or comments, please reach us at: (800)777-7000

You can also visit our website:

Plus, here are some links to articles that have been written about us:

Posted by: Eplee87 | April 7, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company