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Congratulations to John Gapper on his column (“University rankings are just an educated guess”, Opinion, FT Weekend, September 25). It is very informative for many parents and prospective students to learn that cooking the books is not just limited to Wall Street. His refined and informative exposition has only one not-so-small problem. And that’s in the very last sentence of his column. He suggests that: ‘The best advice remains to visit a few colleges, to see which one suits you best. . . ”.
With all due respect to the author’s otherwise better contribution, there is almost no evidence to substantiate this.
A day, or even a few days, of visiting a university campus exposes both parents and student applicants to an insidious selling price. During a tour, one is typically covered by groomed quads and halls with ivy by guards recruited by the admissions office. I think it is fair to say that one will learn virtually nothing of importance by undertaking such visits. On the contrary: visitors come home more often than not misinformed and misled.
Is the trip, which is often very expensive, worth it? Surely, if one sees discarded syringes along leafy places or stumbles over broken liquor bottles on the steps of the library, it must be red lights. But colleges are notoriously secretive and opaque. Discussion of important public health and safety data is usually taboo. Rape appears to be common and traditional in fraternity homes, some alumni of which allegedly continue to cover up the offense with cover-ups, payouts to victims and acts of love with law enforcement.
These kinds of things will not teach you during a campus visit.
Harvey Clark Greisman
Wilmington, DE, United States