Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You Can’t Find College Paradise by the Dashboard Light

By Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

“Dr. O’Connor?”

“Hey, Marvin.  Ready for prom this weekend?”

“I’ve been kind of busy.”

“Still sorting out your college choices?”

“Well, I put a spreadsheet together on all three colleges with the information I gathered from their Web sites, my campus visits, and my discussions with their admissions and financial aid officers.”

“That’s great.”

“I double-checked with my parents, and the cost of each college isn’t going to ruin their retirement or drive me into insane debt, so we’re good there.”

“Well done, Marvin.”

“And I created a formula to evaluate each college’s course offerings, campus climate, availability of internships, opportunities for study abroad, social life, job placement probabilities, likelihood for degree completion in four years, and livability.”

“You put this into numbers?”

“Right.  And that’s where I got stuck.”

“I can see why.”

“Yeah—because I forgot to taste the meatloaf at Glindhill.”


“I love meatloaf, Dr. O’Connor, so that’s a key part of the numerical value of each college’s social life rankings.  Eastern State’s meatloaf had a little bit of a ketchup aftertaste, and McGinty College offers an amazing bacon-wrapped version on Saturdays.  I’ve asked every caller from Glindhill about their meatloaf, and have three e-mails into their food service division—no response.”


“I even asked one student caller from Glindhill if meatloaf was on the menu this week, so I could go back to campus and taste it.”

“Marvin, that’s a seven hour drive.”

“She said if it meant that much to me, she’d look into it and ship me a piece of meatloaf overnight.”

“Marvin, that’s a little—“

“Too much?  Yeah, since that would be comparing leftover meatloaf with fresh, which would be totally unfair.  I don’t think she thought about that.”

“Marvin, when we talked about your college essays last fall, you were working on one that talked about swimming in the ocean as part of a triathlon. Did you end up using that?”

“Yeah.  I mean, I nearly drowned about 100 yards out because I got caught up in the undertow.”

“I really loved the end of that essay. How did that part go again?”

“’The swim left me exhausted but exhilarated.  I lied on the beach and let the laps of the water—the same water that nearly took me down and away—run over my face like reassuring thoughts.  Even though I wasn’t finished with the race, I knew it was important to stop and catch my breath.  Then I got up and moved on to the next event.’”

“Great stuff, Marvin.”

“You know, it’s good to have these college choices, but it’s a lot to think about.  The spreadsheet sure helped two weeks ago, but now I feel like it’s pulling me under, too.”


“You’ve always said picking a college is a mix of brain and heart.  Maybe it’s time to let the heart take over, and catch my breath.”

“What about the meatloaf at Glindhill?”

“I’m betting it’ll be OK.  And if it isn’t, that’s one good reason to think about home and keep it close to me.  Is that crazy?”

“Not at all.”

“So Dr. O, any good leads on a tux?  My brother also rented late when he was a senior, and all they had left was yellow.  Dude looked like a banana.”


“Hey, the team name at McGinty is the Fighting Bananas.  You don’t suppose this is a sign that I should--?”

“Um, Marvin?”

“Right, right—let the ideas wash over me. Got it.”

The moral?  In using meatloaf data to pick a college, two out of three ain’t bad.

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