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The college brochure blues

It has been a bittersweet experience seeing the mailbox flooded with college recruiting brochures addressed to my son Gideon.

Bittersweet because, speaking as a science fiction fan, each “road not taken” represents an alternate timeline involving different friends, different instructors, a different spouse, a different career path, a different city, a different strategy for administrators to hound grads for alumni donations. (“Remember that colorful gluten-free parking sticker we generously provided you with back in ’24? With interest, you probably owe us a new parking garage now, Mr. But-My-Kids-All-Need-Braces.”)

It’s also bittersweet because I’m a little jealous. I don’t remember receiving THAT many invitations (with such alluring graphics) back in the day. It was more like “Hey, you never know when President Carter will try to influence the world peanut market by restarting the Vietnam War. Maybe you should think really hard about us here at Generic University. And pass this 2-ply brochure on to your friends. You pay the postage.”

I’ve left it up to Gideon to scrutinize or not scrutinize the various brochures, but I finally decided to give it the old college try and browse through a random sampling in preparation for this column. I see oodles of obligatory verbiage about “diversity,” “inclusivity” and “civic commitment”; but the schools wisely resist leading with some of their flakier programs.

Once you’ve nibbled at the bait, THEN they sing the praises of the doctorate program in Recognizing the Racist Subtext of Sedimentary Rock. Oh, and the Department of Staying Perpetually Aggrieved. I could undoubtedly save students a fortune on dorm expenses and textbooks. (“Here – just keep this pebble in your shoe instead of going to college. You’re welcome.”)

I’m glad that the colleges stay on the high road and emphasize their own good points instead of resorting to mudslinging like in political campaigns. Okay, there was the one Ivy League school that hinted, “You didn’t hear it from us, but the other team’s mascot is a species found only in…WESTERN EUROPE.”

Did you ever wonder where they hide all the unattractive students and disgruntled students on the day they shoot pictures for the brochures? (“Quit your bellyaching! You can have your Frisbee and picnic basket back after the photographer leaves. Sorry we didn’t realize all the toxic chemicals were stored in this closet. Maybe that spider bite will give you super powers and make you immune.”)

Many schools entice you to “Build Your Future,” but some of the most successful graduates wind up being more interested in RE-building their PAST. (“That wasn’t ME groping that woman in the neo-Nazi outfit. And we were promised HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE, anyway.”)

Schools are eager to showcase their award-winning faculty. (“Our tenured professors are engaged in exhaustive research – on how to pawn their classes off on graduate assistants.”)

Affordability is definitely a selling point, as in “53 percent of our students graduate debt-free.” If you’re in the lucky 53 percent and attend too many keggers, I’m sure you can buy a new liver from someone in the 47 percent.

Anyway, Gideon will be starting out at the local community college before having to finalize plans for his further education. I look for him to have a bright future.

Unless Jimmy Carter goads Habitat for Humanity into firing a missile at Hanoi! Then you’d better grab your nationally ranked comfort animal and hope for the best.